Entrepreneurial Game Studio's App Takes Stanzas to the Streets

story seek app

The Story Seek app, designed by Drexel's Entrepreneurial Game Studio in collaboration with Cleaver Magazine, presents users with an interactive, location-based augmented reality poetry experience.

A new app from Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio and Cleaver Magazine is using augmented reality to spruce up Philadelphia with beautiful writing. Called Story Seek, the application takes users on a virtual tour of the city to places that have inspired or elicit feelings captured through poems and stories, shared in an augmented reality experience throughout the journey. The project, which was supported by the William Penn Foundation and Philadelphia Cultural Fund, features writing by five Philadelphia authors and will be available for free at www.cleavermagazine.com.


Story Seek is a desktop app that interfaces with Google Street View to create a remotely accessible AR experience. People are guided through five stories, each located at communal landmarks throughout Philadelphia, including Germantown, Center City, West Philadelphia, The Wissahickon and Fishtown. For each story, people are led through waypoint, where they discover pieces of poems and short stories, and corresponding audio, connected to those areas.


Story Seek allows audiences to encounter literature within the physical space around them, and in that way creates a radically participatory experience that weaves story and place into a unified narrative experience,” said Frank J. Lee, PhD, a professor in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and director of the Entrepreneurial Game Studio in Drexel’s ExCITe Center.


Developers in the Entrepreneurial Game Studio collaborated with Gossamer Games, an independent game company based in Philadelphia that began as an EGS startup, to develop the Story Seek gameplay.


As part of the collaboration, Cleaver, an award-winning international quarterly literary magazine based in Philadelphia, commissioned five poems and stories from noted Philadelphia authors Yolanda Wisher, Beth Kephart, Alyssa Songsiridej, L Feldman, and Krys Belc, each of whom recorded an audio reading of their work for the Story Seek collection. The written text of their work is also featured in the magazine's 44th quarterly issue in December, with the application. 


The featured pieces include:


·       “Colliding Worlds,” by Krys Malcolm Belc, featured in Fishtown.

·       “You Will Have Arrived: A Semi-Natural History,” by L M Feldman, featured in Wissahickon.

·       “Squeeze,” by Beth Kephart, featured in Center City.

·       “Germantown Avenue Speaks,” by Yolanda Wisher, featured in Germantown.

·       “Four Destinations Away and Nearby,” by Alyssa Songsiridej, featured in West Philadelphia.


Lee is known for using Philadelphia’s built environment as a canvas for interactive digital art installations that connect audiences across the city. For this project, he drew on the power of literature to connect readers across time and space. The bulk of the project was created during the COVID-19 pandemic, so Lee’s team faced the additional challenge of enabling users to interact with the pieces in a virtual environment – rather than gathering to encounter them in a physical space.


“While literature has long been connected to memory and the specificity of place, the act of reading has largely remained static, private and removed from the locations and constellation of senses that might have inspired it,” Lee said. “Story Seek seeks to use recent advances in technology and consumer hardware to embed literature directly within the world that produced it, read by the author who crafted it, and delivered to a reader who experiences it in real time.”


The project was created with support from William Penn Foundation’s Creative Communities fund for new audiences and new places, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, a nonprofit that works to support the cultural life and vitality of Philadelphia.


For more information about Story Seek, visit: https://www.cleavermagazine.com/story-seek/