Today’s post comes from Lauren Whalen, JD, Communications Manager for Game Changer Chicago, Ci3, and the University of Chicago Section of Family Planning. Lauren’s first major assignment when she began just over one year ago, was to organize a communications plan for Game Changer Chicago’s summer alternate reality game The Source. In the past year, Lauren has learned a lot about alternate reality games, and many other things.
Recently, I’ve started reading comic books. One of my closest friends, triumphant that I’ve finally succumbed to years of his prodding, crowed, “I knew you would love them! See, I told you, it’s just a different way to tell a story.”
Over the past year, I’ve thought a lot about forms of storytelling. My job as Communications Manager is to tell stories of academics, medical professionals and artists doing exceptional work that will help many who need it. Sometimes the “many” are those who also practice medicine, or fellow academics, or health care and social service providers who work with women and youth. In the case of S.E.E.D., it’s the youth themselves.
Each of the youth, game designers and staff behind S.E.E.D. has a story, and S.E.E.D. itself is a story. It’s a challenge to tell each of these stories in the right way to the eyes and ears who should be hearing it most. And though, thanks to last year’s The Source, I’m not a total ARG newb, I still don’t think in “games” the way our fantastic design team and lab fellows do. When I’m not at the office, I’m a theater critic – I have to tell a story to theatergoers, illustrating each aspect of a play so they can decide whether to see it for themselves. I’m also a trained actor and dancer: I can tell stories with my voice and body. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully probe the mind of a game designer (sounds vaguely extraterrestrial, right?) but every day, I try.
The wonderful thing about a program like S.E.E.D. is that everyone’s perspective, their story, will be a little bit different. Some may connect with the game aspect, deciding whether or not to destroy time travel technology to save the future. Some may have felt a spark while engaging in the Week 1 science debates. After the next two weeks, which focus on game design, some may take away a brand-new passion. As for the designers, mentors, and staff behind S.E.E.D., their stories could be about the rewards of working with teenagers, the trials and tribulations (and triumphs) of playing a role in an ARG, or how to examine and solve a problem in a whole new way. The great thing about stories is, the possibilities are endless.
When I interviewed with GCC co-founder Dr. Melissa Gilliam for this position, she told me about Ci3’s South Side Stories, a Ford Foundation-funded project that compiles “digital stories” of Chicago youth of color. She asked me what I thought about that, and I replied, “I think every person has a story.” Dr. Gilliam chimed in, “And every story is important.” Combined, our two thoughts serve as my mantra for S.E.E.D., my job and every word I write: every person has a story, and every story is important.