Interactive Documentaries. Have you ever heard of them? Well, I hadn’t until I started taking an interactive storytelling class here at Ryerson. Of course we have all heard of interactive storytelling in one form or another, from video games to Black Mirrors Bandersnatch. The idea of technologies evolving to tell stories in a more immersive form is not a new concept. But I personally had very little experience with interactive stories. I’m not a huge fan of video games, so the concept of being immersed in the story of a video game had never really occurred to me. Banderstanch however, being a media student, did really catch my attention when I first stumbled across it. And I think that it is a great first interactive experience for anyone who hasn’t explored the means of storytelling.
Bandersnatch is a film that has been presented over Netflix, it is a Black Mirror story in which you follow a young aspiring video game programmer as things in his world begin to get strange. He starts to question reality and you, the player, get to make decisions for him. Some of the decisions are small and mondaine such as what he will eat for breakfast, but as the film goes on, the choices get more and more intense and intriguing.
For anyone who has watched Black Mirror, you can understand how thrilling it was to be put in the shoes and get to make the decisions for one of the characters. For anyone who hasn’t but is interested in interactive stories I HIGHLY recommend this one as a starting point.
Now that we’ve talked about basic interactive stories, I want to tell you about interactive documentaries. This was a type of story delivered in a form that I had never heard of before, and it completely changed the game for me after watching my first one. Since being exposed to a couple experiences through class, I have gone off to watch many more simply because of how breathtaking and immersive they are.
So, here are my top favourites:
This first one is a little heavy. The experience takes you to three videos, one after the other, in which elderly asian women recount their experience as “comfort women”. Comfort women being a term used for the women who were victims of militarized sexual violence in World War Two.
The immersion comes from how you watch the testimonies, and the response you are able to leave after listening. The website itself has a stunning database of audience contributions, anonymously sharing how these stories affected them.
TW: Sexual assault
This one is for all of the animal lovers out there. The story follows a grizzly bear in Banff national park as he narrates the challenges he and his family face with the changing world around them. It highlights the way humans are affecting the habitats in which animals such as these live.
The website itself is a map of the park in which users can interact with and see camera footage of animals, see stories of things that have happened in the park, etc.
This documentary is a little closer to home. It explores the variety of immigrant owned business in the heart of Toronto.
This documentary shines a light on the diversity of the city as well as an immersive education of the immigrant experience.
Now if those experiences have gotten your attention here a couple more you might want to explore:
So, overall these experiences for me have been super educational, and have changed the way I will view media creation in the future. I would love to someday get to create an experience as immersive for audiences as these ones have been for me!