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Inspiration: Interactive Video

In: DesignInspiration

From time to time I collect examples of elearning that I think are really neat. In these inspiration posts, I explore what exactly I like about them. When I think of interactive video, I typically think of video that branches and allows you to see the consequences of your different actions (take this Deloitte video by RAPT Media, for example) but this week, I saw a different take on interactive video that was not only an amazingly effective interaction, but featured a great story, as well. I first came across Sortie en Mer (A Trip out to Sea) from a Kineo blog post that explored it’s effectiveness. After actually watching, and experiencing this design, I was blown away. Here’s why:


One design aspect that stands out is that this is really a linear interaction. Your outcome will be the same, no matter what you do. But, without ruining the interaction for those that haven’t seen it, that’s the point. It can be easy to get caught up in the idea that everything needs to branch, but even in game design, there are times when you create the illusion of choice. That’s what this does. That said, you do have a choice about when you reach the end, and I’ll discuss that a bit more in the Interaction section.


When designing an interaction, it’s okay to make a secretly linear interaction and offer users the illusion of choice. In other words, you can still drive towards a particular ending, a particular story, without making the interaction boring.


Naturally, one of the most interesting things about this was the method of interaction. In a nutshell, it’s your job to continuously scroll upwards in order to prevent drowning. Immediately, I was reminded of an Ethan Edwards quote from one of the Allen Interactions webinars I watched where he pointed out that, in reality, everything we design in elearning is a multiple choice question, every interaction boils down to clicking a mouse. It’s really the story and context you can create that takes the user out of the reality and into the fiction you’ve created. This interaction does that perfectly. The video showing our character struggling to stay above water, the simple drowning meter on the side makes you invested in scrolling that mouse, just as though you were out there treading water yourself. The other really great thing about choosing the scrolling action was that I got tired. After five minutes straight of scrolling up (I could have quit earlier but I was trying to stay alive), I got tired of scrolling, my hand started hurting, I didn’t want to scroll anymore. Again, that was point. On the sea, trying to tread water is not easy. You get tired quickly. You want to quit. I loved, loved, loved this design choice, how it allowed me to feel the fatigue and how that drove the point home.


The interaction should reflect not only the action that you want to have happen, but, where appropriate, also the feeling. I could imagine, a lifeguard course where you might implement something like this scrolling up to get across that fatigue issue. Or perhaps a security guard course where you have to keep your left mouse button down to power your flashlight. Just something where the fictional interaction and the mouse interaction are intertwined. I’m thinking that this would probably be an easier feat in a custom built web interaction rather than using a rapid-development tool.


Obviously, the gripping nature of the story and the first-person perspective go a long way towards building the effectiveness here. First person doesn’t lend itself well to everything, but as you’ve probably experienced in playing games, there are some games that manage to really help you identify with your in-game avatar in a way that is really strong (that is, see your in-game avatar as your self; refer to your in-game actions as your actions).

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This is definitely a story that invites us to “be” the person in the video and, I think that, in general in elearning, we want to invite our users to “be” in our elearning. We want them in the driver’s seat.


We can create a powerful emotional connection to “getting it right” or reaching our performance goals when we craft an engaging story AND invite our users to be in our elearning. That means giving them agency to do what they would normally do, even if that’s wrong.

What do you think?

Sortie en Mer is a pretty high-end example and can seem a little unreachable but I think that there are ways to incorporate their methodology into lower-cost methods. As I’ve said before, just text, if it’s creating the right story, can be incredibly engaging. What do you think? Have you seen highly interactive video that inspired you? Have you used interactive video like this?