September 8, 2010

Mortal Kiss: The Future of Interactive Young Adult Fiction?

This past Monday, Random House UK released an "awesome new interactive story on Stardoll" called Mortal Kiss. Unfortunately, technology does little to augment the story. Worse, it already feels dated.

The story opens to a map of the setting. Buildings including a police station, bookstore, high school, mall, and several houses are labeled.
As of today, two days after the launch, most buildings are inactive until listed opening dates. The only active building is the police station. Clicking on it takes the user inside where there's an evidence bag on a desk and an open file cabinet. Both expand and glow when moused over, showing that they can be clicked.

The evidence bag contains no interactive elements yet.
The case file from the drawer is a little more interesting as there's a 2-page incident report about a murder.
The actual story can be found by clicking on the book icon in the right hand navigation.
However when the book opens, it covers the entire map, rendering it inaccessible, and users click through pages for a traditional, linear story. The animation awkwardly tries to emulate a physical reading experience. A summary version of the story is provided, so instead of reading multiple pages, users can read single paragraph sketches of each chapter.
The story, like the clickable world, will expand between now and Halloween. I hope that as new parts of the world open, actual interactive elements are added. As of now Mortal Kiss reads like an illustrated novel, and technology doesn't improve the experience. Clicking on objects brings up some detail; however user actions don't affect the narrative.
In fact, more than anything, this "interactive story" resembles JK Rowling's website, which launched in 2005. Her site represents her desk, and clicking on various objects brings up her bio, news, and all sorts of other information.
Unlike Mortal Kiss, Rowling's site also contains games and Easter eggs. User actions unlock parts of the site, making it more interactive than this story.
Mortal Kiss is not revolutionizing YA fiction or creating a new storytelling model, at least not yet. Rather it resembles a pop-up book and not even a complexly crafted one.