Now that sounds like a weird title, doesn’t it? What do I mean by ‘actualising your depictions’? What I’m referring to is the depiction of a character searching the internet, or having a social media conversation in a video, and then not having them seeded online. That is: I hate it when I watch characters doing things on the Internet (in a film, TV show or webisode) and then I (of course) jump online to see the evidence of their activity only to find it isn’t there or it is different. I witnessed this recently and so that is why I decided to rant about it now. It was also done by a person/company that didn’t intend to do a transmedia project and so I’m not giving them a bad time, necessarily. So, what happened?
A couple of days ago Twitter announced the forthcoming launch of the New Twitter:
As many (most) of you would of noticed, the character in the video tweets a pic. I, of course, went straight to the character’s Twitter page (who turns out to be the guy who makes the Twitter videos – which is fine, nice meta). I’m happy to see Jeremy Brigg’s (@gigglebriggs) page does intend have the tweets featured in the video (see screenshot below):
BUT, when I open up the Twitpic it is not the same image as the one depicted in the video:
|Source: Screenshot from video|
The image is by another person, and is a similar image (of a moon), but is not the image depicted in the video and is by someone else. This sucks. It sucks because it is clear the Twitter implementation is not considered part of the video experience (although it is half-way there). It is clear the creators didn’t think anyone would notice or care. Only the video matters.
This situation is emblematic of a pre-transmedia mindset. In the past (and many times in the present), creators think only about the main medium and don’t care about what the experience across media is like. They start to make an effort but if they don’t decide to make each medium a meaningful and equal part of the experience then it is treated as lesser.
Consider this example from the Godsend movie, where a character searches online for a (fictional) corporation.
I did have images of the character viewing the webpage but I cannot find it in my numerous backups over the years (probably in the two external hard drives I have that are still corrupted). In this scene the character searches and views a corporation. If you went to the website, it existed, but it looked different to the page depicted in the film:
Now the webpage has been taken over by someone who has taken all the images out and has put ads there (obviously taking advantage of the traffic they’re getting). The lack of continuity from the website in the film to the online version annoyed me. I then do of course love it when conversations and sites are actualised with continuity. For instance, I enjoyed watching this Jake and Amir video back in 2008:
And then jumping into Twitter to find the character’s posts as they occurred in the video:
Now, obviously you cannot view these tweets after the watching the video now. That is one problem with creating authentic social media conversations after a broadcast or screening. But it is bloody fun when you do catch it.
Do people really care though? Since the release of the New Twitter video, there are now over 1.500 views of the Twitpic alluded to in the video, and comments by people. And as I like to cite, multiple visits and comments at a website created by a fan for a website depicted in the Bourne Ultimatum. The character Jason Bourne searches Google for an investment company, Sewell and Marbury. The site is there and depicted in the movie. But the site hadn’t been created by the producers and so a fan secured it and created it to a small degree according to the fiction at www.sewellmarbury.com. The website was created in 2007 and has had to date over one-thousand comments from people all over the world (more would have visited the site and not left a comment).
I talk about this example and how a domain name, password, social media account, email and phone number glimpsed in a TV show or film is a powerful call to action to many people. So, it sucks when this opportunity is ignored, misunderstood or used to ill effect.
I discovered this video through Armen Antranikian, a cracker about the power of being an artist over a “careerist”:
I find it interesting that there has predominantly been two types of responses to this website. Beginners always ask how they can avoid ending up here, how they can avoid sucking at transmedia; while people who have worked in the area for a while are really excited about the idea of sharing the times they suck, their “war stories”, “lessons learned” and so on. This, and a few events in my life, has got me thinking about the weird but (to me) undeniable reality of working in transmedia (or perhaps any area really): things will always go wrong.
I remember when I started in this area, I thought that if I could learn all I can about the craft of transmedia I could therefore create great stuff. But I then realised that you don’t get anywhere in this industry/artform (or any) without also understanding the business — working with people, the politics, marketing, and so on. That is why you have services like Marvin Acuna’s Business of the Show Institute, helping writers understand the business side of screenwriting.
But another thing it took me a long time to realise was that no matter what level of knowledge and amount of experience you have in the area, things will always go wrong. There will always be things that happen that are outside of your control, like weird occurrences, client decisions, things you didn’t foresee, technical failures, unplanned audience responses, and so on. And just about every member of the team (including yourself) will make some mistake some time.
On reflection, I realise that I also had another assumption working in the back of my head. I thought that if I follow my dream, my life will become easier. I’ve learned that I am more satisfied with my life when I do what I want, but things do not get any easier. In fact, I’ve found the more unique and different your ideas and methods, the greater the obstacles will be thrown at you. Things get harder, they really do. (Or maybe it is just me?)
What is the point of all this? I want to highlight something that I think many people who work in the area already know, but those new to the area are trying to avoid: without a doubt, things will suck. Do you best to avoid what you can, learn to recognise when something is sucking, respond and learn from what is sucking immediately, and try not to repeat it. And in the end, the best thing you can do is enjoy the ride. Don’t wait for a time when everything doesn’t suck, because it will never happen. Instead, make identifying what sucks and dealing with it part of the reality of your process and not some uninvited imposter. And then ultimately, you’ll be more likely to enjoy it all.
