» 2014 » May

Improving Transmedia Narratives

robert | May 28, 2014  ‐  No Comments


The purpose of this post is to communicate the importance to transmedia storytelling of a good story, meaningful choices and less effort on the part of the audience.

I  was inspired by this paper “Improving Computer Game Narrative Using Polti Ratios” by Richard Hall and Kirsty Baird to consider how I might create similar equations to evaluate the strength of transmedia experiences. Hall and Baird create three equations for assessing the strength of a narrative game..

Level of Drama(LoD)= P/E
–P = count of all Polti situations / E = events

Variety of Drama(VoD)= U/36
–U = Unique Polti situations / max 36 available

Involvement in Drama(IiD)= U/(M+5*C)
–U = Unique Polit situations /
–M = main characters
–C = minor characters

Here’s my version for transmedia which works towards a formula for “engagement” (for want of a better word) by looking at the author’s considerations when creating an experience – such as number of characters, channels of communication, touchpoints on and offline, impact of audience choices on the narrative and strength of the narrative.

Confusion Factor (Cf) = (M+C) * Ac

–Characters x Accounts
–Accounts = number of ways to contact the characters
–Goal: keep this number low (1 character x 1 account = 1 = best chance of no confusion)

Immersion(I) = P/Cf

–Count of Polti units/Confusion factor
–“Immersion” = likelihood of audience getting hooked (immersed). Assumption is that a stronger story makes for better immersion in the world. Note that confusion weakens the immersion
–Goal: Higher the better

Agency* = (Consequences/Choices)

–Consequence = (knowledge to make decision x impact of decision) x story turning points. Consequences for character ought to be consequences for audience too and vice versa. Turning point means story takes a different direction or moves towards a different final outcome
–Knowledge & impact are in range 0 to 1 where 0 = no knowledge and no impact and 1 = full knowledge and greatest impact
–Goal: Higher is better

Engagement (E) = I * A / (T1 + 5*T2)

–T1=Online touchpoints
–T2=Offline touchpoints. Note that the 5 multiplying factor is somewhat arbitrary but implies real world activities require more effort and therefore ought to pack a great reward for the audience
–(Immersion * Agency)/(Online touchpoints + 5*Offline touchpoints)
–Goal: Higher the better
Something for further inclusion and discussion is the role of time. For example, is it better for the experience to run faster than it is slower? I think this might be true. And if it is, then experiences that need to last longer need a stronger story.

*For discussion of Agency I recommend reading this paper: “Commitment to Meaning: A Reframing of Agency in Games” by Karen & Joshua Tanenbaum

Transmedia Storytelling and the Quantified Self

robert | May 16, 2014  ‐  No Comments

The presentation below is a must read for any transmedia storyteller because it highlights the opportunities for so many new ways to tell stories as experiences. Mobile isn’t just a communications device, it’s a portal between fact and fiction. We can use data from the mobile as triggers for new storytelling opportunities.

The Quantified Self is a movement concerned with tracking everything about a person’s daily activity – the places they go, the people they meet, the energy they burn getting there and so on. All that data can be used to control the mood of fictional characters, to control a fictional weather system, to build online “vitality” that can be burned in online gaming, as cues as to when to release new content….

With wearable computing technology, we can use social activity on Facebook or Twitter to vibrate our clothing or change the lights in our home. Why would we want to do that? To create ever more immersive experiences that imagine the confined console game world exploded and played out in real world spaces.

This presentation from JWT is a great round-up of what’s happening in mobile and really inspires lots of ideas!

Narrative Theory of Games

robert | May 1, 2014  ‐  3 Comments

I recently had the great honor of meeting Espen Aarseth at a transmedia conference in Granada, Spain and have since been reading and digesting his work.

This week at our Interactive Narratives meetup in London I presented his paper Narrative Theory of Games.

As expected, Espen’s model generated a great amount of conversation and reflection. One aspect of the 4-dimensional model (World, Objects, Agents and Events) that we debated a lot was whether Agents – which we discussed exclusively to be Characters – should be shown on the same dimensions as the others. It seemed to us that the top and bottom of the model is really the degree of agency that a player has – more if a game, less if a story. Yet the depth of the characters (Agents) doesn’t quite fit that axis – the consensus being that rich characterization needn’t be determined by player agency.

It was felt that relationship building with characters was a key to players having a more story-like experience (“story like” meaning expressing the views/message of the author).

What I find helpful about this model is it allows for a more informed discussion about the scope of work when creating a transmedia experience. Rather than thinking very broadly about where to draw the line between player interaction and authorial communication, this allows a better granularity. Also, in our work we’ve tended to allow players to generate their own content (creatable Objects) but that’s not impacted the narrative (the kernels) whereas some ARGs particularly have used this interaction with more fluid kernels.