Transmedia Storytelling and Alternate Reality Games

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A primer for non-specialist audiences on the subject of Alternate Reality Games. Includes brief survey of prior art, diagrams illustrating the nature of networked fictions, and references to key …

A primer for non-specialist audiences on the subject of Alternate Reality Games. Includes brief survey of prior art, diagrams illustrating the nature of networked fictions, and references to key scholars/innovators.

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  • 1. Transmedia Storytelling and Alternate Reality Games Jeff Watson USC PhD Researcher http://remotedevice.net/ March, 2009
  • 2. Context …wherein we discuss the social, cultural and technological moment.
  • 3. Three Dynamics
  • 4. Three Dynamics Narrative
  • 5. Three Dynamics Narrative Play
  • 6. Three Dynamics Narrative Public Space Play
  • 7. Three Dynamics Narrative You are h e re Public Space Play
  • 8. Three Dynamics Narrative Public Space Play
  • 9. Communications Paradigms
  • 10. Communications Paradigms Local Culture
  • 11. Communications Paradigms Broadcast Culture Local Culture
  • 12. Communications Paradigms Network Culture Broadcast Culture Local Culture
  • 13. Communications Paradigms Network Culture Broadcast Culture Local Culture •Bittorrent •Wikipedia •Web 2.0 •Printing press •Radio & TV •Cinema •Letter writing •Oral traditions •Classical theatre
  • 14. A tangled spectrum: Narrative in the 21st Century
  • 15. A tangled spectrum: Narrative in the 21st Century •Novels •Comic books •“Sock puppets” •Performance Art •Fan Fiction •Flame wars •Films •TV series •Flash mobs
  • 16. A tangled spectrum: Narrative in the 21st Century •Novels •Comic books •“Sock puppets” •Performance Art •Fan Fiction •Flame wars •Films •TV series •Flash mobs
  • 17. A tangled spectrum: Narrative in the 21st Century •Novels •Comic books •“Sock puppets” •Performance Art •Fan Fiction •Flame wars •Films •TV series •Flash mobs
  • 18. A tangled spectrum: Narrative in the 21st Century •Novels •Comic books •“Sock puppets” •Performance Art •Fan Fiction •Flame wars •Films •TV series •Flash mobs
  • 19. A tangled spectrum: Narrative in the 21st Century •Novels •Comic books •“Sock puppets” •Performance Art •Fan Fiction •Flame wars •Films •TV series •Flash mobs
  • 20. Three Dynamics Narrative Public Space Play
  • 21. The Magic Circle
  • 22. A magic circle is circle or sphere of space marked out by practitioners of many branches of ritual magic, either to contain energy and form a sacred space, or as a form of magical protection, or both. It may be marked physically, drawn in salt or chalk, for example, or merely visualized. (wikipedia)
  • 23. All play moves and has its being within a play- ground marked off beforehand either materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course. Just as there is no formal difference between play and ritual, so the ‘consecrated spot’ cannot be formally distinguished from the play-ground. The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice, etc, are all in form and function play-grounds, i.e. forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1955), 10.
  • 24. All play moves and has its being within a play- ground marked off beforehand either materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course. Just as there is no formal difference between play and ritual, so the ‘consecrated spot’ cannot be formally distinguished from the play-ground. The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice, etc, are all in form and function play-grounds, i.e. forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1955), 10.
  • 25. ... the membrane between synthetic worlds and daily life is definitely there but also definitely porous, and this is by choice of the users. What we have is an almost-magic circle, which seems to have the objective of retaining all that is good about the fantasy atmosphere of the synthetic world, while giving users the maximum amount of freedom to manipulate their involvement with them. Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2005), 147
  • 26. What is the Virtual?
  • 27. Immersion
  • 28. Transmedia means “across multiple mediums.” Henry Jenkins, a pioneer in the field Transmedia and director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program, defines Transmedia Storytelling as “...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.”
  • 29. Transmedia means “across multiple mediums.” Henry Jenkins, a pioneer in the field Transmedia and director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program, defines Transmedia Storytelling as “...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.”
  • 30. The Traditional Model (approximation; not to scale) The Story World
  • 31. The Traditional Model (approximation; not to scale) Media Artifact The Story World
  • 32. The Traditional Model (approximation; not to scale) story Media Artifact The Story World
  • 33. The Traditional Model (approximation; not to scale) story Media Artifact The singular media artifact bears full responsibility for revealing the story world.
  • 34. The Transmedia Model (approximation; definitely not to scale) The Story World
  • 35. The Transmedia Model (approximation; definitely not to scale) The Story World
  • 36. The Transmedia Model (approximation; definitely not to scale) The Story World
  • 37. The Transmedia Model (approximation; definitely not to scale) The Story World User-generated content
  • 38. The Transmedia Model (approximation; definitely not to scale) There is no “ur-text” that tells the whole story; rather, the story world is revealed as the aggregate effect of multiple texts/media artifacts. User-generated content
  • 39. While the notion of using Transmedia to create fiction is relatively new, the practice of consuming Transmedia stories is deeply ingrained in all of us. Indeed, although we may not have ever thought about it in these terms, each of us is in fact a lifelong consumer and interpreter of Transmedia.
