Multimedia Tools

Interactive storytelling with YouTube

As part of my Masters, I am currently reading Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education by Tony Bates and Gary Poole. My cohort is currently working with their SECTIONS model for choosing and evaluating new educational technologies. One of the criteria in the model is Interactivity (I) – what kind of interaction does the technology you are examining enable? As I was reading the chapter, a memory from my adolescence popped into my head – Dragon’s Lair.

Like most kids growing up in the early 80’s, video games were a big part of my life, including a game called Dragon’s Lair. Dragon’s Lair was different than most video games in that the action was high quality animation, not pixelated characters. The gameplay was incredibly clunky and I think it cost a dollar to play (compared to 25 cents for my game de jour Galaga) and since most of the time I ended up falling into a fiery pit of doom within 30 seconds, I didn’t invest a lot of time and money in it. But it made a lasting impression in that it was one of my first encounters with branching video. I loved that I had the direct ability to control the storyline and influence the narrative. It was like I was the Director in some fantastic animated movie.

Just over a year ago, YouTube unveiled the ability to annotate videos and add links to them. While there certainly has been a few problems associated with the annotations (most notably the lack of transparency on where the destination leads to and the possibility of linking to a malware site, as Pandalabs warned about earlier this year), it is really interesting to see how this feature is being used to create interactive stories and games on YouTube, much like the ones I experienced in the arcade hunched over Dragon’s Lair.

A good example of annotations being used to create an interactive story is this recent series of videos done by the Metropolitan Police in London as part of their Drop the Weapons campaign. At the end of each video you are asked to make a decision, which takes you down a different path.

For educators, this ability to link videos creates all kinds of interesting possibilities for creating interactive learning activities. For example, here is an interactive spelling bee.

I can’t imagine how much it cost to develop the Dragon’s Lair video game that sucked up my teenage cash, but I would hazard a guess that it was substantially more than it cost to create branching scenarios on YouTube. The point being that it doesn’t take a big budget to create compelling interactive activities using the technology available to us today. Sure, as the budgets go up so do the production techniques and special effects, etc. But really all it takes is a simple video recorder, some imagination and YouTube to create a bit of interesting interactive content.

CC BY 4.0 Interactive storytelling with YouTube by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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