Immersive Engagement Proposal

  1.  Premise and Purpose — The concept is to create a virtual experience for new student orientation using Second Life as a platform, based on the “mono-myth” called the “Hero’s Journey,” which has been identified as a dominant motif of both mythology and the more engaging fiction.  As Matthew Winkler says in his TED video, the Hero’s Journey has universal resonance because it relates to the challenges of human life.  “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek,” the mythologist Joseph Campbell is quoted as saying.  If we imagine this next step in education as a next step in the development of the student, and understand how the human mind processes knowledge and insight in story form, there is no better way to pattern this virtual experience.
  2. Audience and Market— The intended audience is the new student requiring orientation.  I believe we will have to ensure the project is designed conceptually so that first-time users of Second Life will feel engaged enough to want to complete it.  We will have to keep this in mind throughout.
  3. Medium, Platform, and Genre — I cannot imagine a better platform for this kind of experience than Second Life.  As an SL avatar, you can communicate, travel, interact with objects, buy, sell, and build.  These capabilities make it potentially a full-fledged virtual world, where a person can be challenged in a way analagous to the real world just as we see in the “Hero’s Journey.”  I believe that people are conditioned by video gaming to at first see the Second Life environment as a game.  We can use this to our advantage for engaging the user as far as conceptual design is concerned.
  4.  Narrative and Gaming Elements — We will have to have narrative elements connecting the Steps of the Journey.  My step at this point is “Step 5–Crossing the First Threshold.”  Gordon Napier is an award-winning screenwriter who offers help to writers who wish to use the Hero’s Journey as a template.  At gordonnapier.com, he says, about Crossing the First Threshold, –“Has your hero crossed the threshold by choice or was it passive?  Do you have a guardian making it difficult for the hero?  Have you forced your hero into a rock and a hard place before this moment where he was to make this choice?  Have you created a new world for the hero?  New locations, new goals, new rules for him to learn or is it repetition of what has already occurred?  Read the definition and synonyms of the breakdown [crossing, threshold, change, commitment], are you touching on those words in this moment?” All of this suggests a tone of gentle encouragement is necessary, and that the new student’s engagement must be sustained.  At the threshold, there ought to be a guide with a message.
  5. User’s Role and Point of View (POV) — The user will interact with various objects and animations (such as a parrot) as they make their way around a roughly triangular path on our map.  The trick is to allow enough agency to make it interesting to the user, while simultaneously keeping the user within the intended experience.  The user will receive assistance at key parts, but ultimately makes the journey alone as we want to retain the symbolism of the Hero’s Journey.
  6. Characters — At this point in time, I am only aware of  “PC the Parrot,” who I understand will be a crucial guide.  As noted, a nonplayer character at or near Step 5 is also appropriate, as the first threshold is crossed.  We ought to be judicious in our use of nonplayer characters, placing them at key junctures where they have a purpose.
  7. Structure and Interface — My understanding is that various tokens, such as keys to treasure chests, will be found along the way of the journey.  These may denote progress for the user.  I believe that this issue is worthy of greater development by our time than it has received up to this point in time.  We will have to perpetually boost the novelty factor.  I propose garments or other wearables be added to the avatar as they make their way toward the goal.
  8.  Storyworld and Sub-settings — The Second Life environment for our project is set in a magical forest realm, which also blends elements of popular pirate imagery and legend.  The general trend as the use progresses is for the environment to become more “magical,” or in other words we will introduce more unusual objects and nonplayer characters as well as visual uniqueness.  The historical time period is vague and indeterminate, at least at this point.  An area we need to work on significantly more is the challenges faced by our “hero.”  We have decided that offers to turn away from the goals of the path be strategically placed, along with encouragment to move forward.  This is important for user engagement.
  9. User Engagement — We will have what corresponds to the “elixir” of the Hero’s Journey near the end of the experience.  I propose we make this something that is put together piece by piece through the Journey.  The element of surprise will be essential for engagement.
  10. Overall Look and Sound — The overall look and sound will be dictated by the foregoing considerations.  We will have certain landmarks in Second Life that will correspond to certain features of the college campus, but we will not have an exact correspondence by any means.  We will have much of the Journey in an enchanted forest setting.  We can incorporate pirate motifs where appropriate.  My brother is open to making some electronic music that we could possibly use if that is technically possible, but of course I would seek the approval of the other team members when it comes to that, of course.  We want to have a variety of nonplayer characters, but employed judiciously.
  11. Interactive Scavenger Hunt — We need to have clues in the virtual world that can correspond to items and tokens in the physical world.  This can culminate in something that can be picked up at the bookstore that can represent the “elixir” or a portion of the “elixir.”  As the user is picking up “keys to success” throughout the Journey, it makes sense that they should receive a key chain in the physical world upon completion or when nearing completion.
  12. Marketing of The Hero’s Journey — In marketing the “Hero’s Journey” project, we will have to reference its usefulness to the new student while also promoting the uniqueness of the concept.  I know I have never heard of anything like this, so it should be an interesting thing to some students.  We can have a few strategically placed posters that show still images from the virtual experience as one way to market the project.
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