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Mar 312011
 

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How does a country encourage its creative producers to innovate media projects & services? Many leave it to commercial forces only, where it is an innovate or die, sales driven culture. Some though with small or fledgling production communities have to rely on government subsidy and kick-start funding to get most ‘innovative’ projects off the ground. I have looked and been involved in the latter for many years as Multi-Platform producer devising initiatives, director of training units and lecturer in education sectors which include several European countries, Canada, Australia, UK and US. How can we better divvy up millions of tax payers dollars and spread it between heritage and multi-platform?

Below are a few excerpts of a longer article/paper & book chapter (full of juicy stats & facts!) on public tax payers funding of global multi-platform media projects from a perspective of “are we giving it a ‘fair-go’” – as they say down under. It is focused on all government creative funding agencies who help divide up ‘new and old’ screen culture funds in their respective countries. Its intention is to help multi-platform (as opposed to the vagary ‘digital’) move forward rather than be held back by analog thinking or status quo market approaches. I will PDF and link later…

As some of this sails close to one or two of my ‘day jobs’ (some of my credentials in this area are listed at the bottom of the post) I have kept it as generic as possible, without any intentional finger pointing. I hope some top level ideas I suggest to help fix something that has been broken for decades, may not fall on deaf ears.

Preface – Traditional Media vs Multi-Platform: Where’s the engagement?

To choose an excerpt or ‘why multi-platform’ this old argument about the old vs the new is appropriate here. There are many who say we are in a golden era of TV and Film. Audiences both love and trust these mediums and growth is strong across the board. So naturally “we must find and fund new talent and projects in these areas for the good of our culture”. Telling stories through film, tv, galleries, concert halls and books is the only real media to take into consideration. Or is it? This is the status quo, most public funds for media are for localised film and TV and ‘culturally’ significant ‘art’ projects. The ‘other stuff’ oft called multi-platform or digital or online is still not taken seriously. I suggest it still does not reflect what and how its people are consuming media and how they are engaged in that usage.

To give a sense of this disparity, for example in Australia last years total spend (note this includes commercial investment) on film was US $336mill yet overall funds for ‘multi-platform’ creative projects across all public agencies amounted to approx $12-15mill – with the largest funder in the space Screen Australia about to provide approx $4mill annually for creative multi-platform. If we also add TV funding into the mix and think of other territories also (UK film spend US $1.48 bill) we can get to an estimate ratio of around 9:1 of traditional media funding vs multi-platform. Note this is about creative ‘story-centric’ projects vs digital business or hardware enterprise. That means around 9 times more is publicly granted/invested in Film & TV than Multi-Platform or it’s storytelling child, transmedia. I am still adding up figures from other regions which may alter that slightly and although I would like to, don’t get me started on the balance spent on training and education across these two sectors!

As I presented in my last post/article (Navigating the World of Multi-Platform) the media landscape has now significantly fragmented from the 1970-90s yet those in control of the ‘funding’ & educational mechanisms are, I would suggest, still basing decision from those days by funding what is effectively just ‘linear video stories’ – vs more interactive across multiple media channels. Sure there are a lot of statistics that on the surface back this up – for example, TV viewing has remained static and even growing regardless of the increase of  video watching on the web or games usage and box office is strong even with illegal digital distribution and on and on. But when you look at some sectors, print and music for example, who themselves were saying ‘business as usual’ 2 years ago, it tells a completely different story purely from a sales perspective – due to online distribution (eBooks & mp3 torrents) traditional sales are falling at between 10-30% annually.

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Mar 252011
 

I have been trying to find a really simple metaphor for clients, students and other industry professionals to help them better understand the complex world of multi-platform. Also completing the last few chapters of my Networked Media Storytelling book I needed a big but simple metaphor. One of the biggest issues I have faced over the years is rooted in the question “I tell stories on one or two platforms why do I need to reach out onto other platforms and how?”. I often reply with a long answer that falls into a few categories (1) Audience have fragmented 2) Business models have shifted (3) Engagement and social needs have altered (4) Have you noticed a general decline in traditional media? (5) Your stories can be improved exponentially if you ‘transmediarize’ them etc: I obviously leave the more fundamental ‘how to’s” to my consultations or workshops and a key element of that is what are the new platforms combined with how to design your story appropriately for them.

So for a few workshops & talks recently I developed a simple ‘graphic’ which demystifies some of the challenges storytellers face. This post describes the motivation and deeper thinking behind the World Map of Multi-Platform Cultures & Transmedia Rituals. How to understand this new world and how to navigate the relatively uncharted waters?