In response to Nicholas Lovell’s book How to Publish a Game, Phil Stuart of Preloaded wrote a detailed and helpful post about how they publish online games. He includes the following points:
Seed your game smartly
– Seed your game smartly
– Time poor seeding
Integrate with Portals
– Adapt to the environment
Work with the ‘Pirates’
Listen to your players
Be SEO friendly
I haven’t seen someone be so honest about their approach for a while. I hope this inspires others to share their experiences. It doesn’t have to be your strategies, it can just be the stuff you learned. I know many of you are keen to do this but have troubles with NDAs. I hear ya. But you can post general lessons without mentioning a project or client, and I’m happy to publish posts under a codename. 🙂 Anyway, check out Phil’s post.
The other day I received a lovely invite to be on the new Transmedia Talk podcast over at Lance Weiler’s Workbook Project. Nick Braccia and Robert Pratten co-host the show, which features both Anita Ondine from Seize the Media and Dee Cook from Dog Tale Media. Nick and Robert wanted me to talk about this website and give 5 tips. I thought I’d do something a little different and talk about consulting tips. A lot of consulting tips apply to any industry or artform you’re working in. But I think there are so many people working in transmedia now that we are at the point where we can share some of our experiences working with clients. Here are the ones I gave in the podcast:
Tip #1: If a prospective client has no understanding of interactivity and perhaps marketing, then you will most likely spend most of your time educating your client about these and not transmedia. So be mindful of the minimum skill-set you would like your client to have before you agree to work with them.
Tip #2: There is only so far a client will stretch during your work with them. They may be begin with lots of excited exploring, but they will eventually recoil back to a step or two beyond where they are now. Take heart, you’ve taken them some distance, and the next person they work with will benefit from your work.
Tip #3: Many clients have little to no ability to identify whether you have transmedia skills or not. Depending on your ability, this means you’ll have the opportunity to fly by the seat of your pants and learn on the job, or your efforts will largely go unrecognised. Either way, just put your head down and do your best.
Tip #4: Choose who you work with, spend time with, and listen to, wisely. It is easy to believe that the views, skills and business practices of a small few around you represent all. Who you spend time is important because they will ultimately have a strong influence on you. So choose to spend time with people that make you a better creator and better person.
Tip #5: What’s yours?
Nick and Robert both gave their tips for consulting too. So make sure you listen to the podcast to hear their tips (and all the rest of awesome). And also let me know some things you’ve learned. I’d love to hear them.
I’ve been a judge on plenty of awards ceremonies, both public and private (internal to an organisation or corporation). I’m always surprised (and disappointed) when I assess the material submitted for a ‘cross-media’ or ‘transmedia’ or ‘multi-platform’ etc project. Why? Because nine times out of ten the assets provided are for one media. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve been given the trailer to a game or film to assess an entire franchise with. So what I’m really looking forward to seeing more of is pitch videos that describe the entire experience, not just one medium, and ultimately, for the audiences, trailers for an entire experience. A fan-made video I saw recently excited me to this possibility (see The Matrix Trilogy – sans the other transmedia elements – below).
We’re seen some great videos created to describe the experience of alternate reality games and extended reality experiences etc too, such as the Why So Serious campaign for The Dark Knight, The Art of the H3ist campaign video, and the online narrative for True Blood. All of these describe the experience across all the media.
There are many examples of these types of videos that explain the transmedia-native experience. But you’ll also notice that these videos don’t include the feature film or TV show they’re a part of either. They can’t, that is not their role. These transmedia experiences deserve their own videos as well. But I’m keen to start seeing more media-encompassing videos. I have seen some good pitch videos but they are not for public display, and I’m sure I’ve come across other on the Internetz. Do you have ones to share?
This is another post about what other people have written about. I’m just still head down in the middle of run time for a project, and so that is the reason for my lack of personal contribution. But I’ve been seeing some awesome stuff out there, including these notes from a special workshop run by community and gaming legend Amy Jo Kim (I’ve recommended her Community Building book to many people) for (what looks to be a very exciting company) Big Door. Geoffrey Nuval now works at Big Door, and he shared his notes from Amy’s gamification workshop. Here is a summary of the headings, but see his site for the full post:
I. Identify and Address your Audience
II. Member profiles are very important
III. Types of Users in a Gamified System
IV. Random quotes heard that I felt important enough to write down…
– “Make it easy for everyone to understand: How do I win?”
– “Iterative Development”
– “Show them what they can eventually achieve upfront… establish goals.”
– “Designing a game site for entertainment is very different from gamifying a system”
– “Give new users lots of sugar in the first 15 minutes.”
V. On Building a Community
VI. Mechanics in a Gamified System (what AJK called: “metagames”)
VII. On Creating a Social Moment
VIII. Gamified System Monetization