1) You are an employee of the United States Patent Office. Early one sunny morning you are asked to examine a patent claim from IBM. Its first claim reads:
A method for selecting a logical branch in a storyline among a plurality of available storyline branches on a computing device, based on voters’ votes, comprising: obtaining and accumulating, the votes from the voters on a computing device for at least one of the plurality of available storyline branches, during the presentation of the storyline; selectively excluding votes, using the computing device, based on voter characteristics from the accumulated votes for a specific storyline branch; multiplying, using the computing device, at least one received vote by a weight factor based on voter characteristics, the weighting factor being based on at least ticket pricing; calculating, using the computing device, a total for the accumulated and weighted votes; and determining, using the computing device, a winning tally that corresponds to one of the plurality of available storyline branches; selecting and presenting, using the computing device, at least one of the available storyline branches with the winning tally as a future storyline branch during the presentation of the storyline, and generating, using the computing device, a media version matrix specifying a selected storyline having a particular set of logical branches selected by the voting for later use and retrieval, by recording each selected corresponding storyline branch of the plurality of available storyline branches on the computing device.
If you understand this, turn to 2. If not, turn to 3.
2) You now have to consider if this sounds at all familiar. Does it remind you of the popular children’s book series Choose Your Own Adventure? If so, turn to 4. If not, turn to 5.
3) Never mind. You ask the geek working at the next cubicle if they can help you. After debating the different approaches to the problem of the lack of a gender-neutral singular pronoun in English, they explain that IBM is attempting to patent the idea of having audiences vote on how a movie should progress at certain stages, thus giving them a limited degree of control over the presentation. You thank them for their help. Turn to 2.
4) A co-worker walks past your cubicle and notes that you are reading the Wikipedia page for Choose Your Own Adventure. She asks exactly what type of Choose Your Own Adventure fan you are? If you reply “Just casual, used to read it as a kid”, turn to 6. If you reply “Hardcore geek level of course”, turn to 7.
5) Seriously, you’ve not heard of Choose Your Own Adventure? Man, I feel old today. Anyhow, after a little research you discover it is a series of books first published in 1979 that feature non-linear structures and instead allow the user to make multiple decisions as they read, creating a wide range of possible story paths. When you have finished laughing at how easily impressed children of the 1980s were, turn to 6.
6) After examining the similarities between the book series and the IBM proposal, you conclude that there is a difference: IBM is proposing to have an audience vote on the decision, rather than it being down to a single reader or viewer. If you think this sounds original, turn to 8. If you suspect its been done before, turn to 9.
7) Your coworker gleefully exclaims “Oh wow, you are going to LOVE this. There’s a site that has a graphical analysis of the organizational structure of each book!” You bookmark the site (or open it in a new tab), then turn to 6.
8) It appears that you have little reason to object to this patent. Before you can give it approval, the clock on your office wall strikes noon and you head out to lunch. As you wait for your order to arrive, you get chatting to the cute Texan blond behind the counter about your day’s work. They remember seeing something similar done before at SXSW. You head back to work with a mental note to check it out. If you remember to do so, turn to 10. If you just want to get the paperwork out of the way, turn to 11.
9) You are correct in your suspicions. For example, a play by British author Jeffrey Archer was based around a courtroom trial, with the audience playing the role of a jury. Their verdict decided which of two endings played as the final act. However, that was a play and this was a movie. Turn to 8.
10) You carry out a search on your favorite internet search engine and discover that an “interactive decision” movie, The Weathered Underground was first screened in 2007 with the decisions made by the live audience. It then had a 2010 DVD release. As well as decisions affecting which of 30 endings appears, the path chosen by the viewer or viewers also decides which genre’s style and tone has the biggest influence on the scenes that appear. You have a big decision to make. Turn to 12.
11) You rubber stamp the approval. IBM now has the patent on interactive storytelling. As you ride the subway home, geeks in their 30s point you out. You hear mutterings of “That’s the one who sold out our childhood.” You hang your head in shame. THE END.
12) Having researched the topic, you must now decide whether or not to approve the patent. If you think IBM’s claims sound perfectly reasonable and they have indeed created a truly new idea, turn to 11. If you think the claim is ridiculous and there are plenty of examples of prior use showing IBM is not a true originator, turn to 13.
13) You place the patent application on the reject spike. As you do so, IBM lawyers race into the room. This man informs you that your childish nostalgia does not outweigh the power of big business. He goes on to note that if IBM claims to have created an original concept, they should be given the benefit of the doubt. As he speaks of the lawsuit coming your way, your skin begins to feel dry. You turn to look in the mirror and, to your horror, discover that your face is turning wrinkled. Your hair lengthens, turns gray, then begins to drop away. Soon you begin to resemble a prune, and then a deflated football. Finally you turn to dust and fall to the floor in a pile before being blown away by the wind created by the lawyer’s monologue.
You chose…. poorly. THE END.