Transmission 15.2: THE PALINDROME'S NARRATIVE
This is a newsletter for designers and time travel facilitators. It has insights about the speculative practice & tools we use in our method that they could try as well. Today we thread Palindrome.
PALINDROME is, depending on the order in which you use it, a speculative design toolkit or a game of futures. We are finally releasing the game this spring <3
The upcoming Transmissions series (15.1, .2, .3, .4, and .5) will each focus on a stage of the work we are doing towards the game’s first play on May 31st at the Danish Design Center.
The upcoming transmissions are:
15.1 Collect & Research (April 22nd) Transmitted! Get it here.
15.2 Narrative (May 6th)
15.3 Dynamics (May 20th)
15.4 Object (June 3rd)
15.5 Outcome–Launch (June 17th)
Seeing Narrative is seeing nature. Narrative design is the most beloved stage in The Time Travel Agency, even if we have more fun designing dynamics. Narrative design includes researching anything from the shape of magnolias to the film Magnolia, and it also includes being wrong a lot.
Narrative design is also a story of moving on, and these transmissions are stories of Process. So let’s see:
Up until four days ago, the all-story in Palindrome–game was this: a time traveler found themselves in a dark place, where a glimpse of an optimistic future (in the shape of an artifact) appeared alongside some instructions showing them how to deconstruct it in order to know more about it. The more the time traveler deconstructed, the more they discovered that they had to imagine–create in order to advance. This progress brought excitement and ultimately agency: the future that revealed itself to the traveler was one of their own making, and with it came hints and a personal inventory of how to get to it.
The shape of said narrative, which should connect story and dynamics, was a flight of stairs: the time traveler would give a step (do an activity), then land on an introspection, then give more steps and have more realizations; the journey always advancing upwards. Then, the story hinted that, after breaks, there could be more to it (i.e. more games).
Last Monday we deleted this narrative. The most significant feelings and realizations we wanted to evoke changed.
We concluded that making players aware of their darkness(es), and then expecting them to bridge into hope or optimism within the first few minutes of the game was too much to ask and too much of a risk, especially as we are considering an instance of the game played without us facilitating.
What if we just accepted their darkness as part of their inventory, and allowed the story to move on as the players wished?
Moreover, by now we all know we’re in the optimistic story business; we know that a lot of the current stories and narrative shapes are keeping us in hopelessness, and so here we are with one potential antidote; perhaps it being acceptance.
Also, from Joss, “We don’t need to trap our players in Movement. I think we trap our players enough emotionally” :D
Our choice, then, is that the big revelations can pause on how we can make new narratives and stories (and, for the Danish Design Center’s play, how to implement that skill at work).
Also, the flow for the dynamics is better now: an entrance with low energy and high intimate emotion —> the next step with high energy and lower confidential emotion.
So! The most current version of the Palindrome–game narrative has its depth now emerging from three points:
Detecting and accepting the skills and feelings we have,
The welcoming of observation, gratitude, and curiosity, and,
The entrance to a world where we are happily detained in awe before we start thinking about how to apply it all.
Flotsam is still the main inspiration for the dynamics (Find artifact – Deconstruct it – Make appearance in Future), we just shifted to a narrative of meandering, attentive to acceptance, gratitude, and awe.
From Jane Alison’s work on narrative design:
If a narrative naturally wants to flow towards its end but doesn’t want to get there yet – the pleasure’s in the journey – it might hold back along the way as an adventure story might. But it might be bored by classic conflict, so instead lingers by flowing along an extravagant arabesque of detours: this is what meandering narratives do. A meander begins at one point and moves toward a final one, but with digressive loops.
Ross Chambers’ “loiterature” sees pure pleasure in digression, seeing a disdain for directness.
There is a deliberate slowness, a delight in curving this way or that, carving slow labyrinths of time.
Any of you who have played with us know that we rarely give out the map of the experience ahead. Instead, we reassure that we are moving by using design–tracking elements (breadcrumbs of sorts; perhaps containers).
Our pleasure is in getting you lost and hopefully to help you find pleasure in that lostness.
A story based in acceptance and awe has allowed us to focus on dynamics that bring out the spirit of observation, innocence, gratefulness, and play, which we consider necessary to build new futures. Moreover, it ties to our belief that we can work, or at least give a first step, with what we have.
With narrative set, we are delighted to be able to focus on story: the Palindrome’s world, which is only revealed when playing. We could say that Palindrome might be a tool or might be a building. We can hint that we should ask who is the time travel agent guiding these players (who seems to be able to add or subtract to the world). We can say that outside Palindrome there are stars but inside there are oceans.
In this, other world, we’ll study what has been forgotten. We meander; we are hungry to know what happens but keep getting distracted by play, which quiets the urge. We are in a labyrynth, happily detained in awe, seeing the immeasurable beauty and infinite kindness within our reach; expressing emotions and states of being that, strangely, fit into our work. A warm moment about finding ourselves, and knowing we’ve been in an optimistic future all along.
We are finding that gratitude might be a more manageable, or travelable, bridge.
TAKEAWAY / PLAY AT THIS STAGE
Here is one part of an exercise called ‘The Play’, which will appear in the guidebook inside Palindrome. ‘The Play’ has two main functions: to form bonds and to generate an inventory (…).
From our students of Interactive Arts and Media at Columbia College Chicago, whom we thank for these reflections, “Use The Play to enter a zone of honesty from within, openness to form a new bond, of being aware of one another, and being comfortable with what’s being discussed.”
The Play will lead to the inventory that the time traveler will need to advance in Palindrome. For now, we leave you the first part of the exercise so you goof around uncomfortably with someone :D
Pick a friend. One person is Agent 1, the other person is Agent 2 (you decide).
Agents look at each other or sit with their backs touching.
From the script, Agent 1 speaks, Agent 2 speaks, no conversational bridges necessary. It is forbidden to ask, ‘And you?’
Set a timer for 10 minutes
Ask and answer the following:
Agent 1, tell Agent 2 things around you that you're amazed by.
Agent 2, tell Agent 1 a child-like quality you love about yourself.
Agent 1, tell Agent 2 a place that you love.
Agent 2, ask one question about Agent's 1 chosen location.
Agent 1, tell Agent 2 how you make the first meal you have in the day, step by step.
Agent 2, tell Agent 1 your routine to go to bed, step by step.
Agent 1, tell Agent 2 a quitting story.
Agent 2, ask Agent 1 two questions about their quitting story.
Agent 1, tell Agent 2 an association that embarrasses you.
Agent 2, tell Agent 1 an anecdote that embarrasses you about a friend or family member.
Agent 1: can we write about anything?
Agent 2: do it, tell us a story about anything.
Both agents answer Quiz 1: Is Yellow an imaginary color? (Y/N)
Agent 1, describe to Agent 2 your world as you see it (smell, weather, color, pace...)
Agent 2, describe to Agent 1 your world as you see it (smell, weather, color, pace...)
Take three deep breaths, thank each other.
DURING THIS STAGE <3
What we won’t use: the three tiny sculptures which represented a stage we aimed to bring into the first design.
There she is, watching the world, knowing she's trapped above, below, around, and inside. There she goes, exploring with fresh air, a laid-back back, the greens below. There she is, gems around, easy to reach.
Note on these transmissions:
The Time Travel Transmissions will transmit elsewhere between July and September– they will be getting ready to run–host a monthly Palindrome (hybrid) game that will stretch for 4 months. Every recipient will be able to participate. More soon <3