Interactive Storytelling Through Minecraft, Fantastic Mr. Fox
How does one best engage the audience in a story? At Shapescape, our answer has always been Minecraft. Through Minecraft we seek to tell some of the best stories in new ways, involving and educating the audience in the process, all the while having the experience be a joyful game.
Most recently we had the pleasure of telling the magnificent story Fantastic Mr. Fox by novelist Roald Dahl, revolving around the clever Mr. Fox and his nightly scavenging visits to the surrounding farms. Through Minecraft, the story is told in a way that allows students to not only visualize the story but engage in it themselves; expanding upon the caves that are the home of Mr. Fox and venturing out on their own adventures to the farms of this incredible universe.
By utilizing the freedoms of Minecraft, we are able to retell stories and use new means of creating interest with young people. This serves both to remind of us fictional pieces such as Fantastic Mr. Fox but also to inform students of topics big and small in a more fun and engaging way. In the past we have told stories about the richness of the Florentine culture, we have shown the grim nature of World War II in our depiction of D-Day and we have found simple ways of introducing players to complex moral and social questions, such as how we deal with fear.
When it comes to telling stories in Minecraft, realizing the strengths and weaknesses is key. Naturally the blocky nature of the game puts some demands to the scale and design of structures, but this is also what lets participants easily make their own modifications to the world and have the option to directly influence the told story. Unlike books and movies, that often fully flesh out the story, a story-telling Minecraft map should always have openings for players to add their own bits. In the case of the Fantastic Mr. Fox project, this is expressed through open caves, for the participant to truly inhabit the story. The gamified version of stories can draw on the big advantage that the audience is no longer just onlookers and listeners but are active in the telling of the story.
While the brilliance of Roald Dahl is undeniable, much can be added by allowing the fantasy of a host of players to add their creative ideas and interpretations to the universe; at the very least it teaches a thing or two about storytelling.
Recreating a wonderful place such as the world of Fantastic Mr. Fox is always a joy, and I hope our world will be a joy for many. Now Shapescape looks forward to telling many other stories and hope you will help spread the joys by telling your own stories as well!
August G. Johansen is the founder of Shapescape and remains managing director for the team. Shapescape produces educational and exhibition settings within Minecraft, to assist in teaching, storytelling and the involvement of children in events.