In early 2014, I posted a story called Street Fighter 2: An oral history.
It took forever to edit, but I loved the format — how it pushes you to show different perspectives and lets you play quotes off each other. So I knew I wanted to do another at some point.
Three years later, here’s Final Fantasy 7: An oral history.
Going in, the main thing I wanted to do differently was add more original photography, but as time went on the story ballooned a bit. It ended up at something like 30,000 words with 35 interviews, almost 90 original photos, four original videos, a custom design, a progress bar and bookmark feature to try to justify the word count, and a trivia minigame made by American University’s Game Lab.
The second half of that list came from Vox’s Storytelling Studio, which is basically a group designed to help amplify big stories around our company. After I’d done most of the FF7 interviews and could tell things were coming together well, I took the story to them and we brainstormed ideas — things like doing a Kindle version, running the text in multiple languages, or building an interactive map where readers could post a pin or light a candle marking where they were in real life when Aerith died (and then see everyone else’s pins/candles).
We didn’t do any of those, but we ended up with a great design that makes something this long almost manageable to read and makes a great showcase for the photography. We even did two rounds of focus testing on the layout, bringing in people from around the company to look and see what did/didn’t make sense. And I never would have come up with the trivia game concept on my own, but I love the Puzzle Fighter approach (where the game happens on the bottom of the screen and the characters fight at the top based on what you’re doing) and I think it makes a great companion to the main story.
Even more than with Street Fighter, this all took a long time to put together, and I’m pretty happy with the results.