Special Topic: Transmedia 101 in 900 words or less!
Here is quite possibly one of the most challenging blog I’ve ever written…that I can explain the basic idea of a Transmedia project within a typical blog post length and format. Well, nobody can ever say I’m not up for a challenge, so let’s do this!
Transmedia 101 in 900 words or less!
To show that we here at Heroic Games kind of know what we’re talking about, I will present the complex post-secondary school answer first: “The idea of a transmedia project like Heroes Must Die is in essence, a pervasive story that transcends one medium in order to tell a multi-level narrative that immerses its audience in a total experience that engages, interacts and ultimately reveals, in relation to how much voluntary effort is put into discovering the overall story.”
What does that seemingly overly pretentious jibber-jabber mean to the average person? Well I’ve found a great (yet slightly complicated) visual to go with the above statement…I’ll try and guide you through it so bear with me for a second and find out exactly why Heroes Must Die, along with other projects like it, are pretty cool.
Okay so this is a little visual I found detailing the steps taken for a Transmedia project concerning a Zombie outbreak project. Let’s start at the center: “Pervasive Story meets Alternate Reality Game”- this is what all the cool lines pointing to everything results in. A transmedia project is a pervasive story, meaning it is a story that branches out and floods its message into more than one medium. While today that can means exclusive online content, it can also reach out into traditional forms of media as well like various forms of print, broadcast media, etc… Each part of the story that branches out reveals another part of the story, or another angle of the story that hasn’t been seen yet. Being that projects like these have game-like elements to them, a transmedia project such as this leaves the audience “bread crumbs” to follow - hints, sometimes outright direction, as to where to look next to get the next branch of the story and fulfil the next objective.
Part 1: The Introduction
As we look at the graphic, let us focus on the left-hand corner first. This project asks us to push aside our skepticism and our knowledge of the real world to enter the world of a Zombie Outbreak. First thing that happens – the introduction of a “100 missing teens” narrative is released on Facebook, along with other Facebook narratives of 2 teens that have seen actual zombies with pictures to boot. We’re not told if this is fake or not, only that we must find out for ourselves.
Part 2: The Thickening Plot
Now we move to the right-hand corner and see “Genre Fans Raise Zombie Alarm”. As Campfire did in the Transmedia world by unleashing the True Blood campaign on the world seven years ago, we can see the use of digital media of all kinds raising alarm to this zombie outbreak…but none of these outlets are considered legit sources. Facebook posts, Twitter posts, zombie blogs pop up, digital video of “live events” taking place of zombie sightings. The catch – YOU have to find all of these sources…sometimes directions are direct, sometimes you have to figure out a clue.
Part 3: Welcome to Our World
Finally, fake Print and Broadcast News are used as the third part of the overall storytelling strategy to legitimize the last two parts - the zombie secret is now in “mainstream media” and no longer a secret… SWAT teams engaging zombies while quieting protestors who demand to know the truth about zombies…it’s all now legitimized in the project’s overall experience, and anyone on the internet can now see this story in its entirety without too much effort.
One of the real benefits of running a project such as this is that you know who your true audience is. No “fair weather” fan would ever go through the trouble of figuring out a story of this nature, they need to be into it or they’ll drop off the board. You’ve roped in your audience of hardcore fans, and those just getting into the project can backtrack through step 2 and 1 to see what they missed. Want proof of how well a good transmedia project like this works? Check out the numbers of True Blood’s viewers on their first season, pushing numbers that the series finale numbers of The Sopranos had - averaging 6.8 million viewers per episode by season’s end. It’s proof that when done properly, a transmedia project can truly engage an audience and keep them coming back for more.
Heroes Must Die is not boasting a huge multimedia project such as this – there won’t be multiple websites, fake blogs and social media characters with small bread crumbs to follow. Our project will be exclusively our upcoming game and then the theatrical play following suit. However, we are fully documenting the process and offering up a behind-the-scenes look at various topics about the game, the play, and other special topics that we find fascinating (like this one!)
Now don’t worry, we’re in the process of creating both game and play to be separate entities that can be enjoyed on their own– but to fully appreciate our interactive transmedia experience and understand the grand story of Heroes Must Die, we invite you play the game and learn about the characters and the world, then watch the play as the sequel to the story in another medium. However, most important of all is whether you do one, the other or both, we hope you have fun so we can continue creating projects like this one in the future!
Some new surprises are in store starting in the next few weeks…stay tuned for exciting new Heroes Must Die content!