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Nonlinear and Multilinear Films and Stories in the Future | Anti-Social Musings

Nonlinear and Multilinear Films and Stories in the Future

Everything we do in digital media is ultimately about either telling a story or walking someone through an experience. When we build digital products, our goal is to create an environment that connects with our users and engages them… The best digital products typically have the right balance between environment, story, and function.

Film has largely remain the same in both form and function for many years. The tools have evolved, and as such have given filmmakers new ways to edit or shoot their stories. But ultimately the stories are always presented in a simulcast, linear form. What happens to storytelling in a truly nonlinear medium?

The term “nonlinear” in writing already has a specific meaning, referring to telling stories out of chronological order – a term I remember well from my film school days. So instead we’ll use the term “multilinear” which has often been used to describe works like the old choose your own adventure books we read as children.

One thing that excites me most is thinking about what the great storytellers will do once they embrace truly multilinear forms of storytelling. We’re starting to see the germs of this in video games, as plot and character become more important elements. But this is still a lean-forward experience.

The landscape of how we consume stories is changing. Video game consoles are just one perfect example of this change – individually addressable boxes connected to not only the internet but potentially peer-to-peer, allowing each viewer of the same program to have a different experience, or to influence someone else’s experience while watching, or even to influence everyone else’s experience. The future cable boxes will have similar capability as they move from the traditional switched cable headends to more interactive and on-demand based systems over time.

It’s time that we, as storytellers, start exploring how the medium itself can influence radically new forms of stories.

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