Six To Start wins big at SXSW

Congratulations to Dan Hon and his team at Six To Start, one of the surprise winners at this year’s SXSW Interactive Web Awards, not least to themselves, apparently. The alternative reality gaming startup based in London won both the Experimental and Best of Show awards for its digital story-telling mashup with Penguin Books, We Tell Stories, which, at almost exactly this time last year, was launched as one of the most entertaining time-wasters around.

The 21 Steps by Charles Cumming

The 21 Steps by Charles Cumming

The site experiments with creating new forms of story designed especially for the internet, with Penguin commissioning six of its popular award-winning writers to retell some literary classics using story-telling elements that take advantage of immediacy, connectivity and interactivity.

Penguin UK’s marketing of the project included this immortal line: “These stories could not have been written 200, 20 or even 2 years ago.” Which perhaps verges on the superlative, especially when one of the stories — Mohsin Hamid’s The (Former) General In His Labyrinth bears a close resemblance to a Choose Your Own Adventure (remember those?) in digital form.

On the whole, though, it was a bold and pioneering experiment for a publisher in an industry that is very much still working on the problem of building a bridge to the future of profitable and sustainable content distribution – in whatever form or shape that content happens to be take.

Six To Start won £100k in funding from NESTA in February last year. NESTA has a 2008 interview with Dan about We Tell Stories here.