The Story Lab – Final Reflection

The Story Lab studio has been quite an eventful journey. To be honest, this project have been one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever done throughout the course of my degree. It wasn’t stressful at all and it is always filled with laughter. I had great group mates and we worked well together throwing out similar ideas and some more interesting than the other.

On the first week of the project, I felt strongly for Farina and Steven’s alien puzzle pitch. It was my first choice along with Griffin. I have always been interested in puzzles and making puzzles. The idea of creating something I’ve always played – Escape Room, was something like a challenge to me. In transmedia storytelling, what are the possibilities of creating stories outside of film and television? When Ben Mckenzie came in to give us a talk on his achievements and the games he has created, I wanted to understand the concept of creating live puzzle games and what is the process of creating it. The one thing that kept resonating in my mind was “the puzzles can fit into the narrative OR the narrative can be created with puzzles as your guideline.”  Two ways! It doesn’t matter which way you start off, you will definitely have infinite ideas on creating a story. With the time constraints, we found the process of creating puzzles first then creating the narrative took longer than we should have. Due to time constraints, the trouble of always changing the narrative to fit the puzzles gave us more headache and finishing the week with undecided work. We had to put our foot down and confirm our narrative and stop changing them anymore so we could move on with finalising our puzzles.

Agency of participating and interacting with the puzzles was a challenge. My biggest challenge after finalising the narrative was to create the illusion of “hacking” with simple puzzles that I can do with my limitations. I was no hacker or even a programmer! So I had to resort to simple puzzles. The participation was a mixture of both active and passive, like I have learnt in my research essay. As the players are actively engage in my puzzles, I want them to feel as though as they are really hacking a server. Weeks of hard work went by with:

  1. researching on game walkthroughs like Assassin Creed and Watch Dogs where they had hacking puzzles,
  2. asking my cousin about programming while just reading programming tutorials like W3Schools, 
  3. thinking of computer algorithms (just looking at pictures to gain some experience) and
  4. playing hacking simulators like Amateur Hacker Simulator.

By combining these ideas, I made my three sets of puzzles– jigsaw puzzles, labyrinth and sudoku. Simple and easy puzzles but with the story to back it up, it creates the illusion of being in the shoes of a hacker.

This project has definitely evolved my creativity thoughts not just in terms of better ideas but learning how to turn my ideas into reality with all the limitations and constraints of the real world. My group mates have helped me test my puzzles and to see if they actually work and if it was effective. We all gave our own feedback to each puzzles and if it was enjoyable, we definitely showed it. The project progressed slowly in the beginning because of our indecisiveness with the plot. Once we had confirmed the main plot, we worked quickly and it was an enjoyable experience seeing everything come together. Steven worked on the plots, Griffin on the tactician’s puzzles, Farina on the designs of the game and journals, Stefan on spec ops/comms’ puzzles and me on the hacker’s puzzles. We had our roles and we definitely delivered every week. This was a teamwork I could get used to!

After putting in effort for more than a month, I think that creating an escape room wasn’t an easy feat! The amount of planning needed to put in beforehand followed by the process of preparing the puzzles was time consuming. This experience has given me a newfound appreciation for those who planned the themes for each room and I agree with the idea of keeping the puzzles there for 6 months or more before creating new puzzle rooms. If I ever wish to work outside the film industry, this live games would be my first pick.

Storytelling is about connecting to other people and helping people to see what you see.

-Michael Margolis

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