Ye Olde Days – The Disconnected World of Gated Platform

Around 40 years ago the opportunities for storytellers were both limited and segregated. By that I mean it was hard to truly make your media work across multiple distribution channels, sure you could do the whole film of the whole book or the whole radio play of the whole comic but the concept of placing ‘isolated’ narrative elements of your story appropriately designed for each and meant to ‘move’ users between them was a pretty alien concept. The more sophisticated story form within multi-platform (transmedia) was also hard to achieve due to the commercial gate holders on each platform wanting the ‘self-contained’ whole – not bits and pieces that also promoted competitors or drove traffic away.

World of Multi-Platform in 1970s

But as we all know between 1990 and the present broadband internet, social media and mobile technology changed the landscape in a not so subtle way and old school media creative thinking is not relevant anymore in this altered landscape.

The New World Dis-Order of Multi-Platform Experiences

Wow how things have changed. Like our physical planet mass media and its internal cultures has splintered, the land masses moved apart leaving a complex environment to navigate.

World Map of Multi-Platform Cultures & Transmedia Rituals

Firstly we have the large continents of

  • The Sea of 2D Media – Video, audio, images and includes the Bay of Social Media
  • The Ocean of 3D Games – Social Worlds, Console single players, MMOGs, Serious, Casual
  • The Lands of Physicality – Theme Parks, Outdoor Screens, Urban Spaces etc: and includes the Bay of Mobiles

Looking more closely at my map, consider the hybrid media ‘waters’ that separate the lands. Between Games and Physical Lands/Mobile we find the ‘Straits of Augmented Reality’ – meshing the digital and the real.

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Mar 092011
 

I was interviewed by Andrew Collins in December’s Hyper Magazine about Social and Augmented Reality gaming. Hyper magazine is a great game monthly and a regular buy for me with its pretty solid reviews and impartial editorial for the game world as well as some forward looking features. The gaming industry is close to a precipice as games spill out into the real world (as I have blogged about many times before!) so I thought I would publish the article (and my interview on which much of the article is based) this week as the race for the augmented reality, locative game space trophy truly begins and the contestants line up on the starting grid…

  1. Sony with it’s NGP virtual treasure hunts
  2. Nintendo’s 3DS games in the real world AR launch
  3. a multitude of Android AR game apps in development/release and in case you missed it
  4. about to be released the iPad 2 with it’s dual camera support for Augmented Reality locative games and all the iPhone AR apps that will flood across
  5. and of course

Mid to late 2011 is going to be significant – a fun, social, locative augmented reality game nirvana. Perhaps the real battle though is going to be between locked down, TV room, single player console gaming vs open, social, locative casual AR gaming? Interview after the cover…

KINDLY REPUBLISHED © HYPER – THE MAGAZINE FOR GAMERS DECEMBER 2010


 

Traditional game developers are extending the gaming experience beyond what appears on the retail disc and into the social realm, rewarding players for exploring media outside of the console and the PC.

Andrew Collins takes a look at what’s on offer

Casual social networking games have exploded in popularity recently, with a bunch of casual game developers popping out of the woodwork producing low-tech but addictive games. Now traditional game developers and publishers have joined the party, seeking to adapt the trend to their own needs, and their own games.

This bleed of PC and console games out into social networking services has immense potential. There’s a whole world of cool stuff going on right now, and even greater stuff just around the corner – that has the potential to change the way we game completely.

You probably already know the most basic form of this blend of traditional and social gaming: the automatic status update. Many games now will notify your Facebook or Twitter contacts when you accomplish a goal in-game.

It’s unfortunate that this is the most recognisable example of this trend; at best, it’s annoying, and at worst, it’s annoying as hell. Do you really care that your flatmate’s cousin’s boyfriend just unlocked an achievement in FIFA 11? How do you feel when he unlocks 10 in the space of half an hour, flooding your social networking news feed?

Fortunately, developers have realised this and have moved on to integrating gaming and social networking in more interesting ways that suit us all.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?

Before we look at these developments, it’s worth looking at why the games industry is embracing social networking.

As we found out in issue 204, the market for casual social networking games is booming, generating ridiculous amounts of revenue for those lucky or smart enough to have a finger in this lucrative social pie.

But the learned readers of Hyper are not the only ones who have cottoned on to this fact. Traditional games developers and publishers have seen the sheer number of people drawn into this social gaming trend, and have realised that it could work for them – not as a direct source of revenue, but rather as a form of marketing.

Put simply, every time you tell your 600 Facebook friends what game you’re playing, you’re giving the publisher 600 free ads for their game, and giving the game your own personal stamp of approval. Congratulations! You are advertising space.

Gary Hayes is an expert on the relationship between games and social networking. He has a terribly long bio – far too long to reproduce in full here – with experience in TV, music, virtual worlds, game production, lecturing, and many, many other things. He’s most succinctly described as a `transmedia guru’ – someone who dwells in the overlap of different mediums.

According to Hayes, this venture of traditional gaming into social networking isn’t a short lived gimmick that just a few companies are toying with – it’s now a necessity for developers.

