If you weren’t convinced of the need for storytelling in presentations after last week’s blog post, that’s okay because there’s plenty more evidence where that came from. Jonathan Gottschall doesn’t leave many stones unturned in the rest of his fantastic book The Storytelling Animal. We reside happily in our story-centric Neverland, and we don’t ever want to leave.
What was the last story you found yourself immersed in? A song? A videogame? A sitcom? A movie? A novel? It’s a good bet you were involved in multiple stories before you even arrived at work. Perhaps you saw an accident during your morning commute, and you imagined in detail how it happened. Maybe you saw a cute lady waiting on the side of the road for the bus, and you thought for a moment about what her life is like. Stories, stories, stories all around. They’re inescapable.
“We are attracted to Neverland because, on the whole, it is good for us,” Gottschall writes. “It nourishes our imaginations; it reinforces moral behavior; it gives us safe worlds to practice inside. Story is the glue of human social life– defining groups and holding them together.”
If stories are the glue of human life– as Gottschall argues– if stories are so omnipresent in our day-to-day, moment-to-moment lives, why should they be excluded from our presentations? If we are truly storytelling animals, as Gottschall asserts, isn’t it a disservice to our presentations to neglect to include one?
This is an especially important question given how our lives are becoming increasingly story-centric. Memoirs function as life stories– more “truthy” than true– always evolving, always encouraging us to make ourselves the protagonist. Songs are stories in musical form: Think of Taylor Swift’s stories of young love, the Velvet Underground’s stories of drug use, or Nirvana’s stories of grungy angst. Reality shows are “true” stories of people “just like us,” giving us a strange blend of fiction and non-fiction.
But Gottschall’s most compelling evidence of our increasing reliance on storytelling is the world of videogames and “massively multiplayer online role-playing games,” called MMORPG for short.
Most videogames are now “intensely story-centric.” When you play one of these videogames– think something as basic as Zelda or Paper Mario, or as complex as Grand Theft Auto or Final Fantasy – “you become a character in an evolving epic that stretches back to the beginning of time.” Players become characters in a fictional world, heroes in a story world all their own.
These videogames are entire worlds to themselves, Gottschall writes. The ultra-popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft, is based on a series of fifteen novels, made up of separate planets, races, factions, cultures, religions and languages. People lose themselves in these games. Sometimes, they become completely immersed in them.
“Story” takes on a whole new meaning when, in a survey of 30,000 MMORPG players, 50% of them form their most satisfying friendships during the game, and 20% see MMORPG has their true home and Earth a place to just visit. And it isn’t just a few nerds in their parent’s basements playing this game; Twelve million people escape into WoW’s story world.
We escape into story worlds, we find comfort in the stories we tell ourselves, and we continually find ways to place our lives into a story framework, because above all, stories give our lives meaning. Jonathan Gottschall’s fantastic book proves that stories aren’t going anywhere; in fact, they’re becoming even more prevalent in our lives as technology allows for it.
Don’t overlook the power of including a story in your presentation. In the face of stories, we melt and swoon; we become malleable and impressionable. Gottschall proves that we are, indeed, storytelling animals. Our lives revolve around stories. Make sure your presentation acknowledges that fact.
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