StoryStylus helps turn authors into game designers

StoryStylus helps turn authors into game designers

This Canadian husband-and-wife team are helping authors make their stories interactive with a user-friendly "book meets game" platform.

The pitch

StoryStylus is a publishing platform designed to make it easier for traditional writers to get into games. With a simplified approach to breaking down narrative components in interactive storytelling, StoryStylus helps authors become video game designers with little to no technical experience required. The gameplay experience can be summed up as “book meets game.”

Hard Vacuum Lullaby, a 30 minute choose your own adventure in space with an all female crew

The team

Husband and wife duo Blair and Jean Leggett are the founders of One More Story Games (OMSG) and the creators of their proprietary game engine StoryStylus. "Dedicated to making a platform to help more diverse stories get told in games," they’ve built their game studio in Barrie, Ontario, and have raised over half a million dollars for their startup.

Jean Leggett is c.e.o. and the company’s evangelist. A stand-up comedian and professional speaker, she talks widely on diversity in games and the importance of the arts in STEAM. She wears many hats at OMSG, including writing credits on the upcoming Shakespeare’s Landlord game adaptation by #1 NYT bestselling author Charlaine Harris.

Blair Leggett is c.t.o and the "visionary" of the team. After 10 years at Electronic Arts and Zynga, and a near death experience, he set off to develop StoryStylus because he felt the games industry wasn’t putting an emphasis on storytelling in games. His degrees in English, Philosophy, Political Science and Computing Science from Simon Fraser University gave him a strong skillset to design software for storytellers. His personal philosophy is “what’s possible when you say yes?”

Using StoryStylus, OMSG works with authors, freelance artists and composers to create content. It also runs private workshops with youth and adults to teach them how to become interactive storytellers.

What's the gap in the market? 

StoryStylus is predicated on the belief that there are big unmet needs for both creators and consumers of interactive content.

"There aren’t enough simple tools to create and not enough strong storytelling games to consume," Jean Leggett says bluntly. "OMSG originally developed StoryStylus with adult authors in mind, specifically to create interactive mysteries for women game consumers over 30. Authors have few non-technical tools for developing interactive content and women game consumers make up nearly half of the market and prefer story-based games, especially mysteries. During the development of the platform and consultation with authors, game designers and screenwriters, OMSG found itself expanding its genre offerings. Most of OMSG’s games feature female protagonists, as well."

But the team has discovered demand for StoryStylus as an educational technology tool, too. "In summer camp programming in schools, we were astounded to witness high levels of engagement among students as they taught the basics of storytelling building blocks, how to design interactive narratives, how to write compelling stories and how to code their own games," Leggett continues. 

The Leggetts also believe they're tapping into demand for more diverse games that reflects a range of backgrounds and life experiences, as recent successes such as That Dragon Cancer and Depression Quest demonstrate. "With thousands of authors in North America alone, there are ample stories waiting to be told in interactive formats," Leggett affirms.

Success so far?

In four years, OMSG has built a game engine and published seven games, including three games that have gone on to win Game of the Year accolades in Toronto. The company is currently working on an adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ Lily Bard series, about a woman who is overcoming her PTSD from a violent sexual assault, and finds herself playing the role of an amateur sleuth. Harris is best known for her Southern Vampire series that HBO adapted as True Blood and has sold over 36 million novels.

The team has worked with over 100 children  in camps and classrooms to create their own games. "This includes Keira Palmer who, at age 11, wrote, drew and coded her own game Attack of the Killer Zombie Cats, where you play as an Obama to defeat Trumpy Cat," Leggett explains. "Hillary Cat also makes an appearance. We’ve featured her game on our website to show adult authors that if an 11 year old can do it, they can do it, too.

Biggest challenges?

"There are a lot of challenges to being a startup and trying to do something unique in the game space with our “book meets game” concept," Leggett reports. "Making limited resources stretch and scaling up on a budget is challenging. And working 24/7 with your spouse on an underfunded startup has its own challenges and its rewards."

Ultimate ambition?

The team hope to make StoryStylus the go-to platform for narrative video games, where readers can find their favorite author’s adapted or new works in interactive format. They also hope that the platform will become used in more middle school, high school and college classrooms, to engage students in language development, communication, logic, multimedia and coding skills.

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

"Come with an open mind and be prepared to change your vision as you build it – you may find yourself changing course and heading off on a journey you never imagined possible."