The Hero Never Dies

By Colin Harvey

Storytelling in the Digital Age

Gaming | Non fiction
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Video game writer and transmedia storyteller Colin Harvey explores the diverse and surprising ways in which the digital revolution has fundamentally changed storytelling.

Tik-Tok, the app that showcases short form videos made by its users, has been downloaded 2.6 billion times. It only launched in 2017. The global gaming industry is now bigger than the film and music industries combined. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest grossing movie franchise, according to total worldwide gross.

What do they have in common? From pervasive social media to immersive video games to enormous transmedia franchises, they're all forms of digital storytelling. They allow us to connect, interact with and explore other worlds, sometimes vast and fantastical, sometimes domestic, personal and intimate.

From the looping narratives of games like Hades to the gigantic wraparound video wall central to the production of the Star Wars television series The Mandalorian, from films like Tangerine shot entirely on iPhone to digitally resurrected or de-aged actors, digital processes have generated multiple new approaches to the way we tell stories. The pace of this change has been dizzying.

As a writer working primarily in games and Virtual Reality, I'll be your guide to these Brave New Worlds, identifying both the innovative storytelling techniques afforded by these powerful new tools – but also those approaches to storytelling and worldbuilding that remain resolutely unchanged by the digital revolution.

The Hero Never Dies

The Hero Never Dies will take you on a journey through digital storytelling in its many different forms, exploring how it changes creative processes and reimagines the interrelationship between creating and consuming. I'll showcase the ways in which digital processes have enabled the emergence of entirely new forms of storytelling like video games, while also examining how they've changed existing forms like novels and films. Along the way I'll consider the historical precedents for interactive and non-linear narrative, from Tristram Shandy to the Oulipo movement and the 'Choose Your Own' adventure books of the 1980s.

The interplay between digital storytelling and other more established kinds of analogue storytelling is also fascinating, so i will examine the many and varied ways in which these older mediums influence the newer forms, as well as identifying the characteristics that are unique to digital narrative. And I'll look at the often surprising ways in which digital stories in their turn influence the storytelling forms that came before.

Stories and Worlds

The first half of the book is based around stories – the relationship between games and stories, the practical and philosophical possibilities of interactivity and what that means for stories, the implications on time and space for digital storytellers, what the digital context means for characters and dialogue and ultimately the need to develop a new language to understand these new kinds of story.

In the second half of the book I'll explore what digital techniques mean for 'worldbuilding', the creation of new fictional realms. Additionally I'll look at the implications upon 'worldshaping' – the collaborative process by which writers extend existing worlds and Intellectual Properties.

I'll then move on to an examination of transmedia storytelling in its various guises, looking at its antecedents in terms of tie-in merchandising and the more integrated versions that proliferate today. My investigation will culminate with an exploration of the so-called 'Metaverse', a whole new virtual universe full of seamlessly connected worlds, examining the potential and the perils for writers and storytellers.

In the end of course, the storyworlds we create both reflect and inform our own personal storyworlds and the collective storyworlds we all inhabit together. If the world we live in and the stories we tell about it are going to be good stories, we probably need to understand how they work. And given the way our shared storyworld is currently panning out, we'd better not waste any time...

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