What makes a good transmedia format?

It is very encouraging to see how quickly transmedia has become a trend that not only is a buzzword or a hype, but rather a phenomenon that seems to grab peoples’ attention and imagination and spur them on to think in new ways, create new things and talk to new people.

There are still probably as many definitions of transmedia as there are people talking about transmedia. These are not necessarily differing all that much from each other, but rather in a nuance here or a nuance there. It’s all good though; we should all fear the day when we have the definite definition of what transmedia is. That’s the day when it’s time to start doing something else.

It’s not just talk either. A growing number of people are starting to venture into the field of transmedia to tell their stories. These range from major multi-million dollar ventures to small dramas or documentaries with next to no financial power behind them. Some will fail, even amongst the colossal ones, but some will succeed magnificently, even amongst the small ones – such is the way of the storytelling business.

As more and more projects are being developed, there seems to be a need to look beyond the ”what is transmedia?” or ”why transmedia?” to the much harder ”should I and this project go into transmedia?”.

From my personal point of view, I know that some of the projects I work on lend themselves nicely to transmedia development. Building the mythology, developing a canon, working on different storylines to be told via different platforms – even if it is a documentary, a music show or even a game show, it is quite possible. On the other hand, I know that some other projects – good projects, in and of themselves! – would not benefit from a transmedia treatment. They are stories that either would not be enhanced by expanding the universe they exist in, or stories that would carry a much too hefty price tag, should a transmedia development and implementation take place.

Some people in the transmedia field were kind enough to give me their opinion on the matter, and there is a pattern, at least so far. Tyler Weaver – do check out Whiz!Bam!Pow!, a project I’m looking forward to seeing more of – was of the opinion that the story was the most important feature. As he said:

– The most important thing – a good story. I just want a good story well told. If I want to welcome the characters into my home (good or bad), it’s a good story that I want to revisit.

We all probably agree with this. It has to be a good story, for there to be anything to build around. It also needs to be a story that can have a mythology, a universe of its own (even if it is our own, real universe we’re talking about). If it’s a thin story, or unengaging, or linear withour the possibility of other storylines touching it, there’s just no way it would ever make a good transmedia entity. (I do, btw, love that definition of a character in a story – ”if I would want to welcome them into my home” – and will happily start using it to gauge the characters in my stories).

Sparrow Hall, of Nightworks and Two Blue Wolves fame, shared his beliefs:

– What attracts me to transmedia: the ability to inhabit the environment/vibe of a story, to see deeper into characters. What engages me with transmedia: seeing how consistent art direction and tonality is achieved over multiple mediums. Subtlety. High production value even with little to no budget. Authenticity of feeling/language. Also the multiplatform aspect needs to feel compelling/enriching, not just a device to continue.

Many things to agree with. Also, naturally, the possibility to offer many entrypoints, as well as exit points, to and from your story universe, to let the users/viewers/audience participate, either freely or via the Swiss cheese model and to, through all these actions, find new stories where you thought there were no more stories to be told.

So, to apply this on what one should do when assessing a development project; if there is a reason for there to be more than one platform involved, and the content on these platforms are unique but can be and is being developed together, that is a good sign for a transmedia property. If you can see how the audience can participate, and to what degree, and if you can see this ”spread” of the story happening even without big bucks behind it, you’re even further on the road to a transmedia winner (or at least a doable project 🙂

