Aesthetic Experience: Perform

How can your audience engage with your story aesthetically—via their senses?

When we refer to the senses in digital storytelling, we are referring to physiological means of perception including sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. And when we say perception, we are discussing the act of regarding, understanding, and interpreting something through the senses. This allows us to understand the aesthetic performatively, that is, through lived experience. The aesthetic is, in essence, a how and not a what; it is not located in an object of perception, but in how the aesthetic is actually perceived through the senses. For instance, the aesthetic is not located in a song or a website, but in how that song or website is perceived by the audience.

The Maester’s Path, a 2011 alternate reality game that was part of the marketing campaign for HBO’s Game of Thrones, relied heavily on sensory engagement. Fans of the series solved puzzles and challenges that engaged each of the five senses.

Game of Thrones - NYC Moot. CC Photograph by Campfire
  • First Puzzle: Scent. Fans received a medieval-looking crate containing a map, symbols, and glass vials filled with the scents and spices of Westeros.
  • Second Puzzle: Sound. Fans listened to conversations held at the Crossroads Inn to identify clues.
  • Third Puzzle: Sight. Fans had to take on the role of a member of the Night’s Watch and look out from The Wall for wildlings in the forest.
  • Forth Puzzle: Touch. Fans had to track the temperature charts of Westeros to solve a puzzle.
  • Fifth Puzzle: Taste. Los Angeles and New York City fans located Game of Thrones food trucks to sample the fictional foods of Westeros, including roasted rabbit, squab with hot spiced wine, and venison with baked apple and barley.
Tuesday's menu. CC Photography by Steven Leung.