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  • Playful Learning Design

Inanimate Alice


Episode 5: Hometown 2

Inanimate Alice is a browser-based, interactive digital story. This story is number five in a series that follows the main character, a teenage girl named Alice. Her narration is facilitated through text accompanied by sometimes intense music and sound effects, and the main point of navigation requires you to click an arrow to move to the next scene.

This was my first experience with a media compilation of this kind, but the three traits I identified for my critique are the story, the sense of audience, and the media application. The story was of particular interest as the main character was personable and conversational in nature, and she continued to develop throughout the experience. Alice quickly jumps into her story by expressing a concern that she is in trouble at school, and reflecting on her relationship with her parents. She is passionate about designing immersive games, and outlines on the process of convincing her mother that the art form was worthy of recognition. You learn more about Alice when she reveals that she is discouraged and unmotivated by her academic experience, as she is failing every class but one. You also gain a strong sense of place through images of her community, and continuity of theme through a mobile device that appears in multiple scenes.

The story continues to build a clear and compelling core, with built-in interactions that relate to the overall theme. The overall organization of the experience was well balanced, and respected the needs of the audience. Alice’s casual interactions speak directly to the audience, as if she was telling her story to a friend. There are also a variety of different interactions with various ways to interact, so the audience doesn’t get bored with the experience. For example, in a scene in Alice’s kitchen, pots and pans are strewn across the floor and you are asked to put them into the cupboard by dragging and dropping them. The interactions allow for some experimentation as well, and you can toss the pans across the room and they will interact with the other pans. Other interactive elements featured the ability to change the color of objects, revealing images from hidden areas, and mini-games.

The media application was thoughtful and appropriate, and directly connected with Alice’s interest in developing immersive games. She shares a mobile game she has designed, and the viewer can manipulate the screen of the phone to interact with the game. Alice also includes a skateboarding game that she has designed, which aligns with the story as well. When the story is complete, you also have the ability to replay the skateboarding game and see your high score. There was a unique balance of images, graphics, video and animations that was diverse and mostly cohesive. One note on the graphic quality of the experience; the font was sometimes challenging to read and looked dated.

There are some elements I would like to address that are not included in my critique. I did not critique the overall functionality of the experience, but I did notice that there was no visible way to pause animations or videos, no progression bar to navigate through the story until it was complete, and no visible accessibility options. Considering how I might improve this interactive experience, I would focus on these elements that would ensure the viewer had more control over how they navigated the experience.

Story

***** (5/5)

Sense of Audience

***** (5/5)

Media Application

**** (4/5)

#gaming #storytelling

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