The Universal Language of Story

We are the stories we are told. Each of us alone and all of us together are the living embodiment of all the stories we have heard and all the stories we have told each other. Narrative shapes our behaviors, our thoughts, our actions. Wrap a story around something, anything, and that thing suddenly takes on a deeper meaning – and long after listening to, and absorbing the story, its messages will continue to resonate with us, will continue to be meaningful to us. According to Mark Turner, in The Literary Mind, story is the fundamental instrument of thought that allows us to look into the future, to predict, to plan, and to explain. Story shapes our rational capacities and helps us to interpret our world, helps us to make sense of the world we live in. In his book, The Anatomy of Story, John Truby demonstrates that all stories are a form of communication that expresses, what he terms, the dramatic code. This dramatic code is woven into every narrative in which we are involved, every story we hear, every tale we tell others, and it enables us to grow and develop as human beings living with other human beings around us.

In her well-known book Reality Is Broken, Jane McGonigal suggests that game designers can have a profound impact on the way we consume these stories and suggests weaving real-world games into compelling fictional narratives that play out over time. No matter the medium, through the power of story, we are able to transform ourselves continually into richer and fuller versions of ourselves.

Daniel H. Pink in A Whole New Mind talks about the six elements of the ‘new mind’ required for the age we live in. He suggests that, along with design, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning, “story” is one of the six senses of the new mind that will guide our lives and shape our world. We spend so much of our lives listening to, telling, and participating in stories. In this age of “pervasive communication,” we are able to gather together, share, and participate in all of the wisdom, experiences, and stories of people across the world instantaneously. In doing so, we all become teacher and learner simultaneously.

People are vulnerable to narratives. We see the power and effects of this within governments, which sometimes supplant “negative” messages with positive ones. Transmedia implementations are the most recently conceived ways to build and disseminate such narratives. Although telling stories across multiple platforms, including games, is not a new concept, it is especially relevant today because of the exponential growth of ubiquitous technologies over the past few years. Transmedia techniques allow participants around the world to communicate across cultural and language barriers. As Henry Jenkins states:

Transmedia Generation Participatory culture is a global phenomenon. Young people all over the world are embracing the expressive and distribution resources of the computer to create and share their own cultural materials with each other. Educators and parents are starting to recognize these creative communities as sites of informal learning which are transforming the ways these teens see themselves and the world. In every country it is different. In every country, it is the same.

By providing multiple entry points into a narrative, thereby giving each participant a voice, we break down borders, sociocultural, and digital divides. Within Transmedia LearningWorlds, learners are immersed in hybrid education that fuses both virtual and physical components into a seamless experience that connects them with the world. Our networked society enables the delivery, enhancement, support of learning and endless opportunities for collaboration across boundaries and these experiences are tied together through the universal language of story.