Dead Lonely

Love is the greatest power in the universe. Within those four simple letters lies a language that transcends barriers of spoken words, a machine that can combat hatred, and a promise of eternal goodness and kindness. Love is within all of us and is a universal symbol of peace and happiness. We all have the capacity for love, and we give it out in varying degrees of magnitude to our friends, family, significant others, coworkers, acquaintances, and, sometimes,  perfect strangers. Some loves last for the moment, others last for a lifetime, and still some loves last past “til death do we part.” Dead Lonely is one such story that details a love that crosses the border between life and death.

Fred is lonely. He’s also dead. But what sets him apart from other zombies is his undying love for his girl, Barbara. Before the apocalypse, Fred was head-over-heels for Barbara. Now, as a zombie, he spends his days wandering the world in search of his long-lost love. Like many other zombie stories I’ve reviewed in this blog, Dead Lonely is a “choose your own adventure” tale. However, what makes this one unique is the presentation. Brought together by Rapt Media and Aardman (the creators behind Wallace & Gromit and Shawn the Sheep), Dead Lonely presents us with a fully interactive, animated story of romance. That’s right! This digital story manages to bring the apocalypse to the two-dimensional world of animation where you will help Fred to find his one true love, Barbara.

Trait Description Critique
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? This is the first time that I can provide an answer to this assessment trait with actual evidence from the production. After sifting the edges of Google for a new and unique zombie digital story, I not only ran into the story but also a behind-the-scenes video for it, too. The video listed at the bottom of the link is also interactive, allowing the viewer to explore the different modes of creation the production went through. The coolest part about getting to experience the behind the scenes footage is that you do not have to view it in order; the viewer gets to decide what they are interested in and click through those portions of the movie, which uses the same interactivity as the original short film. Since the film is non-linear due to the ability for the viewer to make choices, the storyboard planning was dense and thorough while still allowing an open concept. The story itself was also well researched to bring a new twist to the zombie genre while also successfully bringing in classic references from pop culture.  10/10
Content understanding How well did the student meet the academic goals of the assignment and convey an understanding of the material addressed? A lot of zombie productions are remixes on former apocalyptic tales, but Dead Lonely is one of the few to bring a new story forth while only hinting at the origins of the zombie genre. Many classic references can be seen in this production such as zombies congregating at a mall, the use of black and white to showcase the early days of the genre, and the use of slow, shambling zombies. At the same time, we get a taste for a more unique storyline amidst all of the references. Not once do we see a living human in this production, only zombies. We only get the zombie perspective on what the end of the world would look like. In all of this, we see this video conveying a solid understanding of the material addressed in the story.  10/10
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? Never have I seen a zombie story about two zombies who love one another just as much in death as they did in life. Even more-so, I have never seen a story of this type be pulled off via animation. The story of love and zombies are two which are told often, but rarely are they told together as they are in this unique tale. This story also gives us a fresh perspective on choice, as we the viewer are invited to help guide Fred by making choices on his behalf in the video. I have looked at many stories recently that give choice to the humans in a zombie film, but this one forces us to see and make choices through the eyes of an undead corpse.  10/10

 
As the Bee Gees once asked, “How deep is your love?” This tale of true love shows us that love really can transcend any barriers we may throw its way. The depth of Fred and Barbara’s love is a captivating plot point that helps to draw in even the most hardened of hearts. And, if for some reason their love is not an inspiring enough reason to continue through this story, the interactivity will draw you in as you find yourself a part of their eternal love story.

 

 

 

 

 

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Paradise Lost

Backwards, forwards; rewind, play. No matter which direction you view this story, your heart will be aching from the axe wounds it will leave in your heart. An impressive feat from a mere video game trailer. While Dead Island the game isn’t explicitly about storytelling, the game trailers always find a way to tell a tale that brings back the human element to the zombie genre. In this episode, we find ourselves in the middle of a vacation gone sour; a mother, father, and daughter wanting to get away from everyday life find themselves trying to get away from the zombies that are dying to ruin their family vacation.

