The Shootout: A Showdown between History and Digitality

 The Shootout is a digital short story that takes inspiration from old Western tales.

The Shootout is a digital short story that takes inspiration from old Western tales.

Length: Approx. 10 Minutes
Devices: Browser-Based
Price: Free

The Shootout, by Alan Bigelow, is a short story that takes tropes of the Western genre and spins them into a work that merges a romanticized past with today’s digital culture. Its graphics and audio walk that line as well, manipulating conventional imagery and sound using overtly digital methods.

The piece’s opening scene could have been ripped from any cowboy dime novel: a mysterious outlaw – known only as “The Dude” – rides into town and enters a saloon full of shady characters with questionable intentions. The story, told in sentence fragments placed in the center of the screen, only provides the reader with a little piece of the narrative at any moment.

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The narrative shifts gears when The Dude pays for a steak with a foreign gold coin, reluctantly revealing his part in a Nigerian advance-fee scam (albeit conducted via Western Union telegram rather than email).

The Shootout has a unique graphical style that, like its narrative, combines genre conventions with contemporary technology. The background images, which could have been lifted from any Western film, are heavily compressed and artifacted. The character portraits – also standard fare for the genre – appear to have been run through a gauntlet of Photoshop filters. Each has two frames of animation that flicker between a recognizable likeness and a blotchy abstraction of a face.

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The character portraits are set against colorful paint splotches that, like other aspects of this piece, straddle the line between physical and digital.

The soundtrack alternates between a twangy tune straight out of a cowboy movie and noisy ambient soundscapes. The noise has a digital quality to it, sounding less like tape or record static and more like samples that have been processed to the point of unrecognizability. Like an audio equivalent to the character portraits, preset filters have been layered and stacked on top of each other, mutating the audio fragments and adding to the glitchy feel of the piece.

The Shootout, in a similar vein as the film Clue (1985), offers three possible endings to the story. No single ending is definitive: there is no indication that any one interpretation is more valid than another.

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The three possible endings are unmarked, so a first-time reader has no way of knowing which is which.

The reader, when prompted to select from these endings,  can watch them in any order. They include conventional scenarios, such as quick-draw shootouts and The Dude riding off into the sunset, and a more unorthodox conclusion in a  Nigerian currency scam blows up into a national phenomenon (similar to the “Miracle Cars” scam from several years ago), spread across the land by telegraph.

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The titular “Shootout” is contested between the flickering character portraits, using animated GIF bullets.

The Shootout is available on Webyarns and can be viewed on a touch-enabled device or using a keyboard and mouse. Also, be sure to check out creator Alan Bigelow’s other great multimedia projects at the Webyarns website!

About the author

Roman Kalinovski

3 comments
Joey - May 13, 2017

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Modesta - May 19, 2017

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    Ricardo Morales - July 28, 2017

    Thank you so much for your comment! Sorry for the late response – we were busy working on an app but are hoping to get back to blogging soon! We will definitely find more interesting digital literature to share 😀

    Reply
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