Transmedia Stories: Narrative Methods for Public Health and Social Justice

Transcript to "Principles of Design: An Overview of S.E.E.D."

XANDER CONWAY (V/O FROM MEDIA ASSET “ORIENTATION VIDEO”): “Are you ready for the end of the world? Are you prepared for life as you know it to be extinguished, like a dwindling flame? Or would you rather ensure survival and achieve glory? It’s a difficult choice, we know. But what if we told you that you, yes you, could be celebrated as the heroes and saviors of the world? Welcome recruits to Project Harvest.”

PATRICK JAGODA: S.E.E.D. was a program that took place at the University of Chicago for five weeks. For the first three weeks, students played an elaborately designed game that included science, technology, and math challenges. And for the final two weeks of the program, they went from being game players to being game designers. And the youth were able to design a series of serious games around topics like gang violence, gender discrimination in the workplace, and water shortage in a city like Chicago. The Game Changer Chicago design team was composed of faculty, staff members, and graduate and undergraduate students who have been working with us for a long time. And this team came together to design sets, to act, to write curricula, to oversee the day-to-day movement of students, and to design particular challenges, puzzles, and gameplay moments that participants took part in.

ASHLYN SPARROW: So we wanted to deal with 21st-century literacies, so this is building up leadership, communication, collaboration. These are very intangible, soft skills, so, again, we design an experience to create a space that allows these things to happen. So we break up our youth into teams; they were broken up into teams of 10. The activities that we had, they had to work together to get through the challenges.

MELISSA GILLIAM: One of the core components of the design of S.E.E.D. was the use of mentors. Mentors were students, undergraduates and graduates, who had completed a competitive application process and then were chosen for their abilities in design, STEM, science, and working with youth. It uses a principle called near-peer mentoring, which is not having a far-off adult, but somebody who is maybe the next step or a few steps beyond where you yourself might be trying to get.

MENTOR (DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE): “You can, see like this is the language I would use basically to write an essay for school for my teacher or something. But you’re making a game, so you want to turn something that might not seem fun into something that is fun. So, so you see how there’s like…”

PHILIP EHRENBERG: With Game Changer’s alternate reality games, we’ve experimented with a number of different genres. So in our first summer program, we had more of an urban realist narrative where we were primarily communicating the game’s narrative through text-based blogs and video blogs to the youth, in a way that, in forms that they would find more recognizable.

THE SOURCE VIDEO BLOG: We’ve got a father to find and you guys’ve got a competition to win. There can only be one winner. Will it be you?

PATRICK JAGODA: We found that students were very invested in it, but they were really longing for the intrusion of mystery genres and science fiction genres.

PHILIP EHRENBERG: With S.E.E.D. we pulled in more of a science-fiction narrative and were able to experiment a little bit more creatively with the type of media and storytelling that we were doing. So, the narrative wasn’t just a shell to the game; it was very much informing the types of challenges that the youth had to perform at any time.

PATRICK JAGODA: So we told students that on July 25th, 2014, the world was going to end. We had received messages from the 2030s from a group called ProPhyle, and we found out that two things were true: first of all, the players still had a chance to stop the end of the world, if they played their cards right; and second of all, one member of the group of players had come to be known in the 2030s as the World’s End and was actually going to cause the end of the world. So it produced this atmosphere of paranoia that was really fun because players were trying to figure out exactly who the privileged, y’know, member of the narrative was.

THE SCATTERING (V/O FROM MEDIA ASSET “MSG TO YUCCA”): You haven’t given up on finding the World’s End, have you? The future isn’t safe-safe-safe-safe until the World’s End has been dealt with. We’re counting on you. We are you-safe-safe.

TEAM YUCCA (DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE): “We believe that the Temporal Archivists are going to end the world, and that is enough proof.”
“They’re working with ProPhyle.”
“ProPhyle is not what it seems!”
“We have to save the world beforehand”
“And the Scattering...”
“And ProPhyle is evil…
“It’s their fault.”
“...and they’re gonna end the world.”
“It was a setup! It was a setup!”