English DPhil students' app shortlisted for award

Imaginary city growing out of a smartphone

English DPhil students Felicity Brown and Rachael Hodge have been shortlisted for NESTA's first ever "Alternarratives" award, recognising innovation in short-form storytelling, for their project WillPlay. WillPlay is an interactive, AI-powered reimagining of Shakespeare's plays, created on the storytelling platform Charisma.ai. Based on Romeo & Juliet, the shortlisted prototype takes the form of a social-media chat-app, complete with avatars, emojis and sound effects, as well as Instagram-style "stories" to set the scene. Readers become players, chatting their way through this modernised tale of star-crossed lovers via three interactive group-chats, and shaping the story as they go. The aim of WillPlay is to give young people new ownership of Shakespeare by making them his collaborators.

WillPlay has been created in conjunction with the Oxford-based games company To Play For, and under the guidance of the Faculty's Professor Abigail Williams, the Humanities Division's Knowledge Exchange Champion.

As part of the shortlisting process, WillPlay is currently live on the BBC Taster website, to play, rate and share.