Building Participatory 3D Storyworlds


What if you discovered an entirely new world where you could tell stories in ways you've never done before? How might it change your experience with storytelling if you could make a story you imagine in your mind’s eye come ALIVE in a 3D emotional, immersive landscape for others to walk, meander, interact, fly or sit inside that story you have always wanted to tell? How might it change your relationship with your “readers” or inworld avatars if they had a chance to deeply immerse and engage themselves inside your storyline? What stories would YOU create for others to experience in virtual worlds like Second Life where the expression of your story would only be limited by your imagination? Prepare for a unique adventure of constructing a 3D StoryWorld in virtual worlds– a journey meant to unfold skills for virtual storytelling.

What is THIS Again?

View Bernajean's interview at ISTE 2010 on 3D Virtual StoryWorld (Storytelling) built by Ramapo NY Middle School students Second Life - or take your avatar on a a personal visit of their exhibit featured "inworld" @ Second Life

At the core of this type of transmedia storytelling, authors are strategically building this 3D experience to provide avatar choices. A good storyworld challenges and surprises you, while still allowing you to choose your own path. As the StoryWorld’s protagonist, you as the avatar player, have complete freedom to behave, move and interact in the story whichever way you like. Of course, not every path leads to a happy ending, but ideally they all lead to cathartically satisfying ones.

As a designer, you want to be thinking not how the plot should linearly go, but instead trying to imagine every possible direction it could go. It's like drawing a map of your entire imagination, which the player then traverses. Even though there are choices in the design, the 3D story builders shape a coherent path with emotional, affective dynamics using scenes with interactive objects, information and according to his or her artistic vision.

Learning Objectives

Meet Bernajena in Second Life

3D StoryWorld projects use virtual worlds (Second Life; OpenSims; QuestAtlantis) - any immersive system designed for avatar created content! Even though this is a highly imaginative, creative medium, designers are still coached to deliver rigor and relevance. This topic can be as a one (1) day workshops for understanding or be extended 2-3 days for hands-on crafting your own interviews into digital storytelling while learning processes, digital tools and assessment. An Artist-in-Residence Program is also available.

  1. What is the difference between Museums and StoryWorlds?
  2. What skills are involved that meet content-standards?
  3. How do you build collaborative processes for decisions, tasks and focused results?
  4. How do you co-develop a "story that needs to be told?"
  5. What do you want to consider to keep from breaking the "fourth wall?"
  6. What project-management strategies are needed to meet deadlines?
  7. What content-building steps would guide students to develop rigor in their narratives?
  8. What media-making steps would guide students to create effective craftsmanship?


NOTHING substitutes for being full immersed as an avatar in a 3D World. But just to give you a sneak peek so your imagination can begin to take a spin, here are a couple of projects I facilitated AND a few other exemplar examples that are worth falling into!

  • Machinima StoryTrailer for Fires of Genocide in Second Life

  • MacBeth ~ Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters in Second Life
  • The GraveYard - 3D Interactive StoryWorld