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iPhone? BORING! Give the Gift of Experience

November 06, 2021 | By: Blaize

Santa Reading

Christmas of 2020 was undoubtedly one that will be hard to forget – we experienced it amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the traditional gatherings were canceled or substantially revised because of the pandemic. Still, we lived through it. Now we’re on the backside of it, facing some of the pandemic’s repercussions. These have all contributed to the inflation and anxiety surrounding what to do about Christmas and getting the right gift. Some are afraid that they might not be able to get the latest and greatest gadget or the hottest new toy for their kiddo. While I don’t disparage gifting of this nature, one of the most overlooked gifts, however, can be experiences. Experiences come in many shapes—some of them can be simple while others can be grandiose. Kids, by and large still like to receive toys as gifts, but as they age, the happiness derived from such gifts diminishes in light of experience. And most certainly, adults almost always get more satisfaction from experiences over stuff.

One of the best ways to create an experience is through stories. Some of our most beloved Christmas traditions revolve around stories, such as watching your favorite Christmas movie or reading your favorite Christmas stories. My wife loves to watch White Christmas every year. There’s always a healthy debate online as to whether a great story like Die Hard is a Christmas movie. I read A Christmas Carol to my daughter last year. We read the “Greatest Story Ever Told”—the Nativity Story from Luke Chapter 2 – before we open gifts. Optimally, the best experiences would be those with high experience value and high story value at a low cost. Stories are an experience in and of themselves, but can create your own, unique experience that you get to have by yourself or with others. The best experiences, though, are those experienced together, which is part of the magic of Christmas. So here are some ideas that you might want to consider as storytelling, experience building gift ideas for your loved ones.

Stage Productions

Stage productions are magical, be they plays, musicals, or operas. They lack the effects that one can use in producing something for a screen but make up for it in the experience surrounding going to a show. One thing that I think makes it magical is that it is something that requires a planned effort. It’s not something you can do on a whim and usually has associated with it going out with someone or a group of friends for an evening. When you’re at the show, you get to experience the stage production from your unique perspective, depending on where you get your seating. And every iteration of the show will be unique in its own right, even if it is the same cast and crew that bring it to light. It’s hard to forget such experiences, and the memories will be cherished forever.

  • Experience: High
  • Story: High
  • Cost: Moderate to High

Books

Books are one of the broadest genres for delivering stories. Most people think of print books, more specifically novels. But books cover the gamut media formats, including print books, audiobooks, graphic novels, comic books, eBooks, and serial fiction. Some of these can be delivered through multiple formats. I am currently releasing my first novel as serial fiction on my website, paperback novel, and eBook. Still, many popular titles will have an audiobook counterpart with them. They can be read through book subscriptions services like Amazon’s Vella. Now many might consider comic books or graphic novels to not have the same literary merit as something like a novel, but that’s hardly the case. The artistic effort that goes into producing these can, at times, be equal to or exceed that which goes into writing books and can deliver the same story experience even of the format might seem juvenile.

Despite what the book media may be, it’s almost a truism to say, “the book is better than the movie.” In almost every case, a book’s story value is higher than what you’ll get off out of a movie or other screen-based format because it invokes your imagination more than something like a screen-based production does. A good book can make a lasting impression and create a euphoric experience just from reading it alone, but reading books with children is certainly a way to experience books together. I have been reading novels to my daughters for some time, and even though they may not fully understand the content, they can follow the plot and conflict. Moreover, books are accessible from free to low cost, making the value proposition even sweeter.

  • Experience: Moderate to High
  • Story: Moderate to High
  • Cost: Low

Movies

Movies can be fun. These give you the chance to experience a story from beginning to end in a couple of hours. Because movies are so broad, the storytelling quality of the movies can be anything from just plain stupid to something that makes you think with nuances and complexity. I can say that I do enjoy both extremes for different reasons. In any case, though, these can be a cheap, accessible, virtually inexhaustible source of stories.

But, by their nature, movies are pretty passive, so they don’t create much in the way of experience. I think the best movie-watching experience for me is the theatre, but still, it’s not so much better than watching at home. Granted, you can watch movies together, but the “togetherness” of movie watching is usually with people that you probably already do other stuff with beyond watching movies. There is merit to movies, though. I use them to take a break from writing, especially if they are in a series or genre I enjoy. I just don’t watch movies expecting to have a great experience beyond just relaxing and checking out for a few hours.

  • Experience: Low
  • Story: Low to High
  • Cost: Low

Shows

Shows are like movies in many ways and vary from shorts to sitcoms to season-spanning storylines. Depending on the format, the sort of storytelling that takes in shows can be incredibly nuanced or simple. In recent years, dramas have tended to create season-long arcs that allow the arc to have the space to explore complex ideas and develop characters across multiple episodes. Still, each episode will have it’s own self-contained story as well. Most of the shows I watch, like The Expanse, Cobra Kai, Star Trek: Discovery, and Star Trek: Picard have adopted this format. I’m looking forward, though, to the upcoming Wheel of Time series on Prime because it will deliver the beloved series from Robert Jordan in a screen adaptation.

Unlike movies, shows generally lack the level of production that movies have because of tighter timelines and smaller budgets. This doesn’t necessarily impact the story, but it can detract from the experience. Typically, shows are remembered as a whole with a few notable episodes rather than remember any one episode in particular, especially for longer-running shows. Still, they do offer a cheap way to checkout for a while on a busy weeknight or an opportunity to binge on the weekends for some series.

  • Experience: Low
  • Story: Low to High
  • Cost: Low

Games

It’s hard to encapsulate all that the word “game” entails because the category is so broad. This range starts with simple games like Candyland or Slap Jack. Moving up the complexity scale, you’ll get games like two of my favorites Monopoly and Risk or the so-called “German games” like Settlers of Catan. Finally, there’s immersive games with complex rules and entire subcultures, such as Warhammer and D&D. Games were limited to physical media like tokens, cards, dice, boards, and the like for the longest time. However, games have expanded online with computer technology to spawn entire groups of followers around games and even professional leagues around popular, competitive titles like StarCraft.

Simpler games may not have storylines with them, but more complex games certainly do. The aforementioned role-playing games have a story-making component to them that goes along with the game itself. Rich content offered by video games also delivers a cinematic experience on par with many movies. These also adds the bonus of allowing a player or multiple players to participate in the plot by interacting with the game. Some of the more influential media on my writing have been games because of the immersive content games offer.

What makes games stand out, though, is that they bring together rich story-making and experiences that can be shared, thereby creating memories. To me, this is one of the things that make games so fun is that you can keep coming back to them time and again to create more memories, create new stories, or both. It is one of the gifts that keeps on giving.

  • Experience: High
  • Story: High
  • Cost: Low to Moderate

Conclusion

For Christmas, this year or any year, consider giving the gift of story and make it an experience. I would probably avoid screen-based story formats or perhaps reserve them for stocking stuffers. Maybe one of the best things you can get would be playing the game with someone or buying tickets to a show in your area or nearby city. If you know folks like to read, then obviously books would be one thing to get someone. (Obviously, I would say get mine!) Even for folks that don’t like to read, audiobooks can be a fantastic gift as well, so you could buy an Audible subscription. Still, I think that such gifts would create memories for everyone, especially those with a rich experience – because those are the sorts of things that memories are made of.


Copyright © 2020-2021 Blaize Stewart