Transmedia – the Story, the Experience and the Needs

When Paul Burke commented on a post of mine a week ago he mentioned that there is a subtle difference between the story and the experience. That thought has been nagging away at the back of my head for a bit, so I decided to elaborate slightly on the matter.

At MediaCity, we have a number of very competent people working at our UX laboratory, doing research into user experience. Looking at stuff they put out is always enlightening, even when it doesn’t touch on your project directly. They’ve been talking a lot about the Needs of people and these Needs connection to User Experience. In my mind it feels very true, that taking these Needs into account while developing transmedia will result in a better User Experience in the end.

The Needs in question are six different ones (out of ten, developed by Sheldon et al); Autonomy, Relatedness, Competence, Stimulation, Influence and Security. My colleagues did a study last year, available here, that looks into these different Needs with regards to using interactive products and media. It’s a good read!

So, to look at these Needs and how to apply them to a transmedia development process,:

Autonomy. This is a Need closely related to ”being real”, being oneself. Also to the flexibility of the product – can I use it anywhere, as it suits me? One good example right now is the as-of-yet only available in Finland iPhone social game Shadow Cities; I can play it anywhere at anytime over my iPhone, connected to the real world via OpenMaps, and it really enhances my Autonomy IMHO.

Relatedness. The Need to feel connected to a bigger whole, a group of friends, the place where you grew up… basically, your place in the world and in the story (and in the storyworld, of course!)

Competence. The Need to master stuff, to feel that you can handle what’s thrown at you. No matter if it’s cracking a code on a website or just finding the website in the first place; it’s the feeling of being competent and up to the task. (I.e. don’t make it too hard for people to master your challenges!)

Stimulation. The Need that is most closely connected to creativity – the interaction with others or with media (or with the challenges you pose them in your transmedia narrative) spurs people on and stimluates them. Given the opportunity to express oneself brings out hte creativity in people. (Leave sandboxes for people to express themselves in!)

Influence. The Need that is about reaching out to others, to communicate, to feel connected. Your users will want to be part of a whole, but also be able to influence that whole in some way.

Security. This last Need is closely connected with experiencing that things work the way they should. A coffeemaker fills this Need, as it always works. It also fills the need in a different way, as it is a familiar machine, thereby strengthening the feeling of Security. The feeling that everything is as it should be. Conclusion: you might very well include things that don’t work, or hoax people, or make things be NOT as they should be – but plan for that and be aware of this need, Perhaps your users need a sancturay somewhere?

Feel free to expand on these ideas – I know many of them are applicable to our work right now, so I would imagine they could help some others on the way as well.

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