Jun 132006

© Gary Hayes 2006Give people very simple and highly social tools for producing and creatively sharing content and truly inventive things will happen. In a growing ‘easy to publish’ movement the current user generated, digital personalized content explosion will continue indefinitely – the creative big bang. A digital stills or video camera and a computer in the right hands has already demonstrated wonderful things can happen. Give anyone a pen and paper and a thousand works can be produced, books, comics, sketches, screenplays, personal letters, song lyrics and so on. Give them a simple way (blogger, wordpress etc) to publish their thoughts, opinions and journals onto the interweb and we end up with 44 million blogs and rising. Give them a place like Flickr to store, tag and share their digital photos and as well as a billion images, covering the state of the planet, we also find something the creators never thought of or intended – endless mashups, games and interconnections between users content. In fact the simpler the tool set, the more people can play with it, create their own rules and more importantly extend the environment. Most so-called interactive services or console games suffer from the been-there-done-that moment when the ‘story world’ is exhausted as I mentioned a couple of posts ago. Even some of the RPG online games suffer from this in that you have rule sets, repetition and actions you ‘have’ to perform to continue or rise up the ranks, whatever is your preference – this constraint hinders creative production. So what do you do when you get given a completely new world where the narrative and rules are unlimited?

To answer that question here are some of my current, initial thoughts on being creative inside Second Life. A few have referred to this world now as the future of the internet – in that the 2D website will be replaced by a 3D space not disimilar to what is evolving here. That may well be true, in which case all the creativity we see on the web at the moment will morph into a cluster of shared 3D spaces. I will look in a moment though at photography, filming, creating games and original art inside SL but first what are the majority of the now quarter of a million residents up to? Most have unsurprisingly brought key elements of the real world with them – the three way street of money, socialising and sex. I differentiate the last two because there are only around 10-20 thousand involved in virtual sex – according to the purveyors of the various bits of ‘equipment’ you need to buy. I do feel most though use the world as a place to meet their peers or just as a ‘cute’ way to communicate (an alternative IM or chat room – see Tony’s comments a few posts ago). Of course there are those who are only after making a buck or two, selling clothes, gadgets, buildings and anything else that can be bought on the ‘outside’. For many, judging by the endless malls and classifieds, it is a place to hang and watch the tens of dollars trickle in, for a few it is a real income which means they really have given up the day job. Hats off to them, but not original.

I think many in the world also use Second Life as a means to live the life they never will be able to – the nice house, alternate (sometimes deviant) lifestyle and all the trappings in a nice, like-minded neighbourhood. But what else apart from money, socialising and sex? Is there anything really unique being created rather than cute representations of the real world – sure there are wonderful themed gardens and coastal scenes – but like the scene in the film Contact where Jodie Foster was told (I paraphrase) – “we did it this way so as not to scare you” when referring to how a higher race may communicate with us, by taking us to a familiar, pleasant environment. But what about the unqiue and higher art forms, photography, film, games, sculpture, art, literature, mash-ups and music? I talk about the first four here from a ‘producing-it’ perspective but will get to the last four in a future post.

I have been dabbling, like a few others, with ‘finer art’ photography, filming (machinima) and attending a few lectures. I have also been playing with scripting music and ai type 3D graphics motion but early days yet. I have seen some very nice original art pieces that are enabled by the very basic 3D tools you get as standard but only a handful of people are creating the truly original works. But what about photography? Well it is relatively straightforward to screen capture the world in second life, a what- you-see-is-what-you-get digital photography equivalent. But to produce anything of a higher standard, like real photography, you need to spend time. Not as much as filming of course, but devote time and effort. I have done a few trial shoots (images scattered in this post – Anya above) and found that all the same rules apply as to a real shoot – I have done quite a few professional real life photo shoots on and off over the years. You have to find willing subjects who take direction, you need good clothes, you need to use special lighting and find great locations with suitable environmental elements. Then there are the unlimited poses for the avatars (yes it is sometimes easy to forget when you are in the middle of shoot that these are just 3D graphic models). Then there are the endless expressions and props you have to manage.

©Gary Hayes 2006Finally your photographic sensibility and aesthetic have to be utilised. Composition is critical in a world of unlimited depth of field – the angle of view, elements in the scene and overall colour ranges. These things apply to filming but then you have consider many more things such as animation, moving camera and filmic narrative which complicates things even further – more later. Photography is a very social thing in this world as to achieve good results the communication between avatars (and their puppet masters) is crucial. Just using chat or IM slows things down, one where you are in control of the subject is obviously better but most social, would be to use voice or skype during the session. The key point I am trying to make here is that to produce anything of aesthetic value you need to put in the hours – like the real world it requires dedication. The real world of CG animation likewise requires true dedication shuffling those millions of pixels around, you have full control, but also unlimited variables and possibility – an major effort in filtering and selection.

