Round Up Week 32 2014

Digital Content Producer, About the BBC

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As I walked home in the late evening earlier this month, I noticed a beam of light in the sky. This is not an uncommon occurrence, living in a city with numerous major club venues, I have often witnessed their searchlight type effects exploring the central London nightscape. This one was different: a stationary ray of light that shone a disc onto the clouds overhead, it was stunning and also haunting. After some research, I found that it was the Spectra, an ambitious art installation that adorned the London skyline for one week as part of the Lights Out project, marking the centenary of Britain joining World War One on August 4th.

Our World War

That week, as part of the World War One pan-BBC programming, BBC Three aired the first episodes of Our World War on Thursday August 7th. Yesterday (14th) the channel premiered an exciting new experiment in immersive drama, an interactive episode, where the viewer makes decisions from multiple options, which then affect the outcome of the scene. Executive producer, Tym Plyming explains further in his blog.

I had a go myself last night. It's quite graphic, and eerie, and there's something about putting that history in such a modern concept that brings to life the harrowing tragedy of ordinary young men, coping with an extraordinary battle. The three 'acts' are dramatised events based on letters from soldiers at the time. For more information on how the project was developed you can read writer Marco Crivellari’s blog.

The gameplay took me back to reading fantasy books as a child. You know the ones, don’t pretend you don’t, where you read part of the story and then choose whether to 'eat the mushroom, or slay the dragon' etc in order to discover which page to turn to next. However this interactive episode is far more sophisticated, plus you can’t leave your thumb in the page you've just come from in case you want to change your mind, because you didn't like the outcome of the choice you just made. You can read about the 'technical stuff' in Will Storer's blog about how he and his team designed and built the episode.

After each act, your decision making is evaluated, but it's not really a game you can 'win' – a reflection of war in itself. It's fascinating to think what the possibilities are for this kind of interactive drama in a world where the way we consume entertainment is constantly changing.

Also this week, the shocking news of Robin Williams' suicide spread across the globe. It is sad that such a hugely talented and loved entertainer decided to take his own life. There is much we don’t know about suicide, and what drives someone to it. It is a subject, along with depression, that still feels taboo.

Earlier this year, Radio 1 Newsbeat tackled the subject of suicide, with Professor Green talking candidly about how his father had killed himself, highlighting the work of organisations such as the Samaritans and CALM and how there shouldn’t be a stigma around talking about the subject. Robin Williams’ tragic death at 63 appears to have opened the floodgates for discussion, for a time at least.

Nanu nanu.


Jen Macro is a Digital Content Producer, About the BBC Blog and Website.

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