The ‘next’ button is dead. Using interactive stories as a navigation device.

Every now and then you come across something that’s really clever. This is one of those things:

It’s a story about a stick man. He has a few adventures, you get to help him out along the way. But it’s a story with a difference: you get to draw the stick man at the start of the adventure and you have to draw things along the way to help him out, drawing a key to let him unlock a box, drawing a sword to help him fight a dragon.

From a technical perspective, it’s just neat. Not rocket science, but seamless and clever. The technology doesn’t get in the way of the story, it doesn’t even appear in the story, it just facilitates the storytelling whilst remaining hidden in the background. This is how it should be.

Reflect on how this compares to a typical piece of e-learning, where we use ‘next’ and ‘continue’ buttons to navigate through the learning. In the stick man story, we are interacting to drive the narrative forward, but we never use terms or do things that feel like navigation. We participate in the story, interacting with a character instead of an interface. Indeed, the character is the interface. This is fundamentally a different way of doing things and creates all sorts of possibilities. At one stroke, they have personalised the story and also removed one of the barriers to engagement: navigation.

On the one hand, it’s simple and pointless, on the other, significant and powerful. Increasingly we are exploring ways of training skills and behaviours that allow learners to explore environments, to engage with the learning and reflect on the learning in a meaningful manner. The notion of using the story as navigation is significant in this context. Instead of making a decision and seeing the consequences, the experience can be smoother, an unfolding story, where your only interactions are with the characters.

We’re starting to see more of this type of interactivity. There’s a few sites that allow video to be made more ‘individual’, one of Santa where he speaks your name (his beard allows the developers to hide his lips, whilst some decent ‘text to voice’ software allows your name to be inserted into his voice). They’re not seamless yet, but they’re pretty good.

However good it is now, however hard it is to do now, in five years time, it will be seamless and easy. The potential in terms of how we use stories in learning, in terms of how we navigate through learning, in terms of how personal the learning becomes, is incredible.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Learning, Stories, Storytelling and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The ‘next’ button is dead. Using interactive stories as a navigation device.

  1. Robin Lal says:

    Like the idea of the story telling through better interaction other than the static next and back buttons. Will be great to see how we can bring some of this to life in our content.

  2. Brett says:

    Reminds me of the (lack of) navigation in the game Myst…

  3. Pingback: Creating engaging e-learning: 3 practical tips (story, navigation and saying goodbye) | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  4. Pingback: How do stories work? | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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