The Navidson Record is an Augmented Reality interactive narrative that rearranges events from Mark Danielewksi’s 2001 novel House of Leaves. The interactor investigates what happened in a mysterious house by building a paper model.
Danielewski’s book (along with the companion album Haunted, by his sister, Poe) is a dense work that can be read in different ways from multiple viewpoints. The book’s look and structure is unique. It’s not a book that can be read on a kindle. I wanted to exploit the book’s multi sequential format in a new medium.
The narrative requires a mobile phone with the Aurasma app and a paper house constructed by the interactor. It begins with the online diary of the narrator. The diary entries describe the narrator’s experience exploring this mysterious, abandoned house. The narrator asks the interactor to print out pages that will construct a 3D model of the house.
Start by printing out pages 1 and 2. Cut off the white margins (printer allowances) Look for the matching shapes (red dots) to match up the image in the middle of the floor. Follow the folding instructions to fold up the walls 90 degrees. Tape the ends together where indicated. Open the Aurasma app on your phone and scan the image in the center. After the overlay comes up, tap the image to continue to the next diary entry.
The next entry directs you to print page 3. Follow the same process of trimming, folding and taping the page where indicated. Scan the image and continue.
Not every story step requires a page to be printed and constructed. Some steps are choice points, where the interactor decides what item or room to investigate and simply clicks on their choice. At some choice points, the interactor can choose which image to scan to continue with the narrative.
At certain points in the narrative, the interactor will receive pieces of a larger image. These tokens determine the story’s ending. Follow the directions on the printed page to page these pieces in the right spot.
In addition to the text-based choice points, there are also opportunities to determine your path through the house by scanning certain images. The diary entries will prompt you to scan one out of 2 or 3 possible images to continue.
The augmented reality overlays are designed to be clues that will aid the interactor in investigating the house. The diary entries also feature clues in the form of text, images, and sounds. Take the time to read and look carefully at all of the clues.
As the interactor reaches one of the end states, she scans the area where she collected the pieces of the larger image. If the image is completed, a more satisfying end state will be triggered.
Rather than a stand alone game, The Navidson Record is designed to be a digital retelling of some of the major plot points. This could have been part of a marketing campaign for the book when it was released. The goal is to engage people who have read the book with allusions and references that only a fan would understand, while piquing the interest of people who might pick up the book after playing through the interactive narrative.
One of the best affordances of this 3D augmented reality model is that the interactor can completely subvert the way I’ve laid out the narrative. An alternative option would be to construct the entire house and scan images in an order chosen by the interactor.