©Gary Hayes 2006This leads onto making machinima in Second Life – but which applies to any games engine filming. Firstly the story. OK this goes without saying but many machinima narratives have often been constrained or certainly curtailed due to the limitations of the medium. The best stories are the ones that play to the strengths of this medium and like my earlier post on ARGs in Second Life, use narratives that are rooted in the environment. There is a group in second life called alt-zoom that are pioneering filmmaking in this environment and a few friends are also pushing the envelope. Kronos (aka David) is, like me, learning the tricks of the tools and I will do a post later about the more craft/tech side of lighting, frame rates, colour balance, capture settings etc:. The technical side of capturing the real time ‘play’ is relatively straightforward as is the set building (which is a breeze and pleasure here). What is not so easy is the cinematography and the quality of the character animation and facial expression. Using a locked off or auto tracking camera is not so bad but to try and create scripted camera motion takes a serious amount of time especially when trying to achieve synchronicity with the actors – I will call avatars, actors from now on.

©GAry Hayes 2006There are limited sets of animations for the actors and the facial expressions have a long way to go (many are garish) so for now I tend to favour a more subtle approach and use head motion rather than theatrical, comedic standard actions. You can of course create your own poses and anims in tools like poser and import them and that is the only way for bespoke filmmaking in this environment. I am also trying to pioneer live filming in second life. Using a games controller it is feasible (still working on it) to have full 360 degree control over the positioning of the camera in real time, making slow crane shots or unique tracking shots much easier. This then makes the whole process more realistic, especially if your actors are improvising and are in control in real time of each of their animation suite. In fact this really gives second life an advantage over CG produced or games console based machinima in that the whole process starts to match a real shoot. I have included a couple of stills from a test shoot I have just done on this page also. A final ambitious goal for me at least is to try to do a multi camera shoot of the real time scenes – in otherwords you could have ten or more people logged in with three doing a real time three camera shoot while the other seven take the directorial, set design and acting roles. Check posts for updates on this.

As a slight tangent and following on from my earlier post on ARG’s in the world it was interesting pick up on a range of intitiatives set-up by Linden Labs (the world creators) to try to stimulate more, social games in the environment. The SecondCast podcast crew talked about a few on a recent episode called “To the Zoo”. It was no surprise that they also agreed that the less technology in the game, and the more that it involves social interplay and uses the worlds grammar, the more compelling it was. So they reviewed the in-game, games The Collective, SLictionary, Tech Warfare, Boogie Board, Danger Zone, Dark Life, Castle Wars and Blocks SL. The Collective went someway to using the world for the core of its game play narrative in that it required you to ‘experience’ as much as possible to accrue points towards a final play-off – so just saying hi to new people or going to new places was enough to take part in the game and it encouraged more than what most people do in the world. The one that garnered most social interplay was SLictionary. Yes more or less Pictionary, but in SL you a required to build (using tools that most experienced SL’ers are familiar with) objects and everyone has to guess what it is. Sounds simple and yes it was, but most time was spent on it. OK not quite an ARG but I will be playing it soon as it sounded like great fun. In the almost ARG domain there was also Mata Hari that has been covered by Anya, which really was a word puzzle game wrapped in a thinly veiled historial narrative. Not really an ARG, which should really be rooted in the story world of the one you are in and have a much deeper narrative structure, but by all accounts got people interested in more of the same. There are a few more on-going that I will post about later.

Finally onto true originality. There seems to be a lack of uniqueness in second life at the moment. I suppose the time it takes to become fluent in the environment means that only a diehard few will have the time to invent new things. Sure some new fashions have appeared but what does this environment provide us as raw materials to make the unique. Well a few are playing with the fact that in a world of ‘suppressed gravity’ and extended physics, where particle and layers animation is relatively straightforward combined with simple scripting, texturing and easily distorted primitive shapes – quite a few unique things are possible. Anya (again) introduced me to (aka) Clames Clanger (a professional music producer and filmmaker) who has his own special island where he creates unique, out of this world, but no so out of that world, pieces. They are all moving in very fluid ways and few reminded me forcibly of, getting back to the film I mentioned earlier, the transporter from Contact. All are truly innovative and pushing the imaginative envelope of a bio-mechanical future but retaining a naturalistic purity. Then there are his ‘nature’ pieces that exhibit a level of artificial intelligence many using particle physics. All great fun, profound and firmly rooted in what SL should be about.