Trait Description Critique
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? This production was quite creative in its presentation of the information. It is rare that a story starts at the end and ends at the middle, but this story does executes this twisting of plot seamlessly. It also serves to increase the effectiveness of the story as we are no longer concerned about if the little girl and her family survived, but rather why they didn’t survive. This forces the audience to feel empathetic to the situation instead of fearful of it – a change of pace for a zombie tale. The story is also original in that we rarely see the apocalypse happen to someone while on vacation. 10/10
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? This story was created to be viewed backwards and forwards at the same time. The flashbacks and flash forwards work together well to explain the chaos, loss, and anxiety of the situation this family finds themselves in. Solid planning has to have occurred in order to match the details of each scene to show their connectedness yet not be repetitive in the information being shared. The melancholy background music matches and enhances the tone of the story very well. The brief cutaways from music also help to enhance the sounds of terror elicited by the little girl as she attempts and fails to escape the nightmarish creatures.  10/10
Content understanding How well did the student meet the academic goals of the assignment and convey an understanding of the material addressed? In terms of meeting the academic goals of a zombie story, this production hits on the major highlights of survival, death, anxiety, sadness, and a plethora of other emotions associated with the end of the world. However, this story does not add many new elements to the typical plots of most zombie productions. This story finds a creative way to spin the same old zombie tale of fighting to live and failing, but it is nonetheless still the same old zombie story.  5/10

 

Backwards, forwards, and everything in between this story finds a unique place in the hall of zombie stories. Never have I seen a story told out of order yet make so much sense emotionally for its mixed up plot. I dare you to not feel hope as you see the story reverse upon itself and end in a place where there is a possibility for something to go differently. I dare you to not feel sadness as you reach the end and realize that what we’ve already seen is about to happen again.

The First Wave

What happens to the soul when a human being dies? Moreover, what happens to the soul when a human being becomes one of the walking dead? Both of these questions invite sensitive conversations usually involving religion, science, or philosophy. Yet, despite decades of talk, both of these questions remain to have a definitive answer; some people believe one thing while others believe another, and still others have no beliefs at all. Because of this, filmmakers and writers that dwell in the zombie genre have used these questions to fuel their work and provide an even more controversial look into the soul and its destination once the body stops classifying as alive.The First Wave does just that. In an attempt not to give too much away, I will leave you with one final thought before viewing my critique below: what would it feel like if the soul really did stick around despite the status of the body?

Title Description Critique
Story How well did the story work? This trait can address structure, engagement, character transformation or any of the other qualities of story discussed in Part II. In fact, an entire rubric can be devoted to evaluating the quality The character building in this story proves vital to the other story elements present in this short film. The confusion and mystery surrounding her story arc and the small reveals in detail are important in helping to understand her struggle in this post apocalyptic world; helping the viewer to recognize the same internal conflict she feels. These details are also effectively spaced out to give the audience a sense of being a detective – allowing the viewers to piece together the information to discover that Allison is a human filled with pain and regrets after being brought back from being a zombie. Finally, the idea that her soul had been with her throughout the process of zombification and then throughout her rehabilitation process provide a unique spin on the more traditional zombie stories that choose to only focus on survival.  10/10
Content understanding How well did the student meet the academic goals of the assignment and convey an understanding of the material addressed? Where other zombie movies tend to feature the issues of soul as a side note in their feature films, The First Wave tackles it as the main driving force for the plot. The idea that people can come back from being a zombie and the complications of it thereof are so eloquently addressed in the overall tone, the non-verbal cues of the lead character, the mystery of the plot, and the intensity of the reveal. The creators understand the controversy behind such a thought and tease the audience with small details throughout that build to the final crescendo of the performance that brings it all together.  10/10
Flow, organization and pacing Was the story well organized? Did it flow well, moving from part to part without bumps or disorientation, as described in Part III? The story had a very purposeful flow which allowed the final reveal to be so impactful on the viewer. The mystery surrounding the story and the questions it raised from flash back to flash back helped to build understanding for the follow-up scenes. Some disorientation could have been caused with the faintness of the radio announcer as mishearing this information can cause the viewer to have to really question the final scene in order to really understand why we’ve been focused on Allison and her torment for so long.  9/10

By far, this is one of the most unique zombie stories that I have had the pleasure of viewing. As I have been more exposed to digital stories in the zombie genre, I am starting to realize that some of the best stories are not full feature length movies. A lot of the stories I’ve viewed are far shorter, and I feel that this really forces the people behind these tales to be more selective with their creativity. There is little room for filler so the details and plot choices that are included are vital elements to the story. The shortness also forces some details to be left out, and, in deciding what to omit, the makers help guide the audience to be participants in the story – filling in the gaps for themselves with the clues that have been included. The soul of this story resides in these elements, just as the soul of Allison still resides within her in her next chapter of life.

