Sunday P1: Storytelling in the digital age: New forms, familiar stories

Storytelling is as important today as it has ever been. For thousands of years, oral traditions became the primary form used by Indigenous Australians to recount collective histories, tell spiritual narratives, and share cultural practices. In the twenty-first century, advancements in technology have opened up storytelling to new forms of representation. These forms, increasingly multimodal, interactive and digital, are producing a diversity of literacy practices. Storytelling now brings together multiple modes of representation, integrating language, visuals and sound, almost seamlessly. Storytelling now encourages interactivity, including the choices and decision-making of the audience into the unfolding narrative. Storytelling now has the capacity to cross borders instantaneously, travelling across digital highways and placing people thousands of kilometers apart side-by-side.

And yet, for all these new affordances, the stories that are told through these digital forms are familiar. Paperbark is a game designed for tablet devices which tells the story of the bush, a wombat and a very hot Australian summer. The player follows the sleepy wombat who spends his day exploring and

foraging, while in search for a new home. The Perfectly Good Podcast brings together music comedy legends Tripod with a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra producer to create musical adventures that incorporate live performances, stories, and adlib. No Man’s Sky is an open-world universe game made up of 18 quintillion unique planets, every one of which can be explored by a human player. Built around the four pillars of exploration, survival, combat, and trading, players co-create their own stories, in combination with other human players and the game’s designers.

These new forms raise many questions for English teachers and the work they do with texts and stories. Should we include digital texts in the English classroom for reading/viewing/playing and study? What digital forms do we embrace? How do we bridge the gap between teaching which has long-been orientated towards print-based texts and digital, multimodal and interactive texts?

This panel welcomes those working in the creative and intellectual field of digital storytelling to discuss these questions. From game-designers, podcast producers, and academic researchers, they share their insights into the importance of understanding how these texts are created and why we should take them seriously.


Alex Bacalja

Alex Bacalja is a lecturer in language and literacy, and coordinates English Method and Literacy subjects within the Master of Teaching (Secondary) program at the University of Melbourne. He has worked for over a decade in secondary schools across Melbourne in both teaching and leadership roles.

Alex is a member of the Language and Literacy Research Hub where he explores his interest in contemporary literacies, game-as-text and subject English. He has published and presented on the issue of critical digital games curriculum and is currently investigating the role of games in the English classroom.



Terry Burdak

Terry Burdak is a video game designer and creative director of Melbourne based studio Paper House. In 2018, Paper House launched the award-winning debut game Paperbark. Terry’s work in the games industry has recently spread from development to include helping advocate and support at the Game Developers Association of Australia.

Kate Clark

Kate Clark is an interdisciplinary researcher at the University of Melbourne. Her areas of interest are video games, affect theory, and new materialist theory. Kate’s recent research focuses on how people experience video games, and how this experience goes on to shape how they experience events off-screen. In particular, she is interested in how global warming is experienced in video games, and how these experiences might give players new tools to perceive, experience, and combat global warming. She is also passionate about reflecting and disrupting what texts we see as fundamental to our student’s learning experience, in particular how Indigenous knowledges are largely excluded from the canon. Kate also teaches game studies, sociology, social theory, gender studies, and culture and media studies at the University of Melbourne.

Andrew PogsonAndrew Pogson has been working in the music industry for over 20 years, ten of those with orchestras. At present he works for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and has been responsible as producer and director for many world premieres with the MSO such as The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, Video Games Unplugged, The Wiggles meet the MSO and This Gaming Life with music comedy trio Tripod. 

Andrew writes, produces and stars on numerous podcasts, including: Art of the Score (an in-depth podcast series discussing the world of film scores), and the Perfectly Good Podcast (featuring Tripod).