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A Unified Labeling System for Transmedia Projects

robert | February 11, 2011  ‐  43 Comments

I’d like to develop a unified labeling for transmedia projects. The objective is to allow the audience to quickly and easily determine

(a) if this is the kind of project they will like

(b) what is expected of them in terms of time and effort required to enjoy the project.

I believe this type of communication will help multi-platform projects become more widely accepted and more easily understood.

The diagram below shows a simple label that I think covers all the necessary bases. The fields are explained below.

Age rating.

Same idea as for movies and games, identifies if this experience is for children or adults.


The genre of the story.

Type of experience.

In my Transmedia Radar Diagram I show how an experience can be explained in terms of four dimensions: “A” – authorial control, “P” – participation (audience ability to change the story), “R” – degree to which the story builds its fictional world on the real world and “G” – degree of gaming such as use of puzzles and challenges. In the labeling system, the radar is reduced to a simple binary decision and the producer is required to indicate the two strongest aspects of the experience.

A = the author’s story is a predominant feature. Of course story is important in all experiences but an A indicates that on balance with the other dimensions, there’s plenty to read or watch. This will be true for experiences based predominantly on books, comic books, webseries and so on.

P = audience participation will change the course and/or outcome of the story

R = the real world places and facts are used as a foundation for a fictional experience. Of course this could be argued for any contemporary or historical fiction but here we’re inferring a pervasive or alternate reality experience.

G = solving puzzles or completing challenges is a predominant feature of this experience.

Platforms used

There is space for five icons to communicate which touchpoints are used to tell the story. For example, video, online, locations, audio, phone calls.

Remember that the label is being used to sell the project to a prospective audience. Hence the producer should use icons that communicate the predominant or more appealing part of the experience.

Time required & Duration

Time  tells the audience how much time commitment they must make to complete the experience.

Duration communicates the period over which the experience will unfold.

So, for example, a 90 min movie unfolds over 90 mins so that would be 90 mins/ 90 mins. An ARG might require 5 hours puzzle solving, video watching and blog reading over a 6 week period – so this would be shown as 5 Hours/ 6 Weeks.

Level of difficulty

This tells the audience how familiar they need to be with this type of experience. For example, reading a book or watching a movie would be “easy” whereas solving a complex puzzle with online collaborators from around the world might be “difficult” or maybe even “killer” – depending on the producer’s marketing angle.


Here are some examples that illustrate the label in use.

Lowlifes is a crime thriller that unfolded over a month and takes about 2hrs simple effort to read the book, watch the videos and read the online blog. The story is on rails but is firmly rooted in the location and history of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.

The Jejune Institute is a location-based game that takes the audience about a hour of solving puzzles and walking around San Francisco.

No Mimes Media LLC’s 10 minute Mime Academy game is a introduction to alternative reality games that has the audience following clues. Note that making and receiving a telephone call is a cool feature of this experience.

Lance’s Pandemic 1.0 took place over Sundance 2011 (10 days) and I’m guessing took about 2 hours to experience. Although there’s a lot for the audience to do in terms of finding hidden objects and matching story segments together, I’ve not scored the experience with a “P” for “participation” because the authorial aspect is very strong (character tweets, videos, objects) and the challenges (G) are a predominant factor.

Next Steps

It’s up to all interested parties to talk about the need or otherwise for such labeling, work through any problems and improvements and then to start implementing it.