Deliver Me to Hell

What do you get when you cross zombies with youtube and pizza? An interactive movie adventure where you call the shots. Deliver Me to Hell is a digital story like none other that you may have experienced before. At first glance, you may think you are just watching a hilarious, four minute remix of Shaun of the Dead. In this version, the ridiculous adventure continues with a brave act to deliver a pizza to a girl stranded and surrounded by zombies. Then the 3:44 mark hits, the screen freezes, and an ominous voice comes forth saying, “Make your decision!” At once, you are presented with two decisions and are forced to only choose one. No matter your choice, the click of a button sends you on to your chosen fate where the adventure either moves forward or it ends and you die. Make the right choices, and you may just be successful in delivering the most epic pizza order ever requested.

Trait Description Critique
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? This production was quite original in its theme of pizza delivery in a zombie apocalypse. I have yet to see another story that incorporates both of these topics in the same plot. Since these two topics don’t normally coexist together, I really appreciated that the authors did not try to make this a serious affair. This fresh perspective paired well with the jokes, puns, jabs, and humor that were woven consistently and successfully throughout the production. It was also quite original in its use of YouTube as its medium. The interactive design was incorporated through the use of the annotations feature (normally used to redirect viewers to related content or videos). Through the annotations, viewers were invited to make choices and continue the story based on their decisions. 10/10
Presentation and performance How effective was the student’s actual presentation or performance? This includes burning a DVD, posting the story on the Web site effectively, performing it before an audience, or whatever the assignment required. Posting the story on YouTube was a new and unique way to create an interactive zombie experience. However, the medium itself can be distracting to viewers. The comment section, recommended video links, and other advertisements can detract from the immersion of the experience. When viewed in full-screen, these distractions disappear, but clicking on a choice then redirects you to a new video which takes you out of full-screen and back to the distractions of the YouTube side panels. The format of the performance leaves something to be desired in this way. 6/10
Story How well did the story work? This trait can address structure, engagement, character transformation or any of the other qualities of story discussed in Part II. In fact, an entire rubric can be devoted to evaluating the quality Throughout the story, the plot tended to jump around from place to place, person to person, and could seem chaotic in the chosen plot devices. Had this been a serious production, the story would have fallen flat. However, much like in the film Shaun of the Dead, the quick, inconsistent, and ridiculous plot changes proved to be an enhancement to the hilarity of this film. The main characters had little character development throughout this story, but their personalities were allowed to shine. The juxtaposition of two opposite characters (one bright, the other not so much) also successfully added to the humor of this production. 9/10

Overall this story was a fun break from the ones I’ve reviewed previously. The humor and ridiculousness of it all made for a fun viewing experience and the interactive portions helped to engage the viewer and make them feel a part of the story. The use of YouTube annotations, while clever, could be distracting at times. It would be interesting to see how the viewing of this story might shift if it were done in another application with less distractions. Then again, maybe this was the right platform for this particular production. In order to be a fun story, it couldn’t take itself too seriously, so maybe using a less formal media tool was the right call in keeping the mood light. What do you think?

“I REMEMBER!”

A black screen. A simple text fades into view, “The first symptom is the memory loss.” As the words disappear, the silence is broken by the sound of chimes and the sight of a swarming zombie horde.The camera view glides down and around the feet of the undead masses and zooms through a ragged hole in a wall where a man sits tensely in a yellow chair, gun pressed firmly against his temple, blood oozing from a wound on his forearm. The tension of the scene is interrupted briefly by the calm voice of a narrator – the internal monologue of a doomed man. Immediately we understand his situation. Five minutes is all it takes to start to forget pieces of your memory. Five minutes is all it takes to begin the turn into a brain-dead, flesh eating zombie.

Many of the zombie digital stories I’ve reviewed in this blog have belonged to one of two camps: movies or short clips to watch or games and interactive material to play. Five Minutes doesn’t completely fall into either of those categories. It’s more of a hybrid between film and game; a blending between watching and doing. Each time the main character forces himself to remember, the viewer is forced to take swift action to help him remember by swiping patterns on the screen in time with the film. Every time he is thrown into action, the viewer also must take action to save his life.