Clames shows how the tools in the right hands can produce something special, sublime and unique. There are a handful of others ‘playing’ in this space so I am excited to see what evolves. It is was also great meeting up with him as he demonstrated something I had spent a few days creating from my real world panoramic photos, surround cycloramas for the film I am doing. So it was wonderful for Clames to show that SL has its own holodeck (thanks to Nightspy). Yes a box that contains a range of computer controlled, full surround imagery exactly meeting my needs – complete with Star Trek speech commands. More on that experience and how we work with it in a later post.

The speed at which information moves here really promotes creative thinking. The next thing is to move some real world media management thinking inside to provide a strong foundation and to allow the creatives to flourish.

To summarise then. In an immersive enviroment with a unique but simple set of tools anything is possible. I suspect the majority of the potentially one million by the end of the year (if the growth statistics hold up) will be doing what they always have done. A few though will pioneer, do what is impossible in the real world and create totally unique user generated content. It goes without saying that the late 2003 policy of Linden Labs on advice from the forward thinking Lawrence Lessig and his in-world talks helped a great deal in promoting creative thinking here – remove the barriers to unlimited innovation, these include a sense of ownership of the work but with that needs to be very accessible and easy to use tools, and SL has some of the best.

Post and photography by Gary Hayes ©2006

Jun 022006

…and the never changing human.

Senor Hontar: “We must work in the world. The world is thus.”
Father Altamirano: “No Senor Hontar…thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it”
Final lines of the film ‘The Mission’

There have been several events this week that have focused my attention on the nature of immersion. Within AFTRS and LAMP I have been giving presentations to traditional storytellers and filmmakers about cross-media alternatives to the linear ‘tale’. I have also been preparing to chair the Mobile Content World Australasia next week while today I saw a great presentation from Philip Brophy on “Sexual Robots and Plastic Humans in Anime” – and I have been getting further into the rabbit holes of Second Life (SL) and World of Warcraft (WoW). Now this combination of things has drawn me into trying to answer the age old question of “What defines an immersive service”, why do some experiences keep people hooked until the wee hours, why is TV, particularly getting a bad rap, why films in cinema have a level of ‘temporal’ engagement and why games (especially Mass Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games MMORPGs) keep you entranced. This post may turn into the usual stream of conciousness – but hey thats the wonderful world of blogs. Lets look at some stats before I go any further.

There is a great post from the Daedalus Project in January that has some startling statistics from a sample of 2000 people using mass social network services (and role playing games specifically) and who ‘used’ to watch TV. To sum up, across the board they spend more than 3 times in connected games environments than they do watching TV.

Looking at the chart above (linked from the Daedalus site) we can see across a wide demographic that TV is becoming a ‘nice to have’. Here is an excerpt off the post:

MMORPG gamers spend on average 21.0 hours per week playing the game, and spend on average 7.7 hours per week watching TV. The national average for TV watching per week is around 28 – In other words time that was spent watching TV has been displaced by MMORPG playing. Of interest is the spike in play-time among female players over the age of 35.

Research from many other areas also show that TV is becoming more and more an ambient media type. That radio and now TV are things to have on in the background while you do more engaging things. Here are a three comments from this post again that illustrate this…

I can absolutely confirm your findings. I watch almost no TV anymore since I started playing MMORPGs. TV is pretty much a solo activity, while (at least for me) playing a MMORPG has a large social aspect.

I have the TV on while I play the game. Just as backround noise, otherwise I go nuts. I included time the TV was on as ‘watching TV’ when I took the survey… because I do, rather. I just don’t pay as much attention to it as I usually do… and, it could easilly be replaced with a few good music albums. :shrug:

I’ve noticed a trend with my online friends and myself. We’ve moved a tv into the computer room. Most of the people I play with are male between the ages of 18-40 but still tend to watch ‘cartoon’ or ‘anime’ while playing. We also use voice over ip while playing and comment on the shows while playing.

