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.

Jul 022011

I presented at the end of the inaugural GameTech conference last week before a panel looking beyond console, revenue streams & individual game formats and looking at games breaking out into real space and becoming 24/7 – my talk was entitled

“Pervasive Entertainment – Games, Film, Physical, Print & TV merged with social networks”.

“Pervasive entertainment – entertainment that is all around you, 24 hours a day, persistent – probably location based – possibly merged with real world – driven by devices that are mobile, always on & location aware?” G Hayes

It was great to see industry heads gathered at the beginning of the conference such as this State of Industry panel twitpic I took featuring the Australasian heads of Ubisoft, EAGames, Sony and Microsoft.

Panel photolp, Ubisoft, EAGames, Sony, Microsoft heads at Gam... on Twitpic

As well as a government endorsement introduction from Brendan O’Connor, the Australian Minister for Home Affairs & Digital Culture who talked briefly about games as portable, ubiquitous & networked – yay!  He also talked about the R rating for Australia on the way which is a big relief for games distributors!

But my talk later was a broad brushstrokes whirlwind tour at the exiting period we are entering where the promise of ‘technology based’ pervasive entertainment for the last decade or two is getting very close. Another perfect storm as locative play intersperses with augmented reality, where socially produced media becomes embedded into real time broadcast networks and where game is truly dispersed across multiple platforms.

Here is the basic structure of the prez:

  1. What is Pervasive Entertainment / Gaming
  2. What is Multi Platform / Transmedia in a Gaming Context
  3. Games spilling into the real world Evolution of Experiential AR
  4. Business Models of Pervasive AR Entertainment
  5. Futures and Takeaways

The presentation is embedded below but before I launched into the definitions & case studies I asked the game industry audience –

“Who is the games industry? As all aspects of our lives become ‘gamified’ such as shopping, travel, social life, locations & TV/Film, has the games industry lost the initiative by allowing marketeers, AR & transmedia companies, ad agencies, film & TV producers to create & monetize these new pervasive forms of entertainment?” Gary Hayes – GameTech 2011 Sydney

It was too late in the conference for this to be tackled or even mean anything to those locked into AAA console title production line or part of an incumbent traditional media machine. Earlier in the conference there was a sense that if the game is not commoditized (delivered in a nice box on the shelf of the local games store) then it is outside the industry boundaries and therefore let those companies involved in more distributed, transmedia games fight over the scraps. Full slide show follows

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 Posted by on August 31, 2010 at 2:58 pm  Add comments

Welcome to my simple multi-platform, mostly commercial, transmedia ‘project’ assignment machine. As I coded this in a couple of hours there are only two sections currently:

  1. TV Extension – create/present a transmedia service, extending the given TV story and meeting the two objectives. Focus on the main objective with the major elements of your cross platform, TV extension and have at least 2 other elements refer to the secondary objective. Use the design chart below to decide on how to expand the story world. Note: currently these are Australian shows, but given 80% of Australian TV is US  or UK imports, they are broad enough for now – but you must be precise in your extension of the existing story
  2. Transmedia – create an original transmedia service (that doesn’t have a film or TV element!) using the given story world ‘suggestion/trigger’ and the two specific objectives. As in 1 focus on the main objective but with this exercise the key is to really develop something self contained and clearly look at the primary narrative existing on other platforms without the luxury of TV or Film. Also the suggested ‘story worlds’ (books and films) are there as generics and basic ‘story environment’ triggers, so for example if it says ‘Jaws’ any shark or sea predator story is acceptable.

Click the tabs attached left and right of the boxes to generate the random suggestions

Please use this image to help you decide on where aspects of the story are best placed

TranSocialMedia Story Telling Workshop Sheet


 Posted by on July 22, 2009 at 12:49 pm  Add comments

A series of tools Gary has created for hundreds of his workshops and training, designed to help teams generate ideas or quick pitches from assigned stories/genre/intention/business etc: You will need Shockwave and/or Flash players installed into your browser to view these – get it from Adobe here.

Click the links below

SOCIAL MULTI PLATFORM TV BRIEF O’MATIC – “Flash app, designed as a tool to develop your audience/user centric thinking when creating Multi Platform Social properties. It gives you a well known existing story world and requires you to meet two ‘user centric’ objectives (primary and secondary) and also a business model to fulfil”

TRANSMEDIA-BRIEF-O-MATIC FLASH “This randomly chooses (on command) story/TV worlds and two simple ‘objectives’ to take into account in your presentation back. There are two sections TV extension and pure Transmedia.

PITCH-O-MATIC SHOCKWAVEFor students & media professionals to develop their ‘off-the-cuff’ pitch and presentation skills”!

WINDMILLS OF OUR TRANSMEDIA MINDS – FLASH “…that takes you on a journey!  To help exercise those ‘cross media’ muscles or drive you bonkers. It is a work in progress (what isn’t nowadays) and many more ‘user journey’ options will be added

MULTI-PLATFORM MOVIE STORY & BUSINESS INTENTION’ER – FLASH “A well known movie story world, across 5 selectable key genre

GAME GENERATOR  SHOCKWAVE “For teachers and students to come up with the seeds of a new game”!

MASH-UP MACHINESHOCKWAVE “To get you thinking about new online services”

TWEETOMATORSHOCKWAVEFor tweeters who are sometimes lost for things to say”!

FORMAT-O-MATORSHOCKWAVEA ‘Cross Media Format Generator’ that plays on a few key concepts and potential new formats.”

In progress:

USER JOURNEY O’MATIC – will, based on your story fragments/settings create a route through multi platforms

SOCIAL MEDIA BALANCE – requires you to maintain and grow a user based community by carefully clicking at the right times across social media and PR releases!

ALTERNATE REALITY GAME O’MATIC – An extension of the windmills machine above, based on your story world and style of ARG it will give you a suggestive sequence of  ‘story based events’ in sequence

3 pages