Not the most concise title but I wanted to cover a bit of ground with it. I am leading a week long Multi Platform development residential lab next week in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales with some of the worlds leading mentors and Australia’s top projects – all linked to Screen Australia. This is followed by a one day seminar in Melbourne called ‘Idea to Market’ and top and tailing all of this, I have taken up the Executive Producer ABC Multi Platform TV role. More on each coming up.
As you know last year I founded StoryLabs, a global transmedia IP development network, with 3 other individuals in Canada, US and UK. Then, new format funding body, Screen Australia who were looking for a very practical, production orientated rapid development structure for their Digital Ignition initiative, looked to StoryLabs.
Screen Australia has engaged transmedia collective StoryLabs to direct the first workshop, under the guidance of its key founder Gary Hayes. He is recognised as one of the foremost digital thinkers. An award-winning multi-platform producer, author, educator and director. The founding director of global multi-platform training initiative StoryLabs he has recently become Exec Producer of ABC Multi Platform TV. He was the director of AFTRS’s LAMP program for 5 years, was Senior Interactive Development Producer at the BBC for 8 years, and was a Social TV Producer in the US. Gary has designed and lead multi-platform/transmedia courses internationally and in Australia with AFTRS and Metro Screen. He also runs MUVEDesign (creating story based augmented reality, virtual worlds and transmedia) and the influential media and marketing site PersonalizeMedia.. Gary will be supported by up to eight high-calibre international and domestic experts.
“The Digital Ignition Multi-platform Clinic falls within the suite of support offered through our All Media Program, which seeks to ignite and strengthen digital understanding, expertise and activity within the Australian screen content sector,” said Screen Australia Investment Manager Mike Cowap. “We’re thrilled to be working with Gary and his StoryLabs network to make this as rich and practical a workshop as possible.”
Founder of StoryLabs Gary Hayes said, “We’ll deliver a highly structured program focused on all the important practical topics, including storytelling, user experience, design, technical, business and marketing. We’ll be using case studies and tried and tested exercises to hone participants’ processes, and ensure they leave with a tangible ‘bible’ and clear list of next steps for their project to get it off the ground.”
“We live in extraordinary times and the last five years particularly, a renaissance of storytelling. We are, as we were pre-printing press days when we equally shared, enhanced and distributed the fragments of our engaging stories. Today’s technology has delivered a new spirit of connectivity, a democratisation of story given back to the ‘many’. Storytelling not at walking speed but the speed of light. You equipped to deal with this?”
OK enough opening fluff and straight to the point. I was having a chat yesterday with a colleague at Screen Australia trying to answer a simple question. Cue music…
If you have a story project, that’s a little bit ‘strange’, who ya gonna call?
Not Fearing to Tread - Photo cc GHayes
(Strange = new format, transmedia, innovative, social, game-like, fragmented.) If you have a film and TV project and you need assistance to develop the script, help with the production, work through the characterisations, get advice on Red or 3D etc: there are a zillion consultants, vocational educational courses and many willing wannabe advisors to draw on. Film, Radio & TV particularly have 100+ years of maturity so it is also pretty easy to incrementally innovate, floating in watertight boats on tried and tested waters. Sadly the options for story rich projects that fall outside the straight and narrow linear path, have a more difficult time.
To be professionally guided or get the skills to create new storytelling formats you can
Get in touch with professional agencies already doing this stuff. But they are often rather busy making ends meet and engrossed in ‘transmedia’ marketing big budget or existing story brands to really give you the time and advice you need.
Find a traditional academic ‘digital story – type’ course (marketed as a world first) in your local area. Spend 6 months or longer working with ‘we need to do this stuff’ academics and theorists or at best, passionate aggregators of the best ‘new story’ project trailers masquerading as educational case studies. Also these course tend to be trials and under resourced – erm not the views of me with lecturer hat on, local employers
Find a local specialist individual who ‘seems’ to know about this new space – very few good experienced, passionate folk about and also a bit hit and miss.
Seek out a handful of seminars, short workshops or networking events around the world. There are actually very few and they are often of the evangelising vs really getting down to nitty gritty ‘storytelling’ processes.
So here we are, a great dawning of transmedia storytelling, innovative new services and products yet still no true, deep development initiatives? Academia and industry either too money-busy, unable to take risk or focused on the past to really fill in this void?
With my Director of the Australian Laboratory for Advanced Media Production hat on I often front our workshops and seminars with a kind of ‘trawl’ across the area being presented by specialist speakers. This means a rather high level view of services, key examples and robust case studies that provide a foundation for the other speakers and also a taxonomy, a shared language, for any later workshop elements. There have been two in the last two weeks on TV 2.0 and Documentary 2.0: Serious Games and I have just put my slides up on slideshare – embedded below. The two below are an interesting pair.
I believe that these two areas of transition clearly indicate the major shifts taking place at the moment, already predicated as you see in the Marshall McLuhan clip. The first in this post is the TV form which is now being developed and evolved by global online communities deciding on the more social, tribal (niche) and participatory video format over the regimented, formulaic, commercially focused TV we have seen unchanged on prime time in the past 30 years. The second presentation below is on Serious Games or Documentary 2.0, the nature of learning about real world issues, the evolution from passive through to play. Rather than being force fed a series of edited perspectives in traditional documentary TV style, now we immerse ourselves in the dilemma, the scenarios and understand them by (as I point out in the presentation reference to Edgar Dales Cone from 1946) Direct Purposeful Experience. First though…
Television 2.0 – The Latest Innovations in Online Video The first seminar was looking at the future of online video from a TV 2.0, participatory and socialized TV perspective. Again the issue here was a definition of TV followed by some kind of structure on which to talk about the many and various incarnations of ‘the form’ as it starts to spill out across online communities and portals.
What is TV?
The device or screen?
The distribution channel?
The form, types of programmes?
What is that form? “Popularist, often live, linear video or something far more social & interactive?”
Breaking the hundreds of examples of TV moving from broadcast to shared, socialized and participatory into meaningful categories was a problem so I stuck to three simple ones:
Many-to-many & 2 way
Participatory TV shared video content. Democratized, disintermediated, de-attached
Measurability – New Monetization models – value add & innovative services around the video content e.g.: personalization
Before my embedded slideshow (which includes ‘comic-style bubble’ commentary done quickly after the event!) I embed a short clip (which I showed from around 3:38 onwards) featuring a real futurist Marshall McLuhan whose now ancient words provided some sobering perspective to my talk about the disintermediation of TV and other media forms. We all talk long and hard about the new social paradigms but 50 years ago this was already clearly in the zeitgeist – albeit referring to rather scarce distribution channels but highly portentious of where we are close to being now (thinks ‘twitter’ as the drumming
and for those who think the decline of print is a 2000’s thing here is some of the latter part of the interview (remember from 49 years ago!) that I didn’t have time to show –
Interviewer “Look lets back up a bit Marshall. If more books are being used, more being sold, the libraries are crowded they are busy, how can it be said, aside from what ever else is happening, we are moving out of a print culture?
McLuhan “As John said books are still very important but their role is changing. The nature of their importance is changing. Remember that books were our first teaching machine and during the Renaissance our only teaching machine. Books are what gave the renaissance its peculiar stance. We had to see the world and others through the printed line on the page but today there are many media of information, many teaching machines.”
Interviewer “By teaching machines I presume you are not only referring to those found in the classroom?”
McLuhan “No, we learn everywhere. The books role has diminished. Because of all the other actors it’s no longer King but subject…Notice the shift in the image. From the assembly line stretched out, events taking place one at a time to the modern automated complex where things happen all at once. Bang. Not a line but a field. This applies not only to products but to people. The line, the individual, the event was the book. The field, the all-at-once, the tribal drum – the new medium”
My introduction to the wonderful world of Serious Games wasn’t without its challenges. Firstly the deeper you look into the area the more you discover a veritable black hole of titles. Literally thousands of console, 2D web based, 3D MMOGs, CD ROMs, locative play, connected DVD’s, Social network widgets, educational virtual worlds – endless places that serious play or games exist or have existed. But as well as the quantity problem we have the issue of how to classify them, break them down into meaningful ‘chunks’ so we can understand them. Finally there is the problem of definition – what exactly is a serious game? So before the embedded slideshow – I pulled out a little definition I came up with and more importantly a taxonomy which we used in the workshop.
Generic definitions from others
Games that are NOT entertainment ?
Games that are simulations ?
Games that are: infotainment, edutainment, advergames, therapeutic, propaganda…?
Games that are used by education, training, health, public policy, defense, and strategic communication ?
Goal orientated ‘play’, often in real world scenarios, intended to ‘improve’ the player/s knowledge, awareness or skills
OK my definition could feasibly include ‘entertainment’ titles but it does raise the question, is a game such as GTA4 or Mirror’s Edge or Assassins Creed actually providing real world training? I would say to a large extent yes – so the field is even broader. So the taxonomy I developed is focused on the intention of the game. What did the creators ‘intend’ the game to achieve, what result would be achieved for the player/s. I developed this list and naturally found a few games overlapped across some of the areas but surprisingly a lot less than broad definitions such as ‘edutainment’! Here is the list (followed by the actual slideshow with examples of each area):
Gary’s Top Ten – Serious Game TaxonomyYOUR INTENTION WITH YOUR GAME IS TO:
Dying? More in the middle of this post – Thought I would share my lil’ introduction slides from ad:tech 2009 earlier this week. It is such a short time (each panel is given 50 minutes) to cover such a vast area and myself, Jeff (habbo.com.au) and Mitch (SmallWorlds.com) were all struggling to impart tons of great info/examples and have enough time to get interactive. I hogged the first 15 minutes by giving a broad overview and some examples I have been involved in that fitted the brief of the talk.
Below are my slides,Â a little descriptive text below that and at the bottom of this post some deeper insight into SmallWorlds (given most of my readers probably know Habbo already? – If not, Why Not!? ). I included one slide from Jeff Brookes set looking at Hitwise’s stats on browser worlds and other sites in terms of session length which will raise a few eyebrows!
Virtual Worlds & Business: What’s The ROI?
