A vast fictional narrative encompasses an evolving and intricately developed story, many characters, and multiple settings — such as in Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, The MCU, or the complex stories of Game of Thrones. These are universes that encourage and foster exploration and experimentation, lending audiences new ways to discuss, engage with, and participate in the story.
In the age of digital media, people are looking for new ways to experience these stories. We have all seen the rise in popularity of podcasts and Netflix series that allow viewers to feel like they are a part of the story. Now, this type of engagement is becoming available in the metaverse.
MMOs allow users to create their own story within an already established framework or world by developing subplots around characters they have created with tokens earned throughout gameplay. But MMOs are not the limit of epic shared storytelling.
The appeal of vast narratives has already given rise to fan communities with a massively engaged built-in audience who are dedicated followers and who contribute to the narrative themselves by generating content; fanfiction, fan art, analyses, essays, explainers, videos, and more.
The online world is home to many fan makers, including fans who produce a range of fan films, art, and fiction. Fans have long tried to re-create and relive the magic of Star Wars as much as possible, which is why there are so many fan works. They want to be a part of the universe.
This is considered a copyright grey area. Most creators let it go, as long as we’re not talking about outright fraud, but they remain unofficial contributions. While these vast narratives are grown by their active audiences, they aren’t considered canon.
Blockchain technology, particularly tokenization, is changing that. We are beginning to see the rise of an entirely new medium for storytelling with Web3-based universes and interactive narratives built on blockchains creating a truly immersive experience where audiences can not only interact in these universes but also contribute content themselves and have it recognized as a part of the official universe, verified through ownership on Ethereum.
The Role of Web3 and Tokenization In Shared Universes
In Vast Fictional Narratives, users can contribute their own written narrative or artwork to a shared lore-scape, mapping a narrative experience with many different contributors’ narratives overlaid on top of one another.
We can disrupt shared universes and Vast Fictional Narratives by enabling participants to contribute to the shared lore and storyline. The tokens allow a level of engagement and interaction unavailable with other media, thereby extending the narrative. In this way, users may interact with plot lines more personally, contributing to a more profound emotional attachment.
Non-Fungible Heroes is a community attempting this build through Discord now, with users choosing whether their NFTs are a part of a Hero or Villain faction, and a community/team member designated as the loremaster, who is responsible for managing and tracking the narrative. Full disclosure — I minted two of these. I’m not linking, because I don’t want this s**t to be a shill blog. But it’s an example that’s worth researching.
The interactivity of a tokenized mythos allows the reader to engage with the story in a way that other media can’t by deciding how its universe unfolds. The reader can create their own experience with each reading and go back and forth between pages at their own pace. In this way, the reader can get a more personal attachment to the story.
Imagine: a story is written with several possible endings. Players are the protagonists in the story, and their decisions change what happens to them. You can choose your own adventure by exploring many different paths. For example, if you’re playing as a girl who’s just trying to find her brother during the zombie apocalypse, you’ll have to make choices about whether or not to kill your zombie sibling.
By using the blockchain, narrative participants can collaborate with the original author on their own storyline. They can permanently imprint their story into the blockchain by minting that particular branch as an NFT. Other writers can read the blockchain and see if a specific participant has a token linked to another narrative, thus allowing them to build on those choices.
Web3 narratives are digital stories that users can interact with. They are built upon the web and use its technologies to create new scenarios for storytelling. The user can navigate through pages, make choices, develop their own characters, go back in forth on different timelines, or even rewrite pieces of the story. Through voting rights in a DAO attached to each vast narrative, the universe can be dictated and shaped democratically by an invested audience.
This allows for a level of engagement and interaction that is unavailable with other media, thereby extending the narrative. In this way, users may interact with plot lines on a more personal level, leading to deep emotional attachment and heightened satisfaction.