Check this out: the British Library gets into gaming

  • June 16, 2023
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Digital Storytelling, its new exhibition, shows how interactive technology has changed – and expanded – the way we tell stories

When you walk into the British Library, the first thing you’ll see – apart from people sitting in every available free space, writing on laptops or in notebooks – is a glass tower encasing rows upon rows of books, stretching up to the ceiling. It’s fair to say that this place has a lot of experience when it comes to displaying stories. For digital, interactive stories, though, the classic glass case doesn’t really work. These tales often invite the reader to play a part in the narrative and shape their own experience, but this can be difficult when you’re standing in an exhibition room with people looking over your shoulder, waiting for their turn. Allowing for interactivity in the finite and often restrictive setting of an exhibition is not an easy task. But in its latest exhibition, Digital Storytelling, the British Library has tasked itself with just that.

It is not the first time the British Library has featured digital works: however, it is the first time that an entire exhibition has revolved around “the ways in which digital technologies have shaped how we communicate and tell stories”, as the curators put it. It features highly regarded commercial classics of interactive digital storytelling, such as the Inkle’s 2014 steampunk narrative fiction game 80 Days, and Nyamnyam’s 2019 Elizabethan comedy narrative adventure Astrologaster, sitting beside intimate personal narratives such as c ya laterrrr, an autobiographical hypertext account of the loss of author Dan Hett’s brother in the 2017 Manchester Arena terrorist attack. Despite the modest size of the exhibition room, the curators (Giulia Carla Rossi, Ian Cooke, and Stella Wisdom) have selected a wide range of pieces spanning genres, topics and emotions, made with a variety of digital tools.

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