  • 40. Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) Nobody’s happy with this term, but let’s run with it anyway.
  • 41. Wikipedia says… An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions.
  • 42. Wikipedia says… An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions.
  • 43. Wikipedia says… An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions.
  • 44. Wikipedia says… An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions.
  • 45. “If you listen to a Velvet Underground album from the late '60s, leaving aside the individual tracks, there is a sound to that record. There's a sound to a mid-stage Bowie album, there's a sound to the record. ARGs are the sound of the twenty-first century. They sound like what today feels like. You're sitting here with a mini- tape recorder on one hand and a Blackberry on the other... you're talking to us... you emailed me yesterday... that's life. And the key thing about an ARG is the way it jumps off all those platforms. It's a game that's social and comes at you across all the different ways that you connect to the world around you.” – Sean Stewart, 42 Entertainment
  • 46. The whole world is our platform…
  • 47. Movies Signs The whole Graffiti world is our platform… Word of mouth
  • 48. Movies Phones & Instant Answering Signs Messages Machines The whole Graffiti world is our platform… Word of Events mouth Postcards
  • 49. Theatre Movies Phones & Instant Books and Answering Signs Messages comics Machines The whole Graffiti world is our platform… Single Word of Email player Events mouth games Techno- Hoaxes Postcards toys
  • 50. Adverts Wikipedia Theatre Movies History (see * above) Phones & Instant Books and Installation Answering Signs Messages comics art Machines The whole Blogs Graffiti world is our YouTube Twitter platform… Multi- Single Word of Email player player Events mouth games games Techno- Hoaxes Letters Postcards Software toys
  • 51. Story Model Comparison Single-platform (movies, non- Multi-platform (ARGs, sandbox video games, books) transmedia stories) • Clear boundary (or “magic • Blurry boundary separating circle”) separating story story from non-story from non-story • Story told across many • Story contained within a media artifacts single medium or artifact • Progression through the • Progression through the narrative negotiated among narrative orchestrated by multiple authors and authors or algorithms player-participants • Story as channel • Story as layer
  • 52. Origins and Prior Works …wherein we discuss the provenance of the ARG, its first manifestations in popular culture and its emergence as a field of artistic practice.
  • 53. The Voynich Manuscript Possible Hoax, 15th-16th century?
  • 54. Alternate Reality Games: Origins and Prior Works The Club of Queer Trades Short Story Collection, 1905 "We believe that we are doing a noble work," said Northover warmly. "It has continually struck us that there is no element in modern life that is more lamentable than the fact that the modern man has to seek all artistic existence in a sedentary state. If he wishes to float into fairyland, he reads a book; if he wishes to dash into the thick of battle, he reads a book; if he wishes to soar into heaven, he reads a book; if he wishes to slide down the banisters, he reads a book. We give him these visions, but we give him exercise at the same time, the necessity of leaping from wall to wall, of fighting strange gentlemen, of running down long streets from pursuers—all healthy and pleasant exercises. We give him a glimpse of that great morning world of Robin Hood or the Knights Errant, when one great game was played under the splendid sky. We give him back his childhood, that godlike time when we can act stories, be our own heroes, and at the same instant dance and dream."
  • 55. Alternate Reality Games: Origins and Prior Works TheFilm, 1997 Game Feature
  • 56. Alternate Reality Games: Origins and Prior Works Relational1990s Art Art movement/theory, Relational Art, according to critic Nicolas Bourriaud, is “… a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.” Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics p.113
  • 57. Alternate Reality Games: Origins and Prior Works Viral Practices, 1990s-2000s Marketing and Stealth Advertising
  • 58. Alternate Reality Games: Origins and Prior Works Pattern Recognition Novel, 2003
  • 59. Alternate Reality Games: Origins and Prior Works The Beast and ilovebees First wave of ARGs, 2001-2004
  • 60. Alternate Reality Games: Origins and Prior Works SF0 Production ARG, 2005-present Collaborative
  • 61. Case Study YEAR ZERO
  • 62. Alternate Reality Games: Origins and Prior Works YearNails concept album ARG Zero Nine Inch I really wanted to focus on something that was at the forefront of my consciousness which is, as an American, I'm appalled by the behavior of our government, the direction that it has taken and the direction that it's taken everyone else in the world and its arrogance... I decided to write an essay about where the world might be if we continue down the path that we're on with a neo-con-esque government doing whatever it pleases... http://www.42entertainment.com/yearzero/ Trent Reznor
  • 63. •[ARGs] are designed experiences with a strong potential for emergent, that is to say unexpectedly complex, group play and performance. •They are distributed experiences: distributed across multiple media, platforms, locations, and times. •They are embedded at least partially in everyday contexts and/or environments, rather than in marked-off gaming contexts and spaces. They prefer to adopt everyday software, services and technologies rather than exclusively gaming- platforms. •They have the effect of sensitizing participants to affordances, real or imagined. That is to say, they increase perception of opportunities for interaction. •Many, if not most, of their distributed elements are not clearly identified as part of the experience. Thus active investigation of, and live interaction with, both in-game and out-of-game elements is a significant component of the experience. •They have the effect of making all data seem connected, or at least plausibly connected. •They make surfaces less convincing. Underlying structures are what matter. •They establish a network of players who are in the know. They intentionally involve or engage others who are, at least temporarily, in the dark. •They inexorably create community. Jane McGonigal This Might Be a Game, 45
  • 64. Locative Media …wherein we discuss the practice of using technology to layer narrative on physical space.
