Story DAO at NFT.NYC
By: Laika O’ Brien, Director of Experience Design
Almost exactly a month ago, I met my teammates for the first time at a home in Pasadena on a beautifully warm day–the kind of day that’s made California weather famous. There were 8 of us, all coming together under the flag of a new project called Story DAO, a Web3 Hollywood production company aimed at changing the way IP is created and owned. You can learn more about Story DAO’s mission and vision here.
It kind of felt like being a member of the Web3 design firm version of Ocean’s Eleven. Every member of the team had their own utterly delightful set of skills, quirks, and amazing backstory, and here we were forming some sort of super group in an effort to build creative communities in the Web3 space. If you haven’t already seen it, you can read more about my journey of leaving Meow Wolf and coming to Story DAO here.
Born of the belief that Web3 is the future of content creation and distribution, Story DAO is bridging the gap between Hollywood and the metaverse by pioneering a “create to own’’ model that allows for greater levels of community access and ownership. Community members will be connected with a Story Architect, an A-list Hollywood writer who leads the community along with an established writing team, in a virtual writers’ room. Together, they will create a new narrative-based story franchise or “universe” that will live within its own DAO.
Simultaneously, renowned artists will create NFTs from the story universe’s core characters. These character NFTs will act as a governance mechanism for the DAO and be used within the stories in interactive and immersive ways. After the launch and sale of the core character NFTs, the writers’ room will build these universes into expansive stories, opening an array of opportunities for our creative community to contribute to and co-own the IP in meaningful ways. These expansive stories will continue to evolve and the IP will eventually become books, movies, series, and more.
For the past few months we’ve been building our team, clarifying our vision, and designing our platform, and NFT.NYC was slated to be our first community building event — one where we set out to find like-minded creatives to help us bring our vision to life. With more than 15,000 registered attendees, not to mention the throngs of people who never bought a ticket but swarmed to the city to attend the satellite events, we knew there was going to be a lot of noise and clambering for attention at the conference.
We wanted to bring something that would cut through the noise and foster genuine creative connection in the midst of the hundreds of parties, speaker series, and open bars. Something that would bring surprise and delight to the conference, foster authentic connection, and that would show people the potential for what we can do with NFTs in a storytelling capacity. We also wanted to test our strengths as a newly-formed team. And perhaps most importantly, we wanted to find our people–to give them a place to come together and do something engaging and imaginative.
What the team created became so much more powerful than we originally anticipated. We called it Story Quest, a 4 day choose your own adventure story-crafting experience where participants visited 1 checkpoint each day to engage with costumed actors, all while creating their own custom story in the form of NFTs. At each checkpoint, the characters had a Story DAO briefcase with something fantastical inside. The first day, it was an oversized book with a story chronicling the start of the participant’s journey.
The final 2 pages of the book asked the participant to make selections that would start building the foundation of the story they were crafting. For this checkpoint, participants chose their Character Archetype and the Storyworld they were exploring.
A custom NFT was generated for each participant based on the selections they made. If you chose the Character Archetype of “The Blind Oracle” and the Storyworld of “The Vast Reaches of Space,” you’d get this NFT:
The next day the characters used a sock puppet to tell a story while quirky music played in the background. The sock puppet asked participants to reach into the mouth of a fuzzy orange monster to choose the Challenge your character would face and the Skill or magical object with which you would overcome that Challenge.
Again, participants received a custom NFT representing the choices they made.
The third day, we created a beautiful diorama showcasing all the characters participants met along their journey. The actors led them through a guided visualization about flying that led them to choose their character’s Mode of Transportation.
Selecting a Story DAO tarot card revealed the Plot Twist in the tale.
And again generated a custom NFT.
Each of the 3 NFTs that participants generated over the course of their journey represented pages in a book that, when pieced together, allowed participants to see the story they had created.
To complete the story, participants received a 4th NFT where all 6 of the choices they made over the course of their journey were woven together in a culminating scene that reflected their experience and story.
On the final day, we hosted a gathering at a secret location where all participants came together, painted, celebrated, ate, drank and shared stories. Participants completed their journey and received their final Story Quest NFT, created by shelby and sandy, and were officially entered into a raffle to win the grand prize of a Doodles NFT or a Story DAO Producer Token! (Video of our winner coming soon.)
So, what did we learn at NFT.NYC?
The right team makes all the difference. Exactly 4 weeks passed between the day that I met my team at a house in Pasadena and the day that we wrapped up Story Quest, and what we were able to accomplish in that time was absolutely incredible. We went from not knowing each other to having a keen sense of how our strengths and creativity could complement each other. We established key tenets of our collaborative community and rapport with one another. One of the things that most stood out to me was that everybody said “yes” to each other. Every zany idea that was thrown out, every last minute inspiration for how to make the experience more delightful, our team went well out of their way to make it happen. I could not be more honored to count myself among such dedicated individuals.
Don’t be afraid to iterate on the fly. At first we were targeting the NFT.NYC conference locations for where our checkpoints were going to be stationed, but we quickly learned that the conference actually had low attendance and that the people we were looking for weren’t at those central locations–they were at the satellite events. In the middle of the second day we got together as a team, discussed what wasn’t working, and decided to pivot the location of our 3rd checkpoint to be outside of the Doodles Genesis Factory event in Chelsea. It totally paid off. We found the right environment, connected with the right people, ate more pizza than we could stand, and shared the joy with the people who came to spend time with us.
When you’re doing something authentic, it shines. In the midst of the attention grabs, the thousands of stickers and business cards, the constant stream of parties, we made something with real heart. And people noticed. We re-learned that what we’re up to at Story DAO isn’t about marketing, it’s about relationship building. We weren’t at NFT.NYC looking for everyone, we were looking for our people, the people with whom we want to build this community, and we found them.
To all of you who helped build this experience and especially to those of you who joined us on the adventure, thank you, thank you, a thousand thank yous from the bottom of our hearts to yours.
So, where is Story DAO going next? After taking some time to rest and recover from NFT.NYC, our team is going heads down again working to build out a world class platform for creative collaboration. We are currently curating a world class community of creatives to join our Producer Token Membership group–the brain trust that will build out Story DAO’s governance and creative process. If this community sounds like one you’d like to join, apply to our Producer Token Allowlist! Our early community is going to be essential to the future of Story DAO and this is only the beginning.
We also have some amazing announcements just around the corner for our first project! Stay tuned to learn more about the incredible creatives that we’ll be building out our first story world with and for more information on how to get involved. You can access info on how to join us and much more by following us on Twitter and signing up for our mailing list. Come join the adventure!
Lastly, an enormous thanks to all the people who were part of the creative process of bringing Story Quest to life!
Creative Direction: J.P. Alanís and Justin Alanís
Product Owner: Justin Middleton
Experience Design: Laika O’Brien
Tech Lead: Ben Kim
Visual Design: Chris Kim
Artists: shelby and sandy
Social Media: Carrie Dilluvio
PR: Amanda Williamson
Special thanks to Fred & Minh, Brent Bushnell, Gordon Gould, CryptoCrier, and all the other people we met along the way who made this experience worth it beyond our wildest imaginations.