As our understanding of transformational play evolves, so must the space in which that play occurs. Quest Atlantis has always been a fluid, non-static environment that both its students and creators can influence and change. So when several of us realized that we had new, powerful ideas for the Quest Atlantis storyline, we dove in and found we needed to change quite a bit. Students today are bright, powerful people, and we wanted them to revel in that. The old storyline was a bit convoluted, tangled up in itself after several years, and a bit black and white in terms of what is good and what is bad. We knew QA could and wanted to handle more subtlety than that, so we weaved a new tale, one that showed more character development, gave students even more agency, and allowed for easier and cleaner growth in the future.
We kept our core characters, Maq and OTAK, and even grew their roles. OTAK has evolved several times during the lifespan of Quest Atlantis: from an artificial intelligence that lectured Questers and had all the answers to a frightened little boy who couldn’t possibly handle the responsibilities of running New Atlantis. Now, with the latest version, OTAK has become a young man who feels the weight of a lot of responsibility and isn’t always so sure what to do… but steps up when called upon to do so, and continues to mature as the story progresses. And Maq the Gnome has evolved as well. In his first iteration, Maq had plenty of personality but little in the way of agency or goals. Now he has agendas of his own that are clear but not simplistic. His relationship with OTAK is not easy and hits many bumps along the way, but is committed and loving nonetheless. Our hope is that Questers can more easily identify with these more realistic depictions of characters… maybe even seeing some of themselves and those in their lives in these characters.
When the decision was made to change the back story and introduction of Quest Atlantis, it was immediately apparent that the Epic Missions would have to change as well. Epic is a collection of missions that Questers “earn” as they luminate… it serves as both a reward and a continuation of the storyline. Because the old QA storyline was now defunct, those old Epic missions just didn’t fit any more.
Enter Aegea, the home of the new Epic mission collection. Aegea is a previously unknown island on New Atlantis, far removed from Emissary Island. Not only are the people very different from the usual New Atlantian in looks, with their olive-green skin tone and blue hair, but they also evidence a sad lack of commitment. This new version of the Epic missions has become a vehicle for Questers to witness what happens when NONE of the Social Commitments are honored in a community. Other than a few unique individuals, the Aegeans, when Questers first meet them, are a selfish, unhappy, and bland people. Few of them care about others, the community, or the environment, and any individuality or creativity is frowned upon or openly mocked.
Questers first encounter Aegeans in the new Commission Missions during the QA introduction… it was the main reason for rewriting the Commissions along with the Introduction this past summer. Letting Questers get a taste for the problems in Aegea, while at the same time focusing on a single Social Commitment in a community that desperately needs the help, turned out to be a serendipitous pairing that enhanced both trajectories.
As Questers continue to luminate they earn additional missions that propel the Epic storyline along a path of transformation. Questers are active protagonists who model good acts and committed lives to the citizens. By the end of the trajectory (after the eighth lumination), the Quester has transformed Aegea from a gray, lifeless and unpleasant village to a vibrant, busy, and healthy community. Not only do attitudes change, but the physical space changes as well… once again embodying the QA commitment to transformational play. Questers experience the thrill and hardship of employing the Social Commitments in bringing together an entire community to save itself. They feel the sting of loss and the joy of cooperation. Most importantly, they do it themselves, making their choices and seeing the consequences of those choices.
Aegea, before and after Questers transform the space
ONE FINAL NOTE: Because we believe this new Epic collection is such an important addition to Questers’ growth in Quest Atlantis, we have added a new resource to support it, this time for teachers. Our new Epic teacher’s guide provides not only a description of the story and educational goals of the experience, but it includes a new feature: a set of optional QA trajectories of Quests, missions, and units, grouped by academic subjects and the number of lumins each delivers. We hope our QA teachers will find these sample trajectories useful as they plan their QA curricula with an eye to helping their students luminate and earn the Epic missions quickly.
Janis & Ed