That last comment about anime leads nicely onto the talk today but first it also shows how TV has become only a small part of a simultaneous mix of media and also against the more immersive media has been relegated to “background noise”, something you put on to fill in the gaps, or perhaps surprise (see later). Why is this? I believe it is the formulaic and mature nature of TV. There is very little truly original or out of the ordinary. TV has become stuck in the thing that once elevated it – the schedule. With a constant cycle of news, ads, reality, soaps, quizzes, murder mystery, etc etc: there is nothing new for younger audiences who are making their own drama on other platforms. Now people make their minds up in 0.2 seconds about a website and what it represents, the same way that young people scan across thousands of TV channels – making their minds up quickly about ‘what it is about’, they are simply speed reading formulaic production. Even broadcast interactive TV (something I was part responsible for creating) is a thin veneer of interactivity that occassionally engaged but only for the small windows of time it was on. Now of course scheduled TV is being diced and sliced and made available in bite size proportions on on-demand mobile and broadband platforms. Anyway back to experiences on the rise and more about immersion from an escapist viewpoint.

This has no alt to stop low life traffic!Philip Brophy came into AFTRS today and presented an interesting talk called “Sexual Robots and Plastic Humans in Anime”. I am not going to talk in detail about this but highlight a couple of things. He talked about some of the real cultural differences between the country that creates most of the games in the world, Japan, and those who consume it, the West. Something that resonated with me was that the Japanese psyche is all about cosmological connection, that everything is inter-linked and the fantasy that can spring from that leads naturally to forms such as Anime and a game producing culture. Whereas in the spiritually ‘vacuous’ West the perspective on these games are about monetization, escapism and losing the spiritual subtlety inherent in them.

I asked him why the Japanese are less into MMORPGs then, than other parts of the world and he replied that there is a strong belief that the relationship with avatorial representation (online or not) is as relevant in the physical space (they dress up as anime type characters) as it is in the virtual space – in fact if they want to personally represent characters they prefer the physical space. Identity is amorphous in Japan, a tree, cat, plant, human are all relevant and interchangeable – very fantasy RPG. The Western (mostly US) attitude to MMORPGs in that it is often about creating, playing in and generating a new world, a frontier, a land grab with associated, rampant capitalism. That is certainly true of Second Life which at times feels like the Wild West – perhaps a replacement for the real world that is oh so over populated and where Western culture can live out its dreams – for a fee. The key point about immersion here is that the Japanese have an existing ‘storyworld’, deep connection or grammar that permeates the anime form and is passed from film to film, game to game. The games they create naturally continue this narrative continuum and these experiences are enticing to western audiences who are after spiritual fulfillment as much as game play.

US flag in SL As an example of how the ‘west’ tends to corrupt what are potentially wonderful sandboxes of how we may evolve as a species (who knows one day on other bits of rock in space;) here are a couple of very recent experiences in Second Life (see previous posts on ARGs and Personalization in SL) – and the associated ‘agency’ or engagement that goes with it. The first is nationalism and bringing the old world into the new. One of my houses is on a hill. Someone, ‘presumably’ from the US, has bought some land next to it and immediately erected the American Flag. OK this may not be as bad as a nuclear power station or a skyscraper that others have had to endure, but why on earth would you want to flaunt real world nationlism in a borderless, country-less virtual, nirvana type world. I have politely requested they reconsider their motives of course. Anya, a neighbour, had another land issue, this time more about land access and neolithic, militant attitude. You can follow this on her post – Outrageous Militia Style Behaviour. The point here is that in social networks things can become very personal – when you have ‘space’ of your own that is impacted by and impacts those around it. This resonance is key to immersion.
In reference to environment in Second Life there are endless real world representations – everything from fantasy islands to recreations of real cities but mostly endless malls. Yes like ‘anytown’ America large buildings lined up on grids selling the same stuff you get in the real world. In World of Warcraft I have experienced a great deal of pack animal activity, which is actually part of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ type of narrative in that world – but I do find it less compelling for reasons above (the west mis-reading of the fantasy genre) and my points in a previous post.

Virtual MallAre we cheating on ourselves and playing it safe. Adopting the same old attitudes, following formula yet again, regardless of the potential of these open environments? I believe most humans are indeed afraid to break the mould and be different, they need to be guided by narrative, to have clearly identifiable characters in films and role play games. Given unlimited possibility or something remotely familiar most of us will go for the latter. There is also a point about identity that is worth mentioning – the differences between a true Role Play Game vs something that is more improvised or free form vs something formulaic. Being able to represent yourself ‘in’ the medium (which is why so many people still want to get on TV) obviously goes back to our evolution – trying to be accepted by our peers, the tribe/pack (now by showing off in virtual spaces or on a quiz show) through to our persona being resonant in the experience. Virtual worlds that allow a Japanese style, connection to any living form is actually part ‘of’ our evolution. This could get deep here but I will stay in shallow waters and just say – being able to personalize yourself and your environment and not be fixed a playing a wizard, a character or ‘being’ a quiz contestant is highly empowering. Empowerment is critical to immersion.


