Storytelling with Google Maps
March 20, 2008 10:34 PM   Subscribe

The 21 Steps is a spy thriller short story that is told using Google Maps. [via mefi projects]
posted by brain_drain (20 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I'm on Chapter 6 right now. This is certainly an interesting way to present a story.
posted by flatluigi at 11:09 PM on March 20, 2008

Also, I swear I saw 'reticulating splines' in one of the loading screens. Nice.
posted by flatluigi at 11:10 PM on March 20, 2008

Very nice yarn.
posted by Faux Real at 11:11 PM on March 20, 2008

Well, in chapter 4, I was pretty sure if we traveled south more, we'd end up on the African continent.

And his plane flew kinda sideways. Which scared me.

Otherwise, pretty interesting.

Except I prefer my splines unreticulated. Anything else just sucks.
posted by Samizdata at 11:14 PM on March 20, 2008

Also: "Alice, call 020 8133 8141."

I'd do it, except
1) I'm not Alice
2) I'm not in England
3) I'm not that type of person.

Anyone else want to try?
posted by flatluigi at 11:18 PM on March 20, 2008

Thoroughly entertaining. Thank you!
posted by owhydididoit at 11:29 PM on March 20, 2008

"Reticulating splines."
posted by barnacles at 11:42 PM on March 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and thanks, brain_drain. I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would!
posted by barnacles at 11:42 PM on March 20, 2008

That was fun! Thanks for the effort.
posted by maxwelton at 12:42 AM on March 21, 2008

This is very cool--thanks for posting it. Also, I think my advanced level ESL students would find it very engaging--this would be a neat supplement to a reading course.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:43 AM on March 21, 2008

I liked the informant at the sport club, who had exchanged the suspect's money for francs, heard that she was interested in fine coffee, and saw her drive off in a vehicle with a blue, yellow, and green flag.
posted by darksasami at 1:36 AM on March 21, 2008

Also: "Alice, call 020 8133 8141."

I'd do it, except
1) I'm not Alice
2) I'm not in England
3) I'm not that type of person.

Anyone else want to try?

I just phoned the number. It takes you off on the first steps of an ARG... which I assume will be continued in subsequent stories.
posted by greycap at 3:19 AM on March 21, 2008

This is a fun project, and I love this way of telling a story, but the plot itself was pretty hackish and cliche. I think more could have been done with it.
posted by nasreddin at 3:48 AM on March 21, 2008

Glad you (mostly) like it, guys. It's definitely an experiment, and we (Six to Start, the designers) know there are ways we can improve on both the interface design and the story parts, but it's nice to know that we're going in the right direction.

There are five more stories coming over over the next few weeks, and their stories and designs will be all completely different. Like any good album, we're going to start strong and end strong (the last story is by Mohsin Hamid, author of Booker-shortlisted The Reluctant Fundamentalist) but there are some really interesting stories in the middle.

The whole experience of putting the project together has been rather fun. I'm not going to pretend that all the authors we talked to understood, or even were happy, about the 'story designs' we had, and ultimately we had to find replacements for some. But most of them, including (and particularly) the non-tech savvy ones, were all really eager to give it a go. Some of the stories we're doing are arguably quite risky, at least for the authors, so that makes it even more impressive.

What's been most interesting for me is trying to design stories that people can begin reading with as few instructions as possible. It's not something authors or publishers have to worry about, since everyone already understands that books have pages and chapters and the way to keep your place in a book is to remember the page number or fold it. But when you start messing about with the medium, things get more difficult and you have to make the experience highly intuitive, or people will just go off to YouTube. Of course, the story must also fit the design. It's hard enough writing short stories, imagine having to fit a whole new type of design.

I've written some thoughts on the project on my blog if you're interested in learning more. And I want to give props to Penguin for running this project, not because they're paying us, but because they've been incredibly supportive.
posted by adrianhon at 5:31 AM on March 21, 2008

FYI: The plot and navigation of the story is very similar to John Buchan's novel The Thirty Nine Steps, the hero of which is Richard (not "Rick") Hannay. Its sequel is Greenmantle.
posted by ubiquity at 5:33 AM on March 21, 2008

That's pretty neat.
posted by cashman at 6:32 AM on March 21, 2008

I'd like to see more of the green dots, that let you do sightseeing (or even better, gather clues). Also, using a city like San Francisco where you could make use of Street View would give a much more immersive experience.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:16 AM on March 21, 2008

Very imaginative. Thanks.
posted by Rykey at 11:04 AM on March 21, 2008

ubiquity: the credits say "apologies to John Buchan", so there you go.

I thought this was excellent, even if the ending was a little flat. Really interesting design. And I wasn't at all surprised to see Adrian's name at the end of it all. It's years since I played any ARGs, but this kinda tempts me back into it. But I've grown up now, and it's cool to see the medium has too. I'll be watching out for the next installment.
posted by Acey at 12:06 PM on March 21, 2008

So nice it gets posted twice.
posted by cortex at 3:33 PM on March 21, 2008

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