What Google Stories means for Interactive Narratives & Mobile Films

Google recently partnered up with Justin Lin (of Fast & Furious fame) to release a short film, “Help”, and is mobile exclusive. It needs to be mobile exclusive because the movie offers a 360 degree experience when watching it. If you haven’t watched it download the Google Spotlight Stories app on your phone now, then watch it.
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League of Legends Narratives Feature Image

How Narratives can Explain League of Legends’ Popularity

It’s well-established that video games have become incredibly popular from Flappy Birds to the GTA series, one such genre is the online multiplayer like League of Legend. 

From its humble origin as a Warcraft 3 mod played in computer science classes to a prize pouch of a $1 million in the League of Legends World Championship League of Legends has ascended far where according to Forbes, League of Legends has become the most played PC game in North America and Europe with 1.3 billion hours of gameplay by gamers.

My theory?  Because League of Legends creates a hero narrative for its player, providing a motivation and obstacles, distilling one of our most addicting narratives in its most playable form.

Character Motivation

League of Legends Champions

The gameplay is quite simple, you are a “summoner” and control “champions” aka any elf, warrior, undead, fantasy roster along with a team of “champions” and have to fight through the opposing champion team and their spawning minions to destroy the opposing team’s “Nexus” aka what churns out the minions. In terms of motivation it’s not exactly Oldboy but it in terms of video game narratives it isn’t much simpler than defeat Bowser and save Princess Peach and Mario is one of the most successful franchises of all time.

One of the essential elements of any well-developed character is motivation. Captain Ahab’s motivation is killing Moby Dick, Jay Gatsby’s motivation is to get Daisy it’s what defines their actions and character through their story. Likewise, other MMO’s like World of Warcraft needs missions and even expansion packs to keep their subscribers playing.

While League of Legends is always updating with new content, it’s core gameplay always provides the motivation for their players to play again and again. However, it can’t be the only reason for players to play which is why they have…

Character Development

League of Legends Levelling Up

It’s been scientifically proven that when we achieve something our brain awards us with dopamine; video games and dopamine are strongly connected. When get five in a row in Candy Crush or bumping up to A-list celebrity in Kim Kardashian is an achievement that our brain believes we should be rewarded with. In League of Legends killing enough champions, minions, and towers leads to experience points which mean stronger champions, more customization and another dose of dopamine to keep you playing.

While most characters in popular media aren’t exactly all about killing minions to get physically stronger, we are invested in their story as they seek to overcome the obstacles and develop as people. For example as awesome as Indiana Jones may be as a character if the Nazis hadn’t gotten involved, a bullwhip wouldn’t have done much good at an archaeological dig site.

By being able to level up meaning more powerful champions and customization to suit, their game style players are invested to keep trying to win the next battle. However, it’s just not League of Legends that can make use of narratives. 

Narratives in Marketing

Dark Knight Viral Campaign Harvey Dent Website

Understandably there are other reasons why League of Legends is so popular: a massive variety of champions to play, appealing visuals, and well-paced gameplay, however it’s core game of motivation and development that can be applied elsewhere.

This is especially true in interactive marketing.

For example, the success of “The Dark Knight” could be tied in with it’s fantastic interactive marketing campaign leading up to the movie. During this interactive campaign

  • Websites like whysoserious.com, which blurred real the fictional Batman Universe, posted updates and informed fans of trailers, news and how to participate in events i.e. real-life games.
  • Real-life games such as committing a series of crimes and tasks while wearing Joker makeup at Comic-Con with a winner at the end.
  • Unconventional prizes such as Joker masks or a copy of “The Gotham Times” newspaper.

By involving the fans in the upcoming narrative of the movie, it led to an opening weekend of more than $150-million and the highest-grossing movie of 2008.

While a dedicated batman fans and ones excited in participating in a Batman movie campaign will overlap; a strong core of supporters willing to promote and share to their social contacts is something that is always a good thing for any marketer.

It’s getting potential customers invested in the story to be given motivation to try and ways to merit a sense of achievement for trying. As people will always think themselves as the hero in their own narrative by making your own narrative theirs, they will be your heroes.

The Other Side Feature Image

The OtheR side: Car commercials & Dual narratives

The OtheR side is a narrative accomplishment for car commercials. Often car commercials are often sleek cars driving on long winding roads with a suspicious lack of exits or set in weird anthropomorphic apocalypses. Flashy but derivative. Which is why Honda’s commercial for it’s  Civic model/Civic Type R Concept cars, (created by Creative Agency, Weiden+Kennedy London) is so amazing. Amazing for it’s feature: when pressing and holding “R” on your keyboard, the video switches another video.

You can watch the full experience here. (Please do, I’ll wait).

Finished it? Great isn’t it, so no guilt if I spoil it for you. But the OtheR side isn’t just great for it’s fantastic narrative but in it’s powerful use of interactive storytelling but highlights one of storytelling trope: the Double Life for the driver/the foil for the Civics. (while I be abusing the slash? hell yes).


The foil

A car commercial needs a car; otherwise it would just be a well-dressed man hitchhiking along a road. Notwithstanding the finer technicalities of the two cars Honda is promoting, at least there is a difference in car colour (which is further heightened by the daytime/nighttime. However the commercial does a great job focusing on the smaller features from the volume control to a Econ button, it provides a great contrast, or foil between the two cars and the different purposes they function for.

Honda Civic DayHonda Civic Type R Night

The second element of great car narratives is that it is the ultimate car narrative. Taking passengers on a journey from point A to point B. Where is the car taking the driver and his kids/thieves? A safehouse? A museum? The anticipation of the journey’s end is what engages visitors and has us watching to the end.


The Double Life

The commercial also plays into two common narratives of the car commercials. The first narrative  is ideal joe just going on with his ideal life, driving his ideal daughters, from school with his ideal car.  The second narrative is the more actionable sequence of exciting joe doing something exciting which needs his exciting car to be exciting. However by combining these two familiar narratives together the happy father/getaway driver now becomes a multi-dimensional character, invoking the Double Life trope.

Getaway driverFamily man driver

Now with the same character, one playing a longer hair version of Ryan Reynolds from “Drive” and as a dotting dad, it’s only natural to ask, do his kids know their daddy is moonlighting as a getaway driver? And where is he taking them? Playing the two narratives together only makes us engage with the driver and identify with him/want his car(s). 


Interactive narrative

Any director worth their salt could have directed this commercial, with scenes cutting back between the two stories for dramatic effect. However, by giving the control of direction to the viewer, they now won’t just watch it, but are more engaged in the experience, switching back between stories whenever they are bored, or to marvel at the contrast between the two stories.

Article-The Other Side Surprise Day_ModifiedArticle- The Other Side Surprise Night_Modified

And the contrast is marvellous, not just with the camera shots (an achievement that deserves applause in itself) such as the double twists of the police set-up or the costumed party. The Egyptian motif was a interesting one (maybe it’s a tie to the Double Crown of ancient Egypt that unified the upper and lower kingdoms together. I don’t know.) The contrasts only plays up the credibility of a proper narrative rather than just another car commercial.



Honda Civic Type R Honda Civic

Whether it’s catching museum thieves or surprising your daughters with a Egyptian-themed surprise party it’s all enjoying the new Honda. It’s about pulling the contrasting experience that the customer can imagine them being Honda is able to deliver. The ending of the exchange of cars tied up the ending like a birthday present’s bowtie. Which act did the father do first? It doesn’t matter, the car looks fantastic either way.