Due to the unique hybridization of this story, I have used a variety of types of traits from Jason Ohler’s assessment bank that can speak to each category that this story fits under

Title Description Critique
Content understanding How well did the student meet the academic goals of the assignment and convey an understanding of the material addressed? The urgency and frantic feelings of not knowing if or when someone is going to turn into an undead monster were conveyed extremely well in this digital story. Each time the viewer had to draw a pattern or quickly click on parts of the screen to save the man’s memory/life, it became a race against the clock to do so which created the necessary tension. When the viewer was not directly interacting, each movie scene was filled with nervousness as to when the next interaction would occur. These uneasy feelings are crucial to any zombie story, and this film nailed it in all aspects of communicating them. 10/10
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? Solid planning is evident in this story in many ways. The story was well laid out, and the interactive elements appeared at appropriate and well-timed areas to keep the story moving along. The parts that weren’t as well thought through were the dying scenes. If the viewer did not click or swipe in the correct spot fast enough, words appeared on the screen indicating that you had died. In comparison to the actual story, this seemed very anticlimactic. 7/10
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? This production at first glance looks like a rehashing of the same old story of a survivor getting bit and their loved one having to contend with it and the aftermath. However, some unique twists have been added to keep this story interesting for the viewer. Firstly, the focus of memory loss as a symptom provided a new lens through which to tell this story. With the main character so focused on remembering his past, it not only provides a good reason to show flashbacks, but also to provide a fresh perspective on how the zombie virus works. Secondly, the interactive swipes and clicks help the viewer to become more involved with this “same old story” to actually feel the tension of this moment. Lastly, the conclusion of the story deviates from the norm in that we don’t actually see the main character turn into a zombie after being infected. Though there is a twisted moment of memory for the main character, the resolution of the story shows the 5 minute timer going off with no signs of zombification. However, the happy moment turns sour when the viewer realizes the character’s memory has been wrong all along, yet we never get to see if he changes or not. This type of cliffhanger is unique to this old school zombie story. 9/10

If there was anything I would change about this particular digital story it would have to be the death scenes. So much tension, anxiety, and frantic energy in the film and interactive portions made me wish that when I did die there were death scenes tailored to the spots where I died to heighten these feelings further. Instead, I was only ever met with text that would tell me when I had died – very anticlimactic. It was incredible how much of a mood killer it was to see those words. Even if the death scene had to be the same for each scenario (maybe a scene showing his brain waves turning off and the zombie virus taking over), I would have still been satisfied because it would have at least provided a visual to keep the original worrisome feelings of the rest of the film.

 

 

Zombies! Run!

“Run in the real world. Become a hero in another.” This is the tag line for the popular app, “Zombies, Run!” The app is a way for couch potatoes and advanced runners alike to get out and get active through running activities. You may be asking yourself, “how does a running app have anything to do with digital storytelling?” The surprising answer is that it has everything to do with digital storytelling. This app is not just another step tracker or fitness tracker, it’s actually a fully immersive zombie apocalypse simulator. As you run in the real world, the story plays out in your ears. Not only do you listen to the story, but you also participate in it while you run. Periodically in the story, you, the runner, are called upon to complete missions in real time while avoiding zombies on your GPS tracker. The further you run, the more the story goes on, and the more that you level up in the game.

This week’s critique requires a different kind of analysis as it is a story focused on real world immersion. For that reason, I have chosen  traits from Jason Ohler’s list that are more applicable to audience experience.

Title Description Succeeds
Sense of audience How well did the story respect the needs of the audience? For the hardcore enthusiasts of the zombie genre who have always wanted the chance to experience an apocalypse first-hand, this app has everything going for it. It has a solid and realistic story, it gives the audience the ability to participate and change the plot, and the chance to do all of this in real time and real life. Simultaneously, it also provides a great way for a variety of people (runners and non-runners) with a way to get out and get healthy through its fitness components. People who have previously struggled with staying active and healthy are now given opportunities to stay committed to a fitness routine through the use of storytelling. This story also provides the ability for the user to input their own running music into the background of the story, which helps to cater to all of the people who prefer to have inspiring music for which to exercise.  10/10
Media application Was the use of media appropriate, supportive of the story, balanced and well considered? Produced as an app and controlled through the use of a smartphone app was the best media application for this story. People on the go can easily enjoy the story anywhere, because once it’s downloaded it does not require data to run. Users of the app don’t have to be outside runners. The producers of the app took into consideration people who are more frequent users of gyms than the outside world and have provided users with the feature to use this on and off a treadmill. Regardless of where you use the app, story features still work well and keep the runner immersed in the story. 10/10
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? An incredible amount of planning went into the creation of this story and app. Evidence can be found firstly on their website where they have an infographic displayed showcasing the many features of the app. Other solid pieces of evidence are in the interface of the app. Most game features are neatly laid out and easy to find and use. The audio does a great job balancing explaining what to do while committing to telling a mostly realistic sounding story through sound effects and conversations. The GPS and step trackers are also well programmed as they capture the movements of the user well. Though you can level up and achieve more story elements in this game, there is no way to see your running progress from previous runs. More planning needs to happen to take showing a user’s full journey into consideration. 8/10

Overall, this story is an incredibly immersive experience into the zombie genre. If you are one of the many people who struggles to find enjoyment in exercise, this app will quickly provide you with an attitude shift through its remarkable storytelling features. With 200 different stories, app users are guaranteed not to run out of motivation to workout consistently. A lot of the storytelling is very linear in nature, and provides users with missions that build upon each other. Some choice is given to the runner in how the story proceeds, but for the most part they are pre-crafted stories that you venture through. More choice in where the story goes would be a great way to make this even more of an immersive experience.

