September 26, 2013 Michael Bickerton
I’m not a game or gaming fanatic by any stretch, although the recent release of Grand Theft Auto has me rethinking this position. In any event, I’m pleased to provide some feedback and a non-gaming review of a presentation by Ramona Pringle. I’m quoting, “‘Avatar Secrets’ is an interactive documentary journey from the real world to the virtual world, in search of answers to life’s biggest questions.” That’s a grand statement for sure. Quoting again, “What’s exciting about documentaries in the 21st century is that true stories are more incredible than fiction, and the ways of telling those stories are limitless.”
Mashable has picked up on this story with an article called “How One Woman Grappled With Grief Through Gaming” and I was glad to catch up with this prior to seeing Ramona here live at Social Media Week Toronto (2013), here’s the link to the story and the video.
Given that preamble, here are my inital thoughts of Ramona’s presentation.
From the get go it’s easy to see that Ramona is deeply engaged in the development of Avatar Secrets, that’s due for the release in the App Store in the Spring of 2014. This is a truly personal story and within a few minutes of listening to Ramona you are sure this is truly a personal journey and a story of personal development. To watch Ramona’s interactions with her team as the trailer is played, you can clearly see that it’s a personal journey, it’s really her story, and she’s living the moment. “I LOVE IT” Ramona says, almost in tears as she came back to the podium. She uses the phraseology real and true.
The fact that she views what is happening as a cultural phenomenon (i.e. the mass connection and the sad sense of disconnection) is interesting to a non-gamer. As I indicated earlier, I’m not a gamer, as such I may not relate to the concept of alone and yet connected. In a world of Grand Theft Auto (recently rereleased), the fact that Avatar Secrets or any other video game speaks to being compassionate and therapeutic is difficult for me to relate to. ‘This is a project about real life and not about technology’ is a statement that I think will be difficult to sell.
Ramona adds that we are busy in today’s digitally connected world and that Avatar Secrets may assist those in opting out, yet, my first thought of opting out might include, if I can say, NON DIGITAL solutions like, gardening, sewing, knitting, baking, wood working etc. The goal and the challenge for Avatar Secrets is to develop an experience that would allow the user to experience the rush of real life emotions, first person relationships and human experiences. It’s a pretty big undertaking and will be interesting to see how this app delivers on that promise.
Other thoughts and concepts I believe that Ramona wanted to deliver.
1) Controlling technology versus having technology control us.
2) When engaged, be fully engaged, whether online or offline.
3) Interactive experiences are real stories of love and life, drawing on our collective experiences of working together and overcoming obstacles – creating that sense of wonder, real or imagined.
4) Our lives are not about the apps, not about the technology, but about the personal connections and this is what people are addicted to in the gaming world.
Additionally, there was a clear shout out to her team and her community (i.e. both Toronto and Canada were part of her presentation). Ramona indicates that the interactive media is pushing boundaries and are risk takers to some degree.
Will Avatar Secrets deliver on the premise of revolutionary documentary form or will it be just another video game? We’ll see.
Michael Bickerton, Raven5 Ltd, Oakville & Toronto, ON, September 2013