Thursday, October 27, 2011

Help Wanted: Examples of Nonlinear Stories and Less Successful AR Projects

I'm working on two projects where I need to come up with as long a list of examples as I can.  I've got some in mind, but what better way to make sure I don't miss the important ones than to ask all of you for your ideas? I hope you'll share your thoughts. Yay, crowd sourcing! :)

Crowd Sourcing 

Nonlinear Stories in Traditional Media

The first set of examples I'm working on is a list of movies and books that have nonlinear plots.  I'm not necessarily talking about interactive stories here; instead, I want to know about any story that presents itself in a non-chronological order of some kind.  For instance, the plot in Memento is shown in reverse order, and events are told by various narrators in Hero.

In addition to the actual example, it would be great to hear your thoughts on how the creators have explained the use of a nonlinear plot in the context of their stories, or what technique they used to present it.  In Memento, the backwards plot fits in with the brain damage of the main character, and in Hero the technique is the use of different framing devices (in this case, an unreliable narrator).

This list is going to be used in thinking about nonlinear narrative in games.  I will let you know more closer to the end of the term.

Less Successful Augmented Reality Projects

Do you know of an augmented reality project from academia or industry that seemed really good but never really caught on to be a big success? Or a project that wasn't actually very good in the first place? This includes projects that have been important in terms of the technology they have moved forward, but that didn't seem to have a lasting use to real people, as well as commercial flops.

I'm going to be using these examples in a discussion of how less successful augmented reality projects could be improved.  It's related to my work on using cognitive theories to uncover the value of AR.  The current version of our paper is probably going to a journal or magazine, and I am very much looking forward to sharing it with you all - hopefully soon!


Bridget said...

Since I'm more of a TV person than a movie person, I have three TV examples and one movie example. The movie is The English Patient. The main story takes place towards the end of World War 2 but flashes back to just prior to the beginning of the war to explain what happened to 'the english patient'.

The first TV episode I'm thinking of is from Seinfeld. It's called 'The Betrayal'. The episode starts with the last scene and works its way backwards. I've only seen on TV but apparently on the DVD you can watch it forwards as well.

Since I've been rewatching Sliders, one of the episodes Sliders came to mind. It's called 'As Time Goes By'. They travel to a world where time is moving in the opposite direction. So they start off the episode in jail, then get arraigned and released. They slide off of the world around the time the crime is committed.

The third TV example that comes to mind is the episode of the X-Files called 'Bad Blood'. The episode starts with Mulder chasing a suspect, catching him and putting a stake through his heart. Then, for most of the episode, Mulder and Scully, give their (often varying) versions of what lead up to this incident.

I have The English Patient, The X-Files and Sliders on DVD so if you need to watch them, you could borrow them.

Bridget said...

And another TV example just occurred to me and it might be the best one of them all. The entire first season of Boomtown was nonlinear. It was an awesome and unique show but because of low ratings, they abandoned the nonlinear storytelling format after season one. It didn't help it was cancelled after a very short second season which I have yet to see since it hasn't been released on DVD. I do have the first season on DVD.

Gail Carmichael said...

Oh yes! TV examples also much appreciated. Forgot about TV because I hardly watch. Thanks for these!

Anonymous said...

Oh, for nonlinear movies, I like He Said, She Said, where you see the same timeline twice, once from his perspective, once from hers. You see a lot of the same scenes each time, plus some additional for each of them. I love that movie!

I will think about more, but that is the first thing that came to mind.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Bridget's examples made me think about the first set of episodes for the show The Event. They jumped around a lot time-wise, which I thought was fascinating and kept the suspense high, but they apparently thought people found confusing, because they switched to a more linear style after their hiatus.

Gail Carmichael said...

Ooh, I like the He Said, She Said model. Reminds me a bit of how Hero shows scenes from a different perspective each time, but this seems more explicit. Could be neat to work this into a game, but not totally obvious how (since players probably don't want to play the same thing twice).

It's interesting that several shows have abandoned their nonlinear plots because some people find it too confusing. I wonder if that's the real issue, or whether they just didn't implement it well enough (or maybe people just like to complain). Clearly a potential problem for games as well.

Gail Carmichael said...

I was reading through the description for the X-Files episode Bridget mentioned and actually remember seeing that one when it first aired! It was pretty funny. :)

Linda Aronson said...

For anyone who's interested I've written a book providing practical guidelines on how to structure nonlinear and other complex film scripts. it's called 'The 21st Century Screenplay' by Linda Aronson. SUccessful nonlinear films all work to patterns based on jumping stories at specific places in the structures. Unsuccessful nonlinear films don't follow these patterns. For a quick overview, see I also blog about this issue at

Gail Carmichael said...

Awesome! Thanks Linda! That may really come in handy.

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