 

 

Too Late

“Running……………….Ruunning

……………….Bitttten—-…——fight……fightiiiiing..[][

Turning………………………………..Tuurninnng…/\\

…\\\\BRAAAAAAAINNSSSSSSS\][d…”

How did reading that feel? What did you think was happening?

Chances are good that the above passage did not give you warm fuzzy feelings. Chances are also good that you may have felt confused and  frightened. But to what degree did you feel these things? Reading the above passage may have given you a passing idea of what it feels like to lose all sense of self and slowly turn into the walking undead, but it probably didn’t fully immerse you nor did it give you the best understanding of this process…not like a visual story does.

“Too Late” is the story of one man and his short two minute journey into the depths of zombification, but with a slight, darkly humorous twist. Before you get freaked out by the very thought of witnessing a first-person account of changing into a zombie, remember this: it’s just make-believe. Everything you see is made possible through Hollywood special effects. So go ahead, give it a shot. Then check out my critique below using Jason Ohler’s assessment traits.

Trait Description Critique
Economy Was the information presented through the story sifted, prioritized and told without bird walking or detours, as described in Part III? The story takes off right away with a sense of urgency and mystery as we see a young man running frantically. It isn’t for long that we realize he is running home to treat a mysterious wound. The story progresses quickly with his physical appearance transforming over a series of choppy imagery. Instantly we see that this is a story of zombification. The mystery of the story reappears once the answering machine audio turns on, and we begin to wonder more about this man who has changed into a zombie. Within seconds, our previous perspective gets flipped upside down once we realize he’s no zombie, he’s just dressed in zombie makeup. Each scene of this story has been carefully selected and crafted to confuse, intrigue, and frighten the viewer. The flow of these scenes is presented choppily in order to keep the story moving at a rapid pace – the same pace that matches the frantic mood of our subject. The climax of the story ends in the same flurry of confusion, intrigue, and fright until the resolution of the story finally dawns on the viewer. The story never stops to answer questions for very long, but in this strategy succeeds in prioritizing scenes in the story to make it cohesive and understandable. 10/10
Execution Student used images to creatively tell the story behind the words. Student uses his or her natural speaking voice, as well as music (optional) and effects (optional) to support (without taking away from) the meaning of his or her story. The images in this story are unique in this story in that they show what appears to be a first-person perspective into zombie transformation. As previously stated, the flurry of imagery matches the frantic tone of the story helping the viewer to understand the desperation of the subject. The sound effects of the dripping sink, fast footsteps, and the subject’s desperate sighs help to solidify this same sense of urgency. On top of all of that is a layer of electrical, buzzing music that heightens the tension of the entire story until the exaggerated break at the climactic moment. During the great reveal of the story, the answering machine voice helps to reset the tone of the whole story, providing us with the much needed context of this story. 10/10
Content understanding How well did the student meet the academic goals of the assignment and convey an understanding of the material addressed? For all of the same reasons mentioned, the story meets the goal of effectively communicating what zombification is like. The creators demonstrate a solid understanding of how to make their viewers feel the full effects of this transformation through unsetting imagery and sounds. At the same time, the creators demonstrate that the viewers are in need of much needed relief from the intensity and horror of these gruesome scenes by bringing some comedic relief at the end. 10/10

The traits that I selected for this critique were based on the fact that this story relies heavily on imagery, sound effects, and choppy storytelling to build the much needed tension in this story. The above traits hep to analyze these particular storytelling elements and their effect on this tale.

This is the first digital story that I have reviewed that I don’t believe needs any modifications. The imagery, sound effects, and story all come together to communicate the perfect amount of tension, mystery, and humor. At the same time we are also provided with enough context through each scene to keep the viewer moving forward, asking questions, and getting their questions answered. Overall this is a 10/10 story as a result.

