Gravefall

September 2016 - March 2018

Collaborative storytelling initiative with an emphasis on each contributor putting forth their own characters and expressing narratives in a pre-established world.

Death is just the beginning.

Strange things have been happening in Argent. The city formerly known as San Francisco has stood as bastion in the war-torn landscape of the world. Inside its borders, people have reported those around them dying, only to come back to life with no recollection of their demise. But they remain nothing but rumor. Nothing but the subject of wild speculation on deep web forums and special interest blogs. Amid a litany of frivolities that distract the populace from the post-apocalyptic state of a decaying world, these accounts remain nothing more than a bizarre blip upon the horizon. Just a subject for conspiracy theory and passing entertainment.
In the backdrop operates Gravefall, a ragtag organization too cowardly to show its face, all whilst boldly flaunting the symbol of a Phoenix. They work in obscurity, broadcasting wild claims that they will "save the world" - nothing but sensationalism in a time and place so ravaged by conflict. People will do anything for a message that distracts them. Yet, perhaps. What if there really was someone fanning the flames? What if something grand really was brewing below the surface? Beings known as Gravefallen are being reborn from death, obtaining abilities connected to the circumstances of their demise. Adapt or perish, they ascend from what makes them human and become something other. Someone has been creating these beings at an alarming rate.

Gravefall is a collaborative project in which members of the group participate in shaping the world of Argent and the Gravefall organization, as well as a character within its narrative. The development of the visual aesthetic and nonlinear narrative of the Gravefall universe is a collaborative effort. Lynn Amaya and Cilla Harker are the characters I have visually designed and developed the narrative arcs for within the group. Through telling their stories, I focus on portraying themes of intersectional discrimination, the coping of trauma, and finding a brighter meaning within an unkind world, using the framing of Gravefall’s similar yet distant connection to the dark age of politics in our own time.
The project is now over, and wherein I only played the role of a contributor, it has taught me valuable lessons about the logistical design of a collaborative narrative project.

Iterate, and Iterate still.

Lynn may be excitable, outspoken, and forthright to the point of being impetuous, but her thoughts and mannerisms are more scattered than her practiced lengths of business introductions and surface social skills may imply. An undocumented citizen and recipient of a litany of disastrous life events, she is cautious to a fault; she detests the unpredictable and startles at the slightest unforeseeable circumstance. Following stressful events through her involvement in Gravefall's narrative, she has grown to be even more so. Ascending to this sort of supernatural being only pushes the envelope of what trauma she may sustain.
Quieter, jumpier now, she puts forth an astonishing amount of effort attempting to anticipate what will happen next in any situation. The unknown is terrifying. If she can chart the trends, if her life and its events can be foreseen, she can have a modicum of control over them. Lynn constantly makes a strained effort to be immensely aware of her surroundings, dwelling on mistakes, rehearsing disasters, avoiding being caught off guard in the future.
Complacent to the overarching misfortune that has beset her, Lynn moves to predict and evade the inevitable state of the world. In much the same way, her ability to neutralize raw energy mirrors her approach to conflict. Yet with all her anticipation and calculation, she ironically does not stop to consider any alternatives. All her life, Lynn wished to avoid disaster through leading a perfectly predictable existence. A generic desk job imposed no risks and left no possibility for pain. Skittish and irresolute, Lynn's narrative thread revolves around her hesitation with acting to truly influence her own fate so much as continue to predict and evade it, something that inhibits her from ultimately rising to her fullest potential.

thirteen lifetimes to dwell on mistakes.

cilla.png

In the face of rotten luck.

Misfortune, a division within Gravefall symbolized by a white rabbit with an X ostentatiously marked upon its head, is a collection of Gravefallen that have truly drawn life's shortest sticks. They come from broken families and backgrounds of extreme tragedy, circumstances not uncommon in and often a direct result of the war and its consequences, but nonetheless fitting of the excruciatingly unlucky.
Within this division and its narrative springs forth an overarching desire to fight for a better life, to stop acting as meek prey, constantly adapting to the antagonistic forces of the world, but rather turn against the spokes of fortune and become predators. The dichotomy between predator and prey, as well as themes of overcoming adversity and found family are emphasized and collaborated on with the combined narratives of all characters within the faction.
 

are we predators or are we...?