Creative writing and a role-playing computer game come together in a fun way on this website. This unique digital storytelling platform enables students to work together in order to write a story and build a world where truly everyone must contribute for the story to be told. One user takes on the role of host, essentially becoming the narrator of the story. To construct a story, the host creates a free account and selects the "start a game" option. The narrator also has the ability to select a free "starter world" for the setting of the story and lay out challenges for the other players to overcome. World themes include cyberpunk, urban fantasy, space, fantasy, classic, and even steampunk, all of which present a great introduction to the topic of world building in writing instruction. Once the world is created, the narrator then has the option to add characters (other players) to the story. Players are added to the world by logging into individual accounts, and each player creates and controls his or her own character. Players then write from the perspective of their character as they overcome the challenges posted by the narrator. It is recommended that new users have no more than three players per story.
The main gameplay mechanic behind the Storium experience is the concept of the story cards. These are virtual playing cards that represent various elements of the story; they include places, traits, objects, other characters, and situations. Players use these cards to set up the plots and storylines they write for their characters. Teachers and school library media specialists can also create and present these cards as writing prompts for students. Some story cards are provided already, and there is an option to edit or also create new cards from one's own imagination. Players take turns adding their cards to the world and integrating them into the "scenes" they write for their characters. The narrator continues to generate new scenes by adding challenge cards of his or her own. Challenges can be people who confront the players or a variety of other obstacles, and every challenge is allotted a certain number of points. A higher number of points equals a more complicated challenge, thus requiring more story cards to overcome. Once all the challenges have been overcome, the scene is completed. At this point, the narrator can end the story, start a new one, or else introduce a new scene with new challenges. Every player must contribute to every scene, thereby enhancing user engagement as well as the storytelling potential.
An idea for classroom application would be for teachers or school library media specialists to have a semester or quarter-long Storium activity in which small groups are assigned to work together on a story, and culminating in a final presentation of the story synopsis that is shared with the entire class. This is a resource students will really enjoy if given time to work together to reach a comfort level in using and playing the story cards. In addition, Storium would be a welcomed addition to enrichment classes and writing clubs.
Storium currently offers a free version with a limit of three stories per account and a three-character slot maximum. The paid membership rates start at $5 per month for single users and include unlimited features. There is also an upcoming educational beta site called StoriumEdu with more teacher-led control in the works. At the time of this review, emails only are being collected to join the beta site when it becomes available.