Value

Who determines the value of a human life? You? Me? The government? God? We all have rules that govern our lives whether they come from within ourselves or from outside sources. In our head and heart we call them core values, at home we call them rules, in our country we call them laws, in church we call them scripture. Whatever it is that we choose to follow, we all have different beliefs that guide our actions and dictates the direction in which our lives move. These beliefs and actions also lead us to make decisions on behalf of those around us, to cause us to place value on each other and the lives we lead. So when the world breaks down into anarchy and chaos, it will be those ideas and beliefs that will help us to reestablish order…or keep the world order broken.

The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game, is more than just your average zombie video game; It’s a meta cognitive experience that forces the player to face decisions that places value on the lives of different human beings encountered in the game. I say meta cognitive experience, because in most games the outcome is predetermined for you, but in this game you are the one making the hard calls; you are in control of the fate of these people which are determined through the examination of your own beliefs. The plot of the game becomes altered as a result.Let’s take a closer look at what this all means (and feel free to take a closer look yourself, here).

The game starts out the way most zombie games start – the world has gone to hell, we follow the story of a ragtag group thrown together by fate, and a lot of terrible things happen along the way. It isn’t until about 15 minutes into the game that the player starts to realize this digital story’s unique twist: you have the power to allow some characters to live and others to die. The real twist is that you aren’t just deciding when good guys live and bad guys die, but you may end up deciding the exact opposite. Even more twisted, it all depends on how you decide to play the game and/or how your core values influence the way you choose to play.

The game is a unique blend of interactivity and immersion, and stands on its own as a form of digital storytelling. For this reason, I have chosen to critique this particular work on Jason Ohler’s assessment traits that speak to the story and audience involvement in this work.

Trait Description Succeed
Story How well did the story work? This trait can address structure, engagement, character transformation or any of the other qualities of story. The story worked well for being one that relied on user input to help the story unfold. The feelings of helplessness at needing to decide the fate of a character (especially characters that you’d had a chance to grow attached to) in 30 seconds or less really transported you into that reality. The clawing feeling of guilt that ensued once a decision was made, and the feeling that you could have done something differently gnaws at you every step of the way. The story itself is quite fluid, moving along at a moderate pace. It is divided into chapters so that time can skip ahead eliminating any unnecessary visuals or plot lines. There are a plethora of character types, and the player has a chance to form emotional connections to them through the interactive elements of the game. Character development is a huge success in this game and it can take many different paths depending on the user input. (10/10)
Sense of audience How well did the story respect the needs of the audience? In order for this story to truly be felt by the audience, it needed some component of realism and interactivity. It delivered on both of these fronts in two really big ways. In terms of realism – sure the zombie apocalypse isn’t a reality (yet) – it provided the player with scenarios that could be felt in any other tragic incident. Tough, but real questions such as “Do I save my best friend or do I save my family member?” were asked and forced to be answered by the player. The player could never take a back seat to what was happening on screen, because there was always one more dialogue box requiring input from the user. In this way, it engaged the audience to participate and live with the choices they were forced to make throughout the entirety of the game. (10/10)
Media application Was the use of media appropriate, supportive of the story, balanced and well considered? A video game platform was the media used to communicate the story, but I don’t think it was necessary to make the story work. The whole tale played out more like a movie and the main reason to have a controller in your hand was to move the cursor to answer the questions or make choices. However, having the ability to occasionally walk around and choose the people to talk to and the places to interact with were components that relied heavily on the use of a controller. So in some regards the media supported the story, but in others it felt unnecessary (7/10)

Overall this digital story is one of my favorites in the zombie genre for its complexity in character development and its ability to let the player make some decisions on behalf of the plot development. If there was anything I would change about this particular digital story, it would be the media used to present it. I am not completely dissatisfied that it was presented as a platform/PC game, because having a controller made me feel in control of the character. However, the heavy viewing parts of the game made the controller feel really unnecessary. If I were to change the media to something different, I would want this to be on a virtual reality headset and keep the game strictly first person at all times. To me, this would lend to a more natural viewing as well as physical engagement.

@itsuhrapp #ds106 #INTE5340 #NickiRapp

Get the Body You Deserve

Rule #1 of Zombieland: Cardio. Exercise is the main component to staying alive once the world ends and the dead start to rise and feed on those that survived the event. Whether you’re being chased down by a pack of ravenous zombies or fleeing from a corrupt group of survivors, it is essential to have built up your cardiovascular and muscular strength in order to prepare for whatever life in Zombieland has to throw at you…unless, of course, you’re this guy.

Dead Island 2 is a video game that premiers this year on a variety of consoles and platforms. It is an open-world gaming experience. This means that instead of having a main story that the gamer is forced to play through in a linear fashion, the gamer gets to walk around the world and engage and interact with the people, environments, and objects in whatever way they want. While the game itself lends itself naturally to the creation of story-telling through this open-world format, the advertisement presented above also serves to highlight this aspect of gaming by presenting us with one person’s viewpoint within this fictional world.