So why are these ‘new worlds’ becoming so addictive to many millions? Why is staring at a screen becoming a turn-off? Why are mobile devices never going to be the one and only device through which any kind of immersion takes place? What ‘are’ the ingredients of immersion. Here are eight key ones that quickly spring to mind to aid ‘experience’ producers and offer an alternative approach to service creation. These are non-exhaustive and echo the above ramble:

1 SCALE – of the experience. The size of the screen and the amount of story world to explore has enormous impacts on immersion – as well as the detail of individual objects within the ‘world’. This is why when I have been recently looking at mobile content, the only ones that stand out are services that connect people, that create something larger than the isolated thing in your hand, the pawltry representation of you. Mobile has to involved sharing content, telling stories and using physical space – sounds like the Japanese psyche again! One of the reasons cinema will exist for a long time is that the large dark room filled with people is a captivating environment. Now, imagine a cinema where the image is a locked off-shot, of a shared world and all the audience are controlling and representing different characters engaged in a common goal or story. Ummm.

2 SENSES – goes without sayiing that the amount of senses that are engaged by an experience gives it most potential to immerse. Now as I have said before we dont need to consider full immersive reality rather make sure as well as intellectual and emotional engagement you consider sounds and the grammar of visual. Probably forget about touch, taste or smell for the moment – leave that to the porn industry to work out.

3 SERENDIPITY – how the world or show you are watching has elements of surprise. As mentioned earlier the more scripted and formulaic the less immersive. People only watch a film for the fifteenth time, I believe, because they strangely hope that there may be something different OR they are peeling back the layers, looking at minute detail and looking way beyond the basic narrative. Something like Second Life has the potential to be very serendipitous, other role plays less so, an unspoilt new film at the cinema can surprise, sadly TV and pop-music are at the other end of the scale.

4 STORY – does the narrative engage. This is obvious, if there is nothing for you to be drawn along by (even your own story in some cases) then you will switch off. What makes the story compelling, what makes it extraordinary, fantastical or deeply and emotionally resonant?

5 PERSONALIZATION – Hence the title of this blog. How much can you minutely affect the world and yourself in it? How much will the world reflect you for being there? Most importantly, how much of your real world personality can you bring with you into the experience. In a TV show that has SMS vote in you can steer it very, very bluntly. Some shows allow you to put personal content into them for all your peers to see, some virtual worlds allow you to move the ornament on the shelf 3mm to the left or turn it into an ocean, blogs allow you to broadcast your views to potentially millions. It is all about making the world feel like you belong.

6 RESONANCE/CHOICE – How much control or agency do you have over the experience? Are your actions permanent and seen by all? Can you really do and say what you want – freedom of choice. True resonance is like a virtuous circle, you do something and there is a response that forever changes the environment. Like real life. The pushed media of TV, radio, cinema has zero resonance, it all happens in your head. Which is why stories ‘have’ to be based on life’s shared drama. In truly interactive models your actions have impact and will reaction will take place.

7 TEMPORALITY – How real time does the experience feel? Scheduled TV never feels real time – the only successful shows in the future will be live events, music, sports, live news etc: Everything else has a dubious future in the scheduled world. MMORPGs feel real time when you are in them because of all of the above. Ones that have scheduled events or require you to invade or fight at a certain time are more about story than true immersion. I could go to second life now and stand still for two hours on a beach somewhere – or I could find some friends to talk to, take part in a game, or go clubbing, explore, or build a house. Each of these is also about choice taking place when you want them to. If you decide to do things as a couple or a group then obviously – like real life – compromises temporally will have to take place.


8 ESCAPISM – or ‘play’. This goes back to my earlier point about the reason for play and associated spirituality. Why do adult females around 35 (to choose an example demographic from the earlier stats) want to play in MMORPGs? Is it as much about escaping reality or constructing ideality? Does the representational nature of these worlds mean so much more subconciously than endless souless advertisements on TV, or another episode of a soap, or fomulaic hollywood film? Does selecting an identity that is impossible to achieve in real life become a most powerful addictive escape? I suspect all of the above. In terms of building ‘play’ – it should be as fun making it as doing it. I have mentioned before that sometimes authors of experience get so lost in the creation process they forget someone has to watch, play or take part in it! Then it is much weaker an experience. Today the experience author has to create tools for play, rather than fixed media and fixed routes through it. Randomness can go someway there – but for true immersion through play, think of how much the imagination can run wild with a piece of paper and some crayons, whereas the latest ‘limited’ electronic gadget ends up on the shelf after and hour.