“From an economic point of view, given the massive rise of social games over the last couple of years, and the decline in console games generally (in June of this year there was around a 10% drop in total game industry sales, down to about $6.7 billion), traditional games developers – EA and Ubisoft and so on – are looking at social gaming as really a pretty important part of the mix that they need to be involved in,” Hayes says.

“It’s part of their survival,” he says. “There’s a quote from Alex St. John [DirectX creator and social gaming producer] who says that if a game doesn’t have a social element, it’s going to be dead before it starts out, in the future.”

BETTER MODELS

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Feb 182011
 

Have about 22 draft posts sitting in my WordPress Post box, so a bit of catch-up in next week or two to clear some out!

Outside of the talk of what ‘transmedia’ actually is, the next key topic of controversy is how can you make money from it vs spending marketing money ‘on it’ to promote a traditional product/project. The Holy Grail at the moment is can we make the ‘multi platform, transmedia form’ an entertainment or service necessity – something worth users putting hands in pockets for (or clicking that PayPal button) and something worth spending the time and effort immersing yourself in – when there are so many other ‘linear’ fragments to graze on? This post therefore looks briefly at a core aspect of transmedia or experience design that is oft left out of the equation, the user need and how we can map out and create transmedia to meet those needs. Simple concept time.

Alongside traditional needs analysis and user centric design I have been writing & teaching recently about matching any creative project to a user or audience base – going beyond crude demographics or even psychographics and thinking about raw, primal need. I often start by saying

Before we can make any creation or experience ‘overwhelmingly’ engaging for someone else we have to be able to identify & define a broad range of needs that encompasses the physical through to social then to self-empowerment? Ask yourself…

  • Does your work go beyond short term titillation (think 30 second ad spots, short films, virals or stunt marketing campaigns in shopping malls) and encourage repeat visits over many months?
  • Does it contain intimate, social and group building elements?
  • Is it a trusted, familiar environment to use and take part in?
  • Does it actually work, not fall over, most of the time?
  • Does it encourage user creativity, stimulate user ethics or open their minds to other worlds
  • Will they be rewarded through the respect of others?

While I was constructing these points many moons ago it dawned on me I the similarities with the five levels in Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs which as you know was a paper from 1943 and book in 1954 looking at how we are motivated and what basic needs have to be fulfilled ‘before’ we can attain higher levels of engagement with ourselves and others. His work has already been used in marketing areas such as Transpersonal Business (a new area using psychology to develop an understanding of consumer behaviour) and mapped to other emerging areas such as Online Communities by Amy Jo Kim in her 2000 book Community Building on the Web (hat tip Laurel Papworth 2008) or more dry areas such as ‘the internet hierarchy of needs‘. But here I am more interested in how Transmedia Story or Service creation has strong parallels in Maslow’s simple five level diagram, from a ground up user centric, development approach.

The Transmedia Heirarcy of Needs

So designing any transmedia service from a user centric design perspective, the idea in the above draft ‘pyramid’ diagram would be to start at level 1 ‘Physiological’ as a foundation and gradually build and evolve the social, play, story and design/functionality elements – taking into account the next four levels. It implies simply that first you need to have at your disposal a good variety of technically sound platforms with an appropriate mix of reliable media before you build the more sophisticated levels. How many services start at level 3? They go straight for the Facebook and Twitter network storytelling without solid user hub sites, or technically strong subscriber management or well thought out game or story. How many projects start at the top level? Linear and mostly one way broadcast forms, strong on story & morality but without any of the below social, multi faceted and play levels that draw users into long term, personal engagement? Here is the text version for the ‘copy, paste’rs’ amoungst us 🙂 Please note this is a first draft and will probably be embellished!

  • Level 1 Physiological – technically sound, expected mix of media, reliability, available, multi platform variety, solid production
  • Level 2 Safety – quality of service, trustworthiness of providers, privacy of gameplay, service permanence, level game playing field, shared rules and values
  • Level 3 Love/Belonging – include friends and family, network elements, discover new friends, share experiences
  • Level 4 Esteem – able to excel & be seen to excel, system recognises contribution and/or abilities, take part in team play, appear on leader boards & be peer reviewed
  • Level 5 Self-Actualization – able to add personal original content, the story surprises, challenges morals & enables problem solving, become self empowered, understand the world better

I have covered the concepts of each of those levels on many previous posts (eg: Producing Transmedia Stories and 1999 presentations such as Cross Media Design) and sure the mapping concepts here are not rocket science or particularly jaw dropping, but if you buy into Maslow’s Hierarchy and particularly the ‘level’ and evolution aspects, you really need to consider how those layered needs map across to your field whatever that may be? Transmedia, communities, education, marketing, public services, politics, social media and on.

UPDATE 1
I like this simple social media mapping from Erica Glasier too, which actually highlights specific services for each level 🙂

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, & the Social Media that Fulfill 'Em