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Agency on YouTube!
by Survey of Interactive Media

Filmmakers on YouTube are making interactive videos providing agency in video format. by Nelson

In Janet Murray’s chapter on Agency in “Hamlet on the Holodeck”, agency was defined as, “the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices.”  This chapter talks in depth about agency in games.  Although you don’t have much agency in watching a movie, the proliferation of webcams and cheap consumer video cameras have made it possible for users to become “directors” which in my view is a form of agency.

 

While making films, a director is the person on set who is making decisions and choices, which gives the director satisfaction based on their actions.  I came across some videos on YouTube where the filmmakers took it one step further and created Interactive Adventures.  The first filmmakers go by the name “Chad, Matt and Rob” and their adventures give the viewer agency because at the end of each clip the user is allowed to make a decision for the story to continue.   The second creator is “DrCoolSex” and his adventure is a very cool Super Mario Brothers game remake.  The third creator is “A Different Ending” and this clip is unique in that it’s an interactive adventure shot in POV.

 

This form of agency does have its limitations because the viewer must be using a device, such as a computer, to interact with the videos.  I wonder if in the future there will be a way to incorporate this type of agency interaction for a mass audience.  But that goes against the concept of agency since in my view there is only one person who has agency at a time because if a group of individuals are deciding the outcome it becomes a democracy and the users who wanted to choose a different option no longer have agency.

 

One way, although a very inefficient way, that audience agency can be accomplished is to have a cinema with multiple screens.  The audience members start in Theater One to begin the adventure.  When the agency part at the end of the first film is presented the audience members either stay in that theater to see the first option or they physically walk to Theater Two or Theater Three to view the other choices.  At the end of each individual option, the audience must stay or walk to another theater for the alternate options.  As you can see the number of required theaters grows exponentially.  This is a rather inefficient way to do this.  I wonder how long it will take for someone to come up with an efficient way to bring agency to audiences.

 

I have uploaded a few Interactive Adventures from the following Interactive Adventure creators on YouTube:

- Chad, Matt and Rob (http://www.youtube.com/user/chadmattandrob)

- DrCoolSex (http://www.youtube.com/user/DrCoolSex)

- A Different Ending (http://www.youtube.com/user/adifferentending)

 

Mind you, they are the initial videos so if you want to continue the interactivity, you have to go to their respective YouTube sites to completely use the interactivity. 

 

I also believe that the user commentary section on YouTube is also a form of agency.  User’s upload their comments and will get comments back, giving them the satisfaction, or sometimes unsatisfaction, of the results.   So please feel free to watch these videos on YouTube and leave feedback for some text comment interaction!

-Nelson C.

The Time Machine: An Interactive Adventure! by Chad, Matt and Rob (2008) Chad, Matt and Rob's The Time Machine: An Interactive Adventure!
The Birthday Party An Interactive Adventure.mp4 by Chad, Matt and Rob (2010) Chad, Matt and Rob's The Birthday Party: An Interactive Adventure!
Super Mario: An Interactive Adventure Game! by DrCoolSex (2010) Play just like any Super Mario Game except on YouTube! Can you help Mario save the Princess? Good luck!
Choose A Different Ending: start by adifferentending (2009) Choose A Different Ending is an interactive film that allows you to decide what happens next. You can interact with it, choose what to do and decide how it ends. In Choose A Different Ending you decide whether to live or die.