  • 65. AR Toolkit QR Code (Japan, China, UK) Visual Datamatrix Codes (USA DOD, Germany) Spotcode D-touch
  • 66. Embedding Media in Public Space with QR codes: The basic model QR codes placed on walls Cell phone with camera and and other surfaces QR Code-reading software 1. 2. Scanning the QR code with the phone camera yields text or a URL linking to a video or other content available online for cell phone playback 3.
  • 67. QR Codes: Survey of recent projects AddFacebook mashup to Friends QR Code “Add to Friends” is a Facebook application that enables users to add friends by snapping photos of custom QR codes associated with Facebook profiles. Facebook app URL: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=2135251 More info: http://www.etre.com/blog/2008/02/facebook_add_to_friend
  • 68. QR Codes: Survey of recent projects P8TCHQR-code URL patch Velcro-backed “Think of it as a TinyURL you can wear. The QR Code on the p8tch is a URL. If you scan the code with your iPhone, Mobile Safari will take you directly to that URL. If it's a Google Maps link, your iPhone will take you directly to the map. If it's a YouTube link, you'll see the movie fullscreen. Cool, right?” More info: http://p8tch.com/
  • 69. QR Codes: Survey of recent projects Semapedia.org QR Code Wikipedia mashup “Our goal is to connect the virtual and physical world by bringing the right information from the internet to the relevant place in physical space.” More info: http://www.semapedia.org/
  • 70. QR Codes: Survey of recent projects Pet Shop Boys - Integral QR Code-enriched music video/activism initiative “The QR Code links in the video are a catalogue of online content about issues of civil liberties, as well as links that will give you the opportunity to get involved in campaigning against the erosion of our personal freedom.” More info: http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/browser.aspx?page=pethead
  • 71. QR Codes: Survey of recent projects Kaywa Pixel Scarf Fashion accessory Wearing a QR code confers the wearer with mystery and geekitude, signaling social niche position on both sides of the scanning-moment. More info: http://lendorff.kaywa.com/
  • 72. QR Codes: Survey of recent projects Simone O’Callaghan PhD researcher blending printmaking and QR Codes “Why am I looking at [QR codes]? Well as you can see from the entry above, at the moment they are mostly being used in commercial and advertising scenarios, as yet to my knowledge, no one is utilsing their full capabilities in art. The nice thing about creating artworks is that the process is about experimentation and exploration. Something, that is quite a luxury in the commercial world. The way a user interacts with a qr code is similar to taking a photograph. Its easy to do, and rewarding for the user. Not like trying to type a url on a mobile phone…I'm talking about playfulness that results in delight and a smile.” More info: http://elusivesprite.squarespace.com/phd_journal/
  • 73. Related tagging/mobile/ubicomp projects gofindit.net (QR Code-activated mobile AR) Ford “Ka” marketing campaign “The 3D mobile interactive experience is delivered via QR code stickers. The Ford Ka stickers have a WAP link that allows people to download an application. When the camera phone is pointed at the marker on Wunderman’s QR code stickers, it projects a 3D image of the Ka onto the screen. Developed in conjunction with technology experts HIT Lab NZ and Ford’s CGi specialists Burrows, the 3D Ka is viewable on Nokia camera phones released within the last two years, plus most camera phones which use a Windows Mobile operating system.” More info: http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/news/advertising/2260.html
  • 74. Related tagging/mobile/ubicomp projects Spellbinder AR “invisible grafitti” Image-recognition tagging/mobile “Scottish researchers are turning to camera phones to help bridge the virtual and real worlds. Using image-matching algorithms the researchers have found a way to adorn the real world with digital content. The technology has already been used to create a guide of Edinburgh that allows people to find virtual artworks placed around the city using their mobile.” More info: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6938244.stm Project page: http://blue.caad.ed.ac.uk/branded/stageone/