Which reminds me – my blog time limit of one hour writing is up. Yes I am strict with myself. I will add some more if I get time. But for now I will leave you with the tip – gauge your own levels of immersion as you do different things and work out why you are so. That isn’t easy but no one ever said it would be.

“…thus have we made the world. Thus have I made it”

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

May 232006

Thanks to Lost Remote’s steer on this one – There has been much discussion that the series ‘Lost’ has borrowed greatly from the gaming world – eg: the plainly titled Is Lost an Interactive Game. The essence of lost, the plethora of treasure hunts combined with RPG combined with tribal warfare combined with myth and so on make it seem like your watching some omnipresent force driving the narrative. So it comes as no surprise that today we hear that Ubisoft are working with the game-mad producers of Lost to create an interactive console/PC version that is very closely aligned to the world of the show. This will probably be the most successful repurposing of a TV show to a game format given the original spirit of the original linear production. From the article Lost and Found at Gamebiz:

‘We are delighted to work with Bryan Burk, one of the biggest producers in Hollywood and with Touchstone Television,” said Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft. “That they have chosen us for the adaptation of the cult series ‘Lost’ is the best homage that a producer can make to the creativity of Ubisoft.’ ‘The creative appeal of ‘Lost’ transcends borders with its character driven stories and addictive mysterious mythology,” said Julia Franz, executive vice president, Touchstone Television. “It’s not enough for fans worldwide to just watch ‘Lost,’ the game is a wonderful opportunity to organically extend this creative phenomenon into an interactive consumer experience.’
‘Many of us on ‘Lost’ have been hardcore gamers for years and the chance to work with Ubisoft, a company behind some of our favourite titles, has excited us to no end,’ said ‘Lost’ producer Bryan Burk. ‘With the ability to tell new interactive stories within the ‘Lost’ universe, we’re giddy to be developing a game that, once completed, will be as engaging and fun to play as it is to create.’

I like the last line. As producer of many interactive services I often get lost myself in the challenge and fun of creation that one loses sight of the experience for the user of it. Glad that Bryan here has the insight to realise this and that in fact to take it one step further, allowing the viewers to create sequences or challenges for each other may be a good way forward.

But this whole new area of ‘experience’ production brings to mind a potential range of other ready-to-go big four (TV, Game, Broadband, Mobile) cross media’s formats. Given the range of ‘hunt/cryptic’ shows coming up on the global TV schedules and a likely further range of Da Vinci Code wannabees (as box office is now taking off) we can imagine a future where the ‘challenge’ given to the protagonists of the linear title will/should become the precise same challenge given to the game player (or rather the ‘experiencee’. This is exactly what producers should be considering now. Rather than pushing a story at viewers, they should consider strongly ‘how’ they can put audiences in the shoes of the protagonists. This could mean putting them inside virtual reality worlds, making them hunt for clues across their life devices or creating services where they must move around their physical world – all designed to give them an ‘experience’ closely aligned to the original intention of the author. In many ‘interactive’ development labs I often start as a mentor in asking that question directly to the producers and we explore the avenues in which the experience can resonate for the viewer. We are probably seeing a divergence split on one side – the immersive world of big screen (eg: IMAX) and on the other a ‘constructed reality’, painted as a tapestry of fragments across smaller screens and other media forms for the audience to move within.

This suggests we are now in a transition zone towards the much maligned ‘holodeck’ paradigm, put the viewer inside the experience and then give them the narrative to experience as first person – but of course that will be seen by traditional storytellers as some kind of sci-fi fantasy. We as producers of content should realise that audiences now have the tools to tell their own linear stories and their authenticity will be preferred to ‘overtly artificially scripted’ creations. One thing that will differentiate producers from this pack will be their ability to author ‘experience’ and not just tell story. I advise that when you create future services at least consider how ‘close’ you can bring the audience into your world – make it as personal to the viewer as possible. OK they don’t have to wear VR helmets, body suits and the like (yet), but get them active, involved and personalize it for them and your authorship will be rewarded by returning audiences.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006