Entering FIT’s first full semester of remote learning last fall, Prof. Dan Shefelman says he was searching for a way to approach his Illustration BFA course, Visual Storytelling for Evolving Media II, in an engaging and relevant way. This course, true to its title, is designed to embrace the changing media landscape.
“It would be hard to imagine a more drastic change than we are going through now,” says Shefelman, “so how can we actively evolve our visual communication methods and engage an audience?”
Tapping into the feelings of isolation, frustration and a powerful need for students to connect from their remote locations, Shefelman called for a video game designed to respond to current events.
Students worked in five teams throughout the semester. This was their assignment:
Create a mental and emotional vaccine for the isolated, crisis-ridden, change-inspiring world we are living in. Using a game format to tell a story of some sort of journey, we explore fantasy, reality and/or inner worlds relevant to the events of the times. Think about why you want to make this game. What do you want the user to experience? Is it pure escape? Working out frustrations-aggressions? Connecting with others in a virtual way? Call to action in the actual world?
Now, let the games begin!
Instructions: The world as we know it is ending, but you’ve got a plan…to get off the damn planet! You are a dedicated doomsday conspiracy theorist who has known the end is near for ages, but now is the time to act! Gather resources, recruit a team, steal top secret government plans to build your rocket, and find a new planet to call home.
Instructions: Enter into the world of Reflect, where you reflect on the emotions of grief through a series of mirrors. The main character embarks on an emotional journey through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Instructions: A girl wakes up in the middle of the forest; she recognizes herself as the Little Red Riding Hood. She needs to get to Grandma’s house but she’s lost in the woods. The goal is to solve puzzles, find keys, open gates, collect items, and defeat shadow monsters to clear out the way in order to reach grandma’s house. The girl will receive help from fairy tale animal characters, such as the frog prince, blue bird, the little mer-witch and seven dwarfs.
Team Red Zone:
Instructions: The game begins in March, 2020 when lockdown first began in New York City. Players will have to conquer obstacles along the way that will increase in difficulty with each level. Each level will take place in the five boroughs and have a time limit.
Team Possums vs. Racoons:
Instructions: Collect that trash! A battle between your average trash cats. Whichever side collects the most trash wins!
The proposals from the student teams surprised Shefelman, “in sophistication, depth of meaningfulness,” he says. As the semester progressed “the collaborative process brought more depth to the ideas and some fantastic visual development art and storytelling.”
To learn more about the Illustration major go to Illustration at FIT.
Images and video used with permission