Since this is a digital story with the intent to market a product to its audience, I will be engaging this critique with traits that I feel work well in assessing a piece of persuasive story-telling.

Trait Description of Trait Succeeds Fails to Capture
Met assignment criteria? Length, number of elements, audience consideration (poem vs. essay) etc.? Considering that this video was produced as a way to advertise the video game Dead Island 2, the criteria for engaging their intended audience would have to include the following: a compelling reason for the audience to want to buy the game, a way to tell/sell their story in 3 minutes or less, a brief description of the game highlights, a sneak peak of game play, and their branding. In terms of giving the audience a reason to want to buy the game, this story takes this criteria marker and excels at it greatly. Most video game advertisements are presented as quick snippets of video game walkthroughs or highlights of in-game features with a generic voiceover announcer. This particular ad, instead, takes into account that consumers of the zombie genre need more than that; they need a story. In 3 minutes and 14 seconds we are presented with the perspective of a young, fit, cocky, and oblivious man that quickly goes from living in the normal world that we all know to suddenly jogging through a maze of zombies. Here, the use of humor was effectively used to highlight the downfalls of a person with these types of strong personality types especially in a situation such as this. This humor also plays to the majority of their audience (video gamers) who are most likely quite opposite in personality of this character. At the same time, we also get a sense of this new macabre world of gore and violence. The story also serves to highlight a few of the game’s playable features (such as weapon choices and environments), but not many. It leaves a little mystery behind about what the game will actually be like to play, since this aspect is not once shown, which keeps the audience curious enough to want to buy the game to find out. We, as the audience, are then given the game information at the end to make this final decision about purchase. This trait does not fail to capture this particular trait, because this trait works well to assess a piece of marketing media. In order to convince an audience to purchase a product, there a few key criteria necessary to engage the audience in this fashion. In my opinion, it is perfectly fine to assess a story such as this by this success criteria.
Flow, organization and pacing Was the story well organized? Did it flow well, moving from part to part without bumps or disorientation, as described in Part III? This story was well organized in every sense. In 3 minutes and 14 seconds we are presented with enough snippets of visual information to keep the story understandable yet move it along in a timely fashion. The story scene is automatically set from the get-go when we are introduced to this man by seeing each part of his body and getting a sense of his intense fitness guru personality. Immediately he takes off running to an upbeat song about being “the bomb,” which we can automatically assume shows off his self-confidence level. Quickly we realize another connection to this idea of being “the bomb” in that he has been bitten and he is a ticking time bomb of zombie conversion. Within seconds of his jogging, we see the breakdown of his world around him and how it has no effect on him. Quite rapidly, it all catches up to him and we finally see how it directly affects him from a first-person perspective – allowing the audience to finally have empathy for his situation. The scene ends with his death, as a survivor is seen running him over with a vehicle and taking his shoes. We are then left with the irony of the billboard that becomes revealed once the vehicle takes off. The dead jogger is seen portrayed as a personal trainer with the tagline “Get the body you deserve.” This is another bit of humor that also helps us to come full circle from the start of the story, providing us some context for who this man was and leaving us with a lasting impression that his cockiness helped him to deserve the body he got – that of a decomposing zombie. This trait does not fail to capture this story, because in an advertisement such as this it is imperative to have timelines while communicating its point of view.
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? This story had a very original perspective on the apocalypse. The story starts off in a generic way of showcasing the beginning of the end of the world – the typical downfall of humanity through poor choices. However, instead of spelling these facts out from the perspective of one character, we are invited to witness these events happen around our main character in the background. Not only do we get a sense of the violence during these scenes, but we also get a taste of the humanity of it all. One minute these people are fine and going about life, and the next they are zombie bait. The production also brings a new aspect to the zombie genre: humor. Many of the constructed scenes have a touch of irony to them, such as the billboard about getting the body you deserve, or the guy excited to take new shoes off of a dead and decomposed body. This trait fails to capture this story in that originality in voice can sometimes be misinterpreted to mean “completely new” or “never been seen before.” However, this production does a wonderful job of showing us the standard breakdown of society in a zombie event while also adding its own style of subtle humorous story-telling to the mix. In my opinion, taking something that has been done before and giving it just enough of a unique twist should classify the story as having a fresh perspective.

