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.
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.

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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Apr 202011

Not sure what I have been drinking but last two posts are drawing from probably the oldest shared story and one that has been distributed across more media platforms than any other story – I quote from one of the earlier ‘chapters’:

Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Genesis 11:1-9 – via Wikipedia


The world of fragmented media is constantly evolving and finding words to describe this new ecosystem of form will also constantly evolve. If a ‘normal’ person is in the cinema they say they are “watching a film”, in front of the box they are “watching TV”, sat around a Monopoly board “playing a game”, holding printed paper “reading a book” – but what do we ‘they’ call that thing that combines all of these? If these were ‘not’ normal people then a wide range of people asked to comment on a cool ‘????’ service might look like –

Celebrating the Multi-Platform Tower of Babel

As an industry (digital, interactive, multi-platform, transmedia?) we have not provided normal ‘users’ with a term they can use. The other 6 billion people on this planet are not going to call the services that ‘combine’  or utilise the use of media platforms, any of the above names, any time soon – so we need to get back to the drawing board folks.

If this were sport and we had just invented a sport that combined ten of the Olympic Track and Field events what would we call it? What about a sport that mashed together swimming, cycling and running in a sequential narrative, what would that be called? More importantly what would we hope the spectators would call it.


As I have mentioned in many previous posts, even creative ‘new’ story producers working on new channels, new platforms and for new user audiences are struggling to agree on a definitive term. A term that actually makes sense for them and their industry ‘tribe’. There are other problems. New emerging producers struggle with what to call their new ‘role’. Depending on which ‘culture’ you come from you will have a different word for exactly the same thing. This thing being ‘stuff’ made on all these new and old distinct platforms. ‘Stuff’ in this context is not specific and represents a pot pourri of utility services, stories, marketing etc:

But alongside this search for a ‘meaningful’ term, we have impatient wannabees screaming “forget all the semantic waffle and lets get on with making it”. But what are we making? Please explain! ‘carefully designed story elements across multiple platforms’? Is that it? Is it about widgets, services, entertainment, money, art, kool-aid, social change, advertising or all of the above? We are in an exciting emergent period of change, of ‘hybrid’ platform story telling yet settling on a specific term such as ‘transmedia’ or any of the other 10 or so contenders to describe it all is very odd.

But here is the problem in a nutshell.

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