The starting point of my transmedia project is try and utilise transmedia as an effective way to promote my video game concept. I began with designing a structure for this purpose.
“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.” (Jenkins, 2007)
In my understanding, it’s all about how to tell a story using different platforms. However, it’s not simply telling the same story in different platforms, such as producing a movie to tell the same story from a pre-existing fiction and then developing a videogame still using the same story as the film - this practice is more akin to cross-media (Moloney, 2014). Transmedia should take advantage of many different mediums, utilising each of their strengths to tell a part of a larger story, creating a cohesive narrative experience. (Jenkins, 2007) For instance, Marvel using videogames like Marvel Heroes (Secret Identity Studios, 2013) to deliver an interactive experience, using films like The Avengers (Whedon, 2012 ) to deliver a moving media experience, and using comics like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Lee, S., & Steve, D., 1963) to present a sequential visual narrative experience.
The videogame The Walking Dead (2012) which based on Robert Kirkman's (2003) The Walking Dead comic book series, is another good example for transmedia storytelling. It works together with TV series, novels, live events and other media to represent the ultimate “The Walking Dead “ zombie universe.
”A transmedia story represents the integration of entertainment experiences across a range of different media platforms. A story like Heroes or Lost might spread from television into comics, the web, computer or alternate reality games, toys and other commodities, and so forth, picking up new consumers as it goes and allowing the most dedicated fans to drill deeper.”(Jenkins, 2013)
Based on this statement, I started to design the story. The idea of my game is quite clear, it’s about dreams, player can control character’s dreams in the game and the choice players make during the dream will influence the character’s daily life. The ultimate goal of the game is help game characters to overcome their fear in their real life, such as being antisocial and other psychological problems. There are several characters in the game and their dreams are somehow connected. They all hardly talk to others in their daily life, but they have to work together in their dreams to overcome their challenge.
To put this story concept in a transmedia project, I tried to break down the narratives to several small stories and fit it into different platforms. However, I found it is very hard, because there’s no clear framework and background settings for the story yet. At this point I understood what the Jenkins claimed:
“transmedia stories are based not on individual characters or specific plots but rather complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories “ (Jenkins, 2007).
The story of a transmedia project is not only a single narrative, it actually should be a story universe which allows many different stories happen in the same time but also can work with each other. This structure allows to design different stories which can fit different media, but also in same universe, telling one big story.
Thus, we then designed some background settings to explain how and why the player can control other people’s dream in the game. And developed new stories and characters under these settings. We developed a doctor and his wife in the story, they are the key characters. Also we developed other characters which had strange dreams and finally they find their dreams are all connected.
After developed this framework, I found the game was not the central part of this project anymore, it became a part of this concept, and it is only about maybe 2-3 characters dreams under this setting. It does not use other platforms to promote the game, it became using game as a media to represent a part of this story universe.
After that I started to redesign the transmedia part. In the game, we had an idea which is we would have a forum website in the game, which characters used for get information and communicate with other characters, many backstories will be communicated through this this forum. And inspired by the TV show Sherlock (2010), BBC build the main character Dr. John H Watson’s blog on the Internet in order to present a meta narrative experience. Thus, I plan to build this forum in real world, and post same content which will used in my game. Also, this forum will became a key part of the entire project, we use it to interact with audiences, and there can be side stories that could happen on the forum. For instance, we can fake some users’ posts about how strange dreams are connected, in order to attract audiences’ interest. At the same time, the forum also can be used to generate new story content (Jensen, 2007 ) posted by our audience to represent an interactive fiction experience.
Beside the forum, I also built a Wiki which published some “Dream Research Records” used to tell the doctor’s story, also used to explain some background settings of story universe. The main reason of using a wiki as the platform to tell this part story is because wiki is usually used to record documents and research results, it match the doctor character’s setting, and this makes the story feels more real, also present the meta narrative felling, and it can work with the forum to make the story have more depth.
Another media we used is comic. We developed a comic series, each comic is one story from our forum, but in comic format, it tells a short story in a visual way. After audience get the short story of the character, we direct audiences to our forum. At there, audience will get more background stories which will make the comic story have more depth, and they also can interactive with us there.
We also painted several posters, used to promote our story, each poster draw a scene of each character, also will leave a clue of the connection with other characters, and the posters supposed to redirect audiences to the forum post which about the character it painted by scan our logo using mobile App. This is very good to let audiences get a quick sense of what happened, and have some motivation to dig deeper about the story or find out other characters’ stories.
Physical installations is also a medium we used to promote the story, the main purpose of the installation is used for real-life campaign. Phillips (2012) claim that,
“Multiple media are fantastic, but the ultimate platform is the real world.” (Phillips, 2012 p194)
Bring the story to real word physically not only can involve different audience from other digital media, it’s also represent a scene of one character’s story, and easy to engage audiences to attend.
Also we had a plan to release a short video series (due to some issue, this not achieved), which is an interview video series, used to represent the doctor interview the character from the forum and do research of their dreams, this will used to work together with the doctor’s research wiki, but for a video, there can be more details of the interview like the tune of speaking, personal emotion, some micro motions which can represent their feeling. Audiences will get more information than just read the wiki text interview record, and these information will add more depth of the story.
Other than these, of course, there will be a game(still just a concept in current stage), it also tells the stories of different characters, but it will not have much story about the doctor and his wife, players will only get that part of story through our forum web site. This setting will add another layer of depth to the game story. And make players have motive to explore more in the story universe.
At last we can use social network, we have Facebook page, Twitter, Tumblr, but we are not really using them. Because it supposed to be a place where our audiences could find our releases across all other media, and sometimes have some side story will release from social media, but currently we are not really have audience, so the social media is just used to publish our work and link back to forum in order to show more background stories.
The entire project is about using different media to represent the story universe, also it has infinite possibilities to extend to every media or every format, and also it can be used to different aspect under this framework, like it can be used for teaching people how they can overcome anti-social or modern social problems.
Jensen, J. F. (2007). User-generated Content–a Mega-trend in the New Media Landscape. Paper presented at the TICSP Adjunct Proceedings of the 5th European Interactive TV Conference (EuroITV 2007).
Phillips, A. (2012). A creator's guide to transmedia storytelling: how to Captivate and Engage Audiences Across Multiple Platforms: McGraw Hill Professional.
Moloney, K. (2014). Multimedia, Crossmedia, Transmedia… What’s in a name? Retrieved 2014.10.25, 2014, from http://transmediajournalism.org/2014/04/21/multimedia-crossmedia-transmedia-whats-in-a-name/
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Jenkins, H. (2013). Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment: A New Syllabus. Retrieved 2014.10.25, 2014, from http://henryjenkins.org/2013/08/transmedia-storytelling-and-entertainment-a-new-syllabus.html
Jenkins, H. (2007). Transmedia storytelling 101. Retrieved 10.14, 2014, from http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html
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Gatiss, M., Moffat, S., & Vertue, B. (Producer). Cumberbatch, B., & Freeman, M. (Actor). (2010). Sherlock [Motion picture].