5-10 Minute Stories Across Media

Yesterday in class, a student brought up the idea that it would help to have inspiration from other successful stories that take place on the order of 5 to 10 minutes. At the time, one came to mind: The beginning of Up. I let it pass, but today I came across a new one while reading Jim Groom’s blog (he is the inventor of the only radically open course I know of, DS106). So let’s start this conversation in earnest:

Up does more in its first four minutes without words than most movies do at all. I seriously cannot even click the play button without crying despite having seen it so many times.

Dr. Groom showed the first minutes of Fritz Lang’s M as a reminder of the vocabulary of cinema for storytelling.

This one might even be a better example for us because it is an old movie—not as much history behind the way this story works—so it is more relevant to where we are with mobile media: we are closer to the beginning of knowing how to use it (I’ve spent a fair amount of time this last year visiting the early and middle years of cinema for this reason. I’ve watched Mark Cousin’s The Story of Film twice; it’s a great guide to the evolution of the medium).

Of course, it might be good to have examples of successful beginnings from many other media too. An example of a mobile game with a fantastic opening is ustwo’s Monument Valley. If any of you would like to give it a try, in its first 30 seconds—warning, better to play the game than watch the video, I’m happy to bring iPods to class, you learn everything without any didactic work on their part. It is very representative of the truism about videogames being good teachers because they allow you to do the learning instead of telling you information.

Something important to go along with the concept of getting somewhere quickly for your players is a sort of timeline that’s very important to think about in terms of your audience: 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, one hour. These milestones, in descending order of importance, can help organize your game design. Look for ways to have your players doing something fantastic in under one minute. Reading directions or extensive background is usually the worst way to start (exactly the opposite of academic tradition).

What beginnings or really short stories, in any medium, do any of you know to be successful? How do they do what they do? I’m especially thinking of things that may take on new form in mobile games/media and which are doable without big time resources.


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