Michael Hand is the author of the sci-fi spy adventure, ‘Who is the Firm?’, through the seaside Adelaide suburb of Grange, available free on the the Story City app. Learn more about Michael, the inspiration for the story, and a bit about the artistic challenges below. Then if you’re in Adelaide, grab your phone and do this adventure through the Grange streets!
*DISCLAIMER- includes dinosaur references. Sorry (not sorry).*
Denver. That guy knew how to rock a pair of shades.
Movie makers tend to describe a movie as ‘something meets something’, like Matrix meets X-Men, Matthew Reilly meets the Time Traveller’s Wife, the Walking Dead meets My Little Ponies. What would you use to describe your story?
Sort of ‘The Matrix’ meets ‘Round the Twist’. There’s some absurdity there, which I think most of us enjoy for the escapism. But there’s also this element that – in a very real way – we are using augmented reality here to tell a science-fiction spy story. We are living in the future. It’s thought-provoking. It asks questions about reality and doesn’t necessarily answer them.
Tells us about your Story City story?
Unfortunately, you don’t have a high enough security clearance for me to be able to provide you with that information.
Look, I can tell you this. There’s a secretive organisation operating in our midst. They could be anywhere. For all I know, you are working for them and this entire questionnaire is some sort of elaborate test to catch me out.
I can assure you, it’s not.
Okay. It’s about this group called The Firm. We don’t know who they are, or what they do. You are their newest recruit. It’s up to you, as the player, to try and figure out what they’re up to.
Did you know much about Grange before you started? What’s your favourite place to show people now?
I’ve lived in the Western Suburbs of Adelaide for most of my life. I thought that I knew a lot about Grange, but once I got out and started doing research for my story I discovered things that I never knew existed, and some of them were hiding in plain sight.
One memorial bench, for example, was dedicated to the mother of somebody that I went to school with. I had no idea until I stopped and read the plaque. I suppose, because I lost my own mother relatively recently, that struck a chord with me on a personal level. But it’s also a good example of how there’s so much all around us that we might normally miss out on, and it’s those little details that can sometimes be the most meaningful.
Story City is a great way to highlight these special places.
There’s something mysterious about the ocean and the sea that wanted me to write the story that I did. One of my favourite books growing up was the Famous Four, an Enid Blyton book about four kids who get shipwrecked on an island.
The kids eventually discover that the island is being used as a secret Nazi military base. I wanted to bring this element of mystery to Grange (though without the Nazis), this idea that the boats lingering out at sea could be watching us and we have no idea what their motivations might be.
We meet several interesting characters on your adventure. What Hollywood actors do you imagine would play them in a movie adaption?
Bryan Brown would make a good Handler, I reckon.
You know all the different paths through your story, and all the great and horrible ways it can end. Which location do you hope the player will end up in? (Players, it’s your aim to make it here!)
I hope players make it to Kircaldy Reserve. They might not like it though.
There are certain spatial-temporal issues that would make it exceedingly difficult to maintain a meaningful relationship with the Handler. Or anyone from the Firm for that matter.
What was the hardest thing about the project? Do you have any advice for others?
The greatest challenge with writing any sort of interactive fiction is the fact that your main character is absent throughout the entire writing process. You do need to be constantly aware throughout that they could be anyone and try not to presume too much on their behalf.
Also, a lot of work goes into those initial stages planning the course and maintaining the correct distances between each location for the app to function correctly. I found Google maps to be invaluable in helping with this: I could place markers at each location on a map and could easily add notes and measure the distances between them.