The Story Doesn’t Care: An Interview with Sean Stewart (Article Summary)

The author conducted an interview with Sean Stewart, and posted a partial transcript of that interview. Stewart was first a sci-fi novelist and later became an ARG (alternate reality game) developer. He wrote eight novels and helped create games such as “I Love Bees” for Halo 2 and Last Call Poker” for Activision’s Gun.  The author provides the definition of an alternate reality game from Wikipedia in terms of interactive narrativity in virtual reality:  “. . .a cross media game that deliberately blurs the line between the in-game and out-of-game experiences . . . . Often events that happen inside the game reality will ‘reach out’ into the players’ lives in order to bring them together.  Elements of the plot line may be provided to the players in almost any form”.  The author defines any form as including “emails, phone calls, chat session, snail mail, and live events.” The author then moves on to the interview where Stewart defines ARG’s as “storytelling as archeology. . . . That is, you work out a story, you create all the evidence of the story, then you smash the evidence into a thousand teeny bits and sprinkle it around and people gather it up, put it together again and argue what it must have meant. . . . Everything you find is real within the fictional bubble of the story.”

One of the main points that Stewart makes is that ARG’s are an art form which is evolving. He finds this art form more exciting than writing novels because Stewart believes that any form of communication can be seen as a possibility for becoming art. Past examples include the fact that novels followed printing presses and that movies followed the development of picture cameras. He finds technological advances in storytelling ongoing/changing.  The current technological advance of the internet allows for a new type of storytelling: that of an intimate space for strangers which he refers to as a patio space.  A patio is both private and public, and that is a function served by internet advances such as blogs and ARG’s. These virtual reality experiences provide an interactive experience which is built collectively through sharing experiences back and forth.

Stewart is very excited about this new type of storytelling because it is an evolving form.  One of the exciting things he feels about this form is that the story doesn’t care what the platform is; it could the cell phone, the TV, the web, or print. He sees the future for the 21st century as one which will use the web as its main method of storytelling because it can be conveyed through any available platform. A second thing Stewart finds exciting about this new art form is that he believes that it will remain collaborative and interactive. The ability to click on things allows for a higher level of interaction than any art form yet he feels.  He feels the narrator in this art form has moved to a new level because they portray the narration through showing (ideas, thoughts, and emotions) without explicitly saying.

Stewart believes that he has now become a better writer through devising ARG’s.  He explains that when he worked just as a professional novelist he was advised to find his “own authentic vision” and slower go beyond the work and style of others. For ARG’s he needed to think about the audience in a different way and learned to use a plethora of other voices (other than his own voice as a writer). He learned to apply this to his novel writing as well, using all of those voices along with his own, being able to now write with a new confidence. The author ends the transcription with Stewart saying how much he has gained in his novel writing from developing ARG’s.

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