If there was anything about this advertising story that I think should be changed it might be the shifting of perspective that happens throughout the game. We start at third person observing and trying to understand who this man is. Half-way through we transition to first-person and witness the changes that his body is going through from his eyes. Then at the end, we switch back to third person to see him become a zombie, get hit by a vehicle, and get his shoes stolen by a survivor. To me, the switch wasn’t very necessary in helping me to understand the story or the character. From my point of view, it actually had the opposite effect of not letting me empathize as much as I could have with him, because I wasn’t able to see his facial features during his zombie transition. However, maybe this was the intent, because, after all, in the end we see him get “the body that he deserved” from his cocky behaviors in the story.

#ds106 #INTE4350

We’re Alive!

“Da…duh…da…duh…da…duh…da…duh…da…duh…da…du…da…duh…” The sound of dramatic and melancholy music sets the tone for an intense story of survival horror. A striking piano chord suddenly cuts through the rhythmic melody followed up by the words, “WE’RE ALIVE!” There are no visuals – no pictures, no illustrations, nothing but the sound. “We’re Alive,” is a classic style radio drama that focuses on a group of survivors in a world on the brink of collapse. For this post, I will be focusing on their first three radio broadcasts appropriately titled, “It Begins.”

Depriving the audience of the most basic of senses – sight, smell, taste, and touch – “We’re Alive” relies solely on the ability to story tell through the sounds of the characters, their environments, and the events portrayed throughout the narrative. The entire first chapter is told from the point of view of Michael, a young military man savvy to the events of war and thrown head-first into the chaos of an apocalyptic event. As far as the zombie genre goes, this radio drama sticks out as a refreshing break from the typical depictions. A lot of popular zombie media banks on the use of shocking imagery, visual effects, and the expressions of despair and grief on the faces of the survivors. Instead, “We’re Alive” has to creatively circumvent these visuals through the use of sound to inspire the same terror and confusion that a visual zombie apocalypse carries.

Trait Trait Description Succeed Fails to Capture
Sense of audience How well did the story respect the needs of the audience? The story does an incredible job respecting the needs of the audience. Relying only on audio can be problematic to a zombie story – which usually uses visual imagery to arouse fear and anxiety. However, this story understands the importance of balance between character conversations and mood-setting background noise and music. To provide its audience with the setting, the main character’s narrations help to fill in the gaps between what the story is unable to provide sound for and what we can’t physically see. I do not believe that this trait fails to capture this story. The whole point of this story is to engage the audience with as many senses as possible described through sound. It caters completely to the audiences imagination and fills in as many gaps as possible to allow for the imagination to take over and immerse the audience in the story.
Media application Was the use of media appropriate, supportive of the story, balanced and well considered? The use of media is incredibly appropriate in supporting this story. Through the creative use of sound, the audience is able to conjure up images of the hell that the main characters have been suddenly thrown into. The narrations and character interactions are highly descriptive, the background noises match the tone and setting of the environment, and the audio special effects enhance rather than distract from the overall story. In this first chapter of the story, some of the audio effects (such as zombie noises and background noises) have not been as fully developed as others. At times, this can pull the audience out of the authenticity of the story.
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? Though there is no physical evidence to the planning behind this production, solid and thorough planning is evident in the quality of the radio drama. Great care has been taken in the crafting of character interactions and narrations. The characters are written as smart, critical thinkers with enough common sense to keep them alive among the doom and gloom. Each character acts appropriately to their personalities for each event in the story. The flow of the story also moves along at a suitable pace – keeping the listener interested at times and on the edge of their seats other times. The narrator, Michael, also adequately describes each scene and location in the story to allow the audience to build up the map within their own heads – placing the listeners into the story alongside the characters. I don’t think that this trait fails to capture the story. The high quality of the storytelling elements all come together successfully which is a sure sign of solid planning.

I have listened to the entirety of this radio drama which took the producers 7 years to completely tell and 1 year for me to completely binge. Over the course of this listening adventure a large amount of finessing was brought to this tale. It has been years since I had listened to the very first few episodes. Listening to the beginning made me appreciate the evolution that the story had gone through over the years in terms of quality and audience immersion. For instance, as previously stated, certain sound effects had not been totally fleshed out. Zombie effects were quite amateur and could rip me out of the story at times due to the fake sounds of zombie breathing and running. Another modification that I had initially wished for and saw come true throughout the story was a more in-depth explanation of where the zombies came from. Many undead tales never bother to tackle this story element for fear of doing it incorrectly or complicating the story. With a purely audio reliant account such as this, I really feel that some explanation needs to come about at some point in order to add some much needed complexity to the narrative.

#ds106, #INTE5340, #WereAlive