Scene from Knife Crime video - young man talking to camera pointing at crowd of young men.

Elearning scenario examples: Choose a Different Ending (Knife Crime)

This week’s elearning scenario example is Choose a Different Ending (Knife Crime), which  was one of the first interactive videos on YouTube. The idea of interactive video has a long history in the elearning / computer-based training world. We first played them on gigantic, expensive videodisks (think of a CD ROM the size of a vinyl album), then on CD ROM. These went out of fashion with the rise of the internet and, in particular, the demise of offline media. 

Unlike the other examples here, this wasn’t employee training or an instructional design demo. It came from the Metropolitan Police in 2009 working with the communications agency AMV/BBDO, but it appeared unbranded on YouTube. The subject was the potential consequences of carrying a knife.

Choice scene from Knife Crime video. Kitchen knife with choices 'Take the Knife' and 'Don't take the knife'.

The consequences of carrying a knife

The aim of offering it unbranded on a public site was to draw the target audience – mainly but not solely young males – into the drama. You’d then offer branching using YouTube’s annotation function, to get them making decisions and see the consequences of carrying a knife yourself or even being involved with companions who are carrying.

21 short films were linked by branching, with the possibility of ten different endings. The tone was realistic in terms of language and hand-held filming and some violence was depicted. It got high ratings on YouTube and the comments below the films are always busy.

Scene from Knife Crime video - young man talking to camera pointing at crowd of young men.It wasn’t expected to do the job itself – it was prominently linked to a campaign site which further developed the message .

The effect of first-person video

The filming style was first-person, in other words, you see everything from the main character’s viewpoint. This is intended to provide immediacy and identification with the character.

This is more complicated than it appears, according to film-maker Tom Hickmore.

Scene from Knife Crime video - hand reaching for a kitchen knife.He argues that it creates exactly the opposite. He links it to Bertolt Brecht’s ‘alienation’ technique. The playwright used various tricks such as actors stepping out of character and addressing the audience to remind the audience that this is a story, not real life. Hickmore says it’s precisely because the filming technique is obvious and unusual that it encourages us to think, to step back from the story. Conventional TV and film get us to identify with a character by showing us his or her emotional reactions to situations. We see and empathise. With first-person filming we don’t see the main character on screen but equally we don’t identify with him, we think rather than feel.

Another success is the interactive Knife Crime video Choose a Different Ending. This uses alienation in a different way. In a fight your empathic sense is turned down according to your engagement. Here alienation technique mimics that feeling and enhances your antagonistic responses to the others in the drama. Both films are self-conscious viewing that keep you engaged and while making you think.

Creating interactive video on YouTube

I haven’t seen a way to create the kind of text-only link used in Knife Crime – Choose a Different Ending. It was done with Annotations which are no longer available. If you want to do it now, I believe you have to use End Screens.

When you edit your video after uploading, you select End Screens and decide how many you want. Each one links to another video on YouTube.   YouTube automatically places them a certain number of second from the end of the video. You can drag the placement along if you want the links to be there for a longer or shorter time. When you link to another video with an End Screen, a thumbnail of the other video appears.

In this case my End Screen links to a YouTube playlist:

Example of YouTube end screen.

Try ‘Choose a Different Ending’

Related articles


Choose a different ending on YouTube:
Tom Hickmore on first-person filming:
Drop the Weapons campaign:

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