Note: This is a sponsored content post from the University University of North Carolina School of the Arts

I was a mentor for the UNCSA’s Media + Emerging Technology Lab’s Immersive Storytelling Residency program in 2020, which was a 6-month program featuring a technical artist, software engineer, and writer who were collaborating on an immersive story that was called BonsaiAI. I wanted to have the first cohort to come on the podcast for a retrospective, and so I invited Trent Spivey, Fernando Goyret, and Alex Moro along with METL director Ryan Schmaltz to reflect on their journey, challenges, and lessons learned from their immersive storytelling artist residency.

This was a really interesting experience for me as well in 2020 as I get more involved with providing my intuitive reactions and feedback along the way on a project that’s still within development. One of the hardest problems in experiential design is matching the top-down design with the bottom-up actual experience. Films are able to have a small gap between the representations of a pitch, idea, and overall story, relative to how it ends up on the screen. But games and immersive experiences that involve user agency are require more of a bottom-up approach with a lot of user testing, but there still needs to find a way for the overall experience to have a narrative throughline from beginning, middle, to the end. So being able to predict how the change of certain conditions within an experience effects the overall feeling of an experience is the essential an existential challenge of all experiential design. So there’s a lot of reflections upon that process within the context of bringing three strangers together for six months in the middle of a pandemic in order to figure some of that out.

If you’re interested in the 2021 residency, then January 31st, 2021 is the deadline for a six-month Immersive Storytelling Residency Program that runs from May 1st to November 1st, 2021. There are three different residency roles that will be collaborating over the six months including a game developer/programmer, 3D modeler/technical artist, as well as screenwriter/producer. There’s a monthly $3500 stipend, and a requirement to relocate to Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the duration of the 6-month residency. If you’re interested in applying, then be sure to also check this conversation with METL director Ryan Schmaltz to get more context and details for the 2021 edition.


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Music: Fatality

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