Stories that Matter

We can all mouth the words "content is king," but one of the best practitioners of this is FableVision, an innovative media development company that's behind such successes as Lure of the Labyrinth. In this edition of Out of the Sandbox, the company's president Gary Goldberger elaborates on the story behind his company's best stories. Spoiler alert: he finds it all personal.
August 20, 2014

We can all mouth the words “content is king,” but one of the best practitioners of this is FableVision, an innovative media development company that’s behind such successes as Quandary, After the Storm, Mayan Mysteries, and Lure of the Labyrinth. I asked Gary Goldberger, FableVision’s president, to elaborate on the story behind his company’s best stories. Spoiler alert: he finds it all personal.

By guest blogger Gary Goldberger

“Somewhere along the way, the FableVision team confirmed that the secret to delivering content that connects with users is to draw them into the heart of a great story. The aim is to create an irresistible context in which the end user feels a personal connection. It’s easy to spot stories in the books we write and shows we create, but we also incorporate engaging narrative in the instructional videos we produce, the museum installations we build, and especially in the games we develop. You’ll find a great story at the heart of everything we make.

What’s in our secret sauce? Personal experience. We spend a tremendous amount of time as a team laughing and reminiscing about stories from our own past. When we incorporate those experiences into the lives of the characters we create it helps inform us of who they are and what exactly is supposed to happen next.

Before we embark on building any new game, we map out the characters’ personality traits, quirks, and backstories. This development work allows us to effectively construct a roadmap and determine each character’s every move. Often, the history and DNA of the character is invisible to players, but the connection is undeniable.

The challenge then becomes involving the user in the game. Whether the story is developed so the player is on the sidelines peeking into the lives of characters navigating unique situations, or transported into virtual worlds to become someone else, the player becomes a significant part of the storytelling experience and must instantly connect.

Our goal is to create a seamless experience for the player to get enough story to keep them connected, balancing that with interactions and gameplay to help move the story forward. Stories grab an audience and keep them engaged. There’s always a creative decision as to what technique we are going to use to deliver these stories within a game. We look at a collection of trusted tools, from comic panels throughout the interaction, to immersive worlds having NPCs reveal plots. Gameplay and story should dance together to create a well-crafted experience.

But no matter how they are delivered, the little bits of ourselves in the characters are what makes them stick. As users play, they’re able to discover personality similarities or aspire to be more like the characters they meet. On a deep psychological level, personal stories have the potential to help us understand our past, and guide us along the path of our future. They are a critical tool in forming a bond between a storyteller and their audience. At FableVision, that’s what makes our stories move and matter.”

As always, send me your stories! wendy@sandboxsummit.org

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