Virtual worlds are maturing at a rapid rate and brands are realising there are valuable business opportunities within them. Whether the objective is engagement, research or brand presence, virtual worlds are proving to be a legitimate marketing channel. In this session our panel will look to provide insights into the business benefits of working within a virtual world.
Gary Hayes, Director, Laboratory for Advanced Media Production, AFTRS & CEO MUVEDesign (Australia’s leading SL developer!)
Jeff Brookes, Regional Director – Asia Pacific, Sulake Corporation (habbo.com.au)
There were several important messages in my introduction. Firstly making sure we all understand the different platforms social virtual worlds are operating on so I briefly described
Layered or Parallel worlds – cute 2D type avatars that move over the top of 2D web
Browser Worlds – walled garden that run inside web browsers, often as isometric views as flash or shockwave
Client Worlds – anything from 20MB to 3GB downloads of data and the world is obviously much richer than browser worlds but do need higher spec computers
Console Worlds – a relatively new kid on the block, social spaces that exist on games consoles. All the rendering grunt is there and the avatars are often linked to the PS3, Wii or XBox360 real life account. PS3 Home is the easiest way to match to worlds like Habbo or There.com
Note there are hybrids of the above andÂ I would put ExitReality down as a hybrid of 1 and 3 as it turns a web page into a client style world
Here are the images of the above part of the presentation
I decided that a good ‘spine’ to hang the introduction on was the sort of negative questions floating around from those who don’t really understand what’s happening with web 3.0, the live virtual world space. This includes the paranoid printed press, a few out-of-touch businesses, and digital media companies/consultants more interested in iPhone/mobile games or Facebook widgets which is something they can truly explain (read: make money off).
Press hyperbole or myths?
Virtual Worlds are on the decline?
Thereâ€™s no one in them?
& people donâ€™t spend long there?
They are for kids or social â€˜gamesâ€™ not business?
There are no marketing models?
But I then addressed each question in turn showing real world stats and examples which turned all of these on their heads. Obviously in recession investment in new tech/services are going to be hit and recent reports do suggest a minor consolidation of investment into kids worlds, hinting at a lowering of VC in the ones I highlighted in my presentation, but this whole area is still something education & business are advised to R&D and understand fully – as a minimum. As we know it will be new ways of doing business, more immersive and efficient ways to collaborate and alternate forms of entertainment that will be partly what will bring us out of recession. Some reports even say that investment is high regardless (hat tip Mitch)
If there is an economic crisis, then it isnâ€™t impacting any of the startups making virtual goods, online games or virtual worlds. In just the last month alone, three companies have raised mega-millions from venture capitalists.
Greystripe, a games-related advertising network, raised another $5.5 million in funding, bringing its total to $15.6 million. We have covered them in the past.
SuperSecret, a San Francisco-based online social gaming company, raised $10 million in Series A funding led by Opus Capital. They are targeting the tween market and hoping kids graduate from Club Penguin or Webkinz to their offering.
Offerpal, a startup that links virtual currency to real-world marketing deals, raised a whopping $15 million in funding late last month from D.E. Shaw Ventures and others.
The investor interest in these startups mirrors the growing popularity of social games and virtual worlds, especially among younger web users.
I finished the talk with a quick overview of the main models that virtual worlds (and most online games) can be monetized. Items 1, 3 and 4 were picked up in a talk on the 2nd day of ad:tech looking at how Nike engaged with console ingame campaign experts Massive across a few platforms.
Promotions & Sponsored events
Virtual Goods & Product Placement
Dynamic InWorld Advertising
AdverWorlds & AdverGames
After my talk some great examples from Jeff Brookes from Habbo followed by Mitch from Smallworlds. I am always fascinated by the methods Habbo engages with its loyal and large community and was equally fascinated by Small worlds thinking too and how they are ‘integrating’ themselves with the existing 2D social networked web. This video by the infamous Robert Scoble features Mitch Olsen and Ted of SmallWorlds
They talk about the main traditional world features but then go onto the interesting areas of embeddable worlds (the Google Lively Killer app – not exploited), API integration with almost anything (twitter feeds, YouTube vids, FB updates on walls anyone) and the most interesting ‘missions’. You are encouraged to explore, meet folk, shop and basically get involved – Mitch says this is like the LinkedIn profile thinking, until your profile is 100% filled in you feel like you are missing out. I likened it much more like World of Warcraft, set players tasks, set them group tasks, give them rewards. This to me could be SmallWorlds real killer applet. At the moment they have around 400 000 users and that looks set to take off in the next months.
One important thing which was missed is that they didnâ€™t have time to talk about all the cool micropayment features (which Ted alludes near the end) such as Gambit, OfferPal and Zong. Gambit and OfferPal are both services which allow users to earn SmallWorlds currency by completing tasks. These tasks include things such as answering surveys and give amounts of currency proportional to the amount of effort put in. This is a great way for players (who may not have a credit card) to still be able to earn a premium SmallWorlds experience. Zong is a simple cell phone payment service, where by users can pay for a premium SmallWorlds experience using their mobile phone. For an excellent look at how we have integrated Zong into SmallWorlds, check out this YouTube video created by the developers at Zong: