Nov 272013

I was invited to present a keynote, of sorts, at the Merging Media 2013 conference – a short and sweet two day conference featuring many great topics and good international speakers with a focus on the business/production side of multi platform but also the more usual esoteric aspects of transmedia and inherent community thinking. My talk was originally going to be a show and tell of all the new opportunities afforded to us by mobile, social & always-on networks, eye-candy with a chunk of futurist ‘my how the world is changing’ – but I decided to turn it more into a ‘what makes a compelling experience’ combined with ‘state of the industry (covered in my previous post)’ combined with a ‘process approach to creating service’,  talk instead – with a little of the navigating the new landscape for good measure. So waaay too much in the time allotted, but at least this article has room to breathe 🙂

I hope I give a flavour of the talk below. I believe Merging Media will be making videos available too – which I won’t be able to watch as I rushed the latter part :(. The first part was actually partly scripted so that made it easier to copy some of that below the slides but there is much much more afterwards with lots of embedded media, I think there is a flow in the post. Obviously the slides only tell a quarter of the story and embedded after the break, but first…

Hello and thanks for inviting me to keynote here in wonderful Vancouver. Being one quarter French Canadian I do feel a little affinity with some of you, and have enjoyed a little time exploring & capturing the environment in the two days prior to this conference. But moving on let me apologise. I have struggled hard to find an innovative new theme, any new jewels of wisdom for you to ponder and apply to your own projects. So much in the transmedia arena has been talked about, theorised and postulated as the journey has only just begun. Perhaps the journey through the presentation itself may throw up some nuggets?. The media and storytelling environment in still in major transition and I and nobody else really knows where we are going, all I can do is prepare myself and others for this change. But first:

An Organic Multiplatform Transmedia Experience?

This is where I live at the moment and where, I believe, I had a compelling multiplatform experience. It was about two weeks ago. It involved personal life and death decisions, it involved loved ones, friends who lost everything, physical exertion, quests and games, feeling part of and working with a community, rich information, lots of information, the authorities, the law, anxiety, stress, stories of loss and heroism and making profound choices.
Nov 152013
Gary scratches his head - photo by Rosemary Keevil

Gary scratches his head – photo by Rosemary Keevil

I was invited to keynote at the 2013 Merging Media conference in Vancouver last week and it was great to meet up with the wandering band of transmedia/multiplatform ‘global gliterati’ that frequent these events. All in all a top notch affair, well attended, mostly on the ball  in terms of topics and refreshing to take in the effervescent youthful passion that abounded from the attendees.

My next post will be detailed coverage some of the themes of my presentation but what follows below is something I sneaked into my talk last minute – partly as a response to some of the previous speakers on day 1 and the ‘challenges’ that still pervade this fledgling industry, still, after all these years.

The ‘digital’ brochure-ware website/mobile-app industry is doing fine and dandy – quaint silos inside traditional broadcasters, studios and ad agencies make ‘broadcast interactive’ stuff that is proven standard fare for large sections of the mostly passive audience –  but where are the truly original and/or mature multi platform transmedia services and how will we get there? I then thought of a series of scales on which to gauge and see if we can really get a sense of the State of Play in ‘whatever’ we will finally agree to call this thing.

I presented this section partly interactively (well the sort of magician like interactivity we all sometimes despise) – I asked the audience to shout out where we think we are on the scale and then I pressed the magic button and the needle floated across ala an interactive worm (in fact of course these were all my already set valuations – but anyway most of the time it was within 1 or 2 points!). I did tell the audience by the way, although they probably sussed it after the 2nd or 3rd one 🙂

So the State of Play of the Multiplatform / Transmedia Industry across 10 scales of measurement


001_Transmedia Multiplatform State of the Industry


Language and Grammar – Tower of Babel or Industry Shared – 3/10 – It is critical everyone is singing off the same song sheet for it to be a mature industry, how else can we create a business on something if it is not a shared terminology? Imagine if for example in film we called the editing stage either the compile, the chop, the edit, the merge, etc: depending on who was producing or which country we were in. Chaos.  But as we know in multi platform circles, we don’t have to look far to see the cracks – not only are the transmedia folk stretched from arty fluffiness at one of the spectrum to hard core marketing at the other but there is still across the industry (& academia) no real agreement on what the ‘T’ word actually means. Then on the ‘serious digital production’ side of the fence, whole swathes of the industry who  do bare bones digital ‘cloning’, nothing new, just pure turning the app/site production handle. Every sector from academia to agency to studio to broadcaster all use different terms. 3 out of 10 suggests we have at least another 10-15 years before we settle down into a shared taxonomy – lets hope it is sooner.

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Jan 022012

Originally published (& cross translated?) Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 5 of 5

Image by Gary Hayes

“Anyone up to battle aliens at the local museum tonight?”

It might sound like a farfetched idea at the moment, but this question may soon be another option rather than the old invitation to go see the latest 3D blockbuster at the Cineplex. The previous four posts talked about major experiential paradigm shifts, where more and more people desire to be ‘inside their entertainment’ —literally. The need to watch a show or read a good book in isolation will never go away, but right now, a new form of immersive entertainment is taking hold that sees users hyper active online and more and more participatory outside of their homes in unique, social story locative experiences. These shifts leads us to confront some basic questions, like, “What is an experience?” and “Are some experiences more engaging than others?” as well as some not-so-basic ones, the all-important, “Who will create all these new experiences?”

Designing any new media format is challenging, especially when the goal is to create highly engaging pervasive entertainment, that is more compelling than what already exists. Since the grammar has not yet been invented, for many, it presents a quantum creative leap. Right now, there is still conflicting opinion about what to call these new types of distributed stories—and let’s not mention the transmedia wars!

One of the greatest challenges for professional storytellers, who are accustomed to traditional linear plots, is to transition into a new platform. Rather than writing straight lines to be delivered from a stationary stage or studio, they are now being pushed to create content for a shifting stage or multiple shifting stages at once— often in different cities or time zones. Given the growing appetite for this type of connected, collaborative, dynamic content, the well-established line between audience and producer is becoming increasingly blurred. Right now it remains to be seen if conventional storytellers will adapt to these new demands, or if they will be outpaced by users themselves. User who are as voracious (and in some cases as adept) in creating content as they are in their insatiable consumption of it.

I was trawling the web the other week looking for a good description of levels of experience and how to design for them. What I discovered, however, is that, much like the missing lexicon, there isn’t a lot of science to this yet either. To fill the gap for now, I created a diagram to explore increasing levels of experience or engagement: It begins at the first level of physicality as the least complex and builds its way up through mental engagement, then social inclusion, and finally the emotional and spiritual levels. These last two being the hardest ones to deliver. Narrative games, like L.A. Noire and the earlier Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophesy, are brave examples of games trying to develop emotional, interactive responses (albeit skipping most of the real social & physical elements).

For audiences in the developed world, 3D and 4/5D cinema is gradually moving into the home and has the potential to make box office visits unnecessary – not worth the added effort. Audiences are starting to expect more value and more payoff for their play time (and trouble): For many, a trip out of the house to be entertained is a transmedia experience in itself. This forces new entertainment providers to seriously take these “audience journeys” into consideration. Likewise, since marketers have begun to tell more interesting stories across places and platforms, traditional writers need to get up to speed on these changes as well. Take for example, a recent holographic product display for Lego. These types of interactive promotional events work to increase the expectations across the board for what is possible in terms of entertainment.

However, film is also slowly catching up. The internationally renowned artists’ group, Blast Theory created a locative cinema project called A Machine to See With, which is a good early evolutionary example. Less about sensory immersion and more about a healthy combination of imagination and locative storytelling, the project allowed viewers to “live” inside a cinematic story unfolding on the streets of Brighton, England. According to the San Jose Biennale last year, the experience mixed documentary material, stolen thriller clichés, and the films of Jean-Luc Godard to let participants walk through the city and receive phone calls, stepping into bit parts or leading roles.

These steps are evidence that now would be a good time for these types of indie projects to start receiving the big-budget attention that clunkers like Phone Booth did. Entertainment is truly moving toward a variation of the infamous Star Trek Holodeck, a complete surround experience that fools our brains into thinking “this is really happening” or “we are really there.” Experiences can either be delivered through layered digital storyworlds, or peppered your everyday life through fragments and bits so that your real world starts to become the storyworld.

Parallel to this transmedia trend, there are complete virtual screen environments of game driven and socially focused spaces known as MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games). These alternate “worlds” are host millions of peoples ‘minds’, melded into the characters they are playing. Many approach a game with the same gravity as a method actor taking on a new role, wholly losing themselves in an alternate reality. The way people interact with these virtual selves is also rapidly changing – making new interface technologies like the Xbox Kinect and iPad/tablets some of the fastest-selling items in history.

These new forms of entertainment will require creators to become writers of place and time, creating relevant and game-like personal experiences. Let’s imagine a simple future? You are at home watching a story experience teaser on your surround 3D head mounted display. You decide to rent it with some friends and project it on your wall-size, AR home cinema screen. It sets up the challenges; you all become the heroes. You all don in-earphones and sporty AR glasses, which have tiny cameras connected to a 6G network that point out and down, tracking the external world, as well as body movements and speech.

You undergo a physical and mental training exercise in your home to prepare for the outdoor challenges. You walk outside and start to explore your city. The open park becomes a fully rendered fantasy environment; urban streets and buildings are layered with story and critical game information. You have X-ray vision; you can see inside coffee shops and stores. Past and future scenes play out before your eyes. You talk to digitally rendered, artificially intelligent characters who respond to specific questions. You work as a team and add your own story challenges. An iBrain scan afterwards let you record your experience for others in 3D.

Welcome to your personal experiential entertainment Holodeck. Of course, you can turn it off at any time and read a good book or watch a film. But that’s so 2011.

Dec 302011

Originally published Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 2 of 5

Image by Gary Hayes

The alarm rings. Get out of bed, have a shower, dress, breakfast, grab your briefcase, and bus ticket and out the door. Now start RUNNING! Zombies are chasing you. Or is it pirates? Or the Mafia? Games and stories have grown legs and Facebook MafiaWars and Playstation console games have jumped into the physical world. Welcome to the most exciting and entertaining commute of your life.

For the first time in technological history portable devices that are able to send and receive game/video media, are now location aware. This means big changes in where we experience our stories. They will be always on. Around the next corner. We will be living inside the story world.

To get a glimpse of future services in the locative, pervasive space we simply need to look at the now and extrapolate.

As kids we all loved playground games: Hide and seek, capture the flag, cowboys and Indians captivated our imaginations and it was an important part of our social development. Today adults use technology to recreate those experiences for real using our own imaginary, place-based Holodecks. Fulfilling some of our adult needs in this space, The Go Game for example advertises itself as “the future of corporate play,” team-building, and self discovery.

Beyond mapping, check-in utility, or GPS functionality, what kinds of story game and locative services will get millions off their behinds and out into the real world? It takes a lot to commit to wandering around, scavenger hunting for morsels of story. How in the future may locative gamesevolve into being mass media? Or are they really just for niche groups?

This is and has moved way out of niche already. Early locative entertainment, such as orienteering and geocaching (user-created capsules hunt) are still played regularly by five million globally. More story-driven, first-generation Alternate Reality Games with locative elements such as Gentrificationor I Love Bees, attracted several million players. LBS, or locative-based services, have radicallyaltered the social gaming landscape already in Asia for hundreds of millions. A recent Pew mobile report noted that more than half of all smartphones are used for social and utility locative services and by 2015 it will be a $21 billion industry.

What makes and will make these so compelling, to so many?


The stories and games contextually fit their surroundings. The origins of this genre have often been based on architecture, audio tours, and urban map layouts, using early wearable computers or earphones. For example, back in 2004 PacManhattan re-created the 1980s game around Central Park’s grid-like streets and had hundreds of players running around collecting virtual dots. The creators wanted to:

“explore what happens when games are removed from their ‘little world’ of tabletops, televisions and computers and placed in the larger ‘real world’ of street corners, and cities.”


This element can put you and your friends at the center of the action. For example, “Spy Am I” a massive multiplayer locative game, lets players be the secret agent,  or live the life of a criminal. There are many story based pervasive game apps being launched on GPS enabled smartphones that let you explore your darker side such as Crime is Life or Crime Plays.

For those who want to make their real world a little bit more terrifying than it already is we have social locative games such as Zombie Apocalypse, where you have to really run, to outrun the attacking man eaters.

Speaking of running, marketers are not far behind in this race with viral examples such as Nike Grid or Mini’s Getaway (“this game has united us, it is so social”) that combined the best formula of story, game, and exercise with lots of social locative strategy.

Our locative experience tools are powerful social organizers. Everything in our future lives will be geo-tagged.


Set in the physical world means the same tools available to storytellers and marketers are available to everybody, including activists. So the recent Occupy Wall Street meet-ups themselves begin to look like locative fiction. Hundreds of thousands of geo-tagged narratives create probably the world’s most connected locative story yet. In a similar story-world, but oddly similar in focus, Tourality and Shadow Cities get you and your friends to battle, find treasure, and lay claim to areas of the city.

Flash mobs are a form of locative storytelling, a sort of organized social Holodeck. The social unification that comes from the best of these choreographed events, beginning with Frozen Grand Central, spread around the world. They become memes copied and extended through global imitation.

The story future of this specialized entertainment format is likely to come from expert traditional cinematic and marketing storytellers. They will be experimenting and extending fictional narratives into geo space. Pandemic 1.0 by Lance Weiler & Seize the Media is an infected world extending plot lines and challenges from cinematic games three years earlier. A present day example of future locative story, this played at the Sundance Film Festival and involved the best aspects of team play, discovery, and clever use of multi-device and place.

The popularity of locative stories and games will be proportional to marketers and writers making it worth our while to ask for our stories-to-go. As the technology matures and location lock-on is instantaneous, it will truly take off. The technology already fits in with our existing out of home routines, particularly when it comes to commenting, working, eating, and entertainment.

But back home, watching a forensic cop show on the TV. At the end, you’re told to go out of the house and help track down the killer on the street, mobile locative device in hand!

What are the security implications of this? In one evening, 200,000 viewers turn into 200,000 private eyes on the streets of London?! Would you take part in these types of services?

But think, at the end of the day, as the sun sets in a dark backstreet in your hometown, your heart starts pounding again. Will you make it back home alive?

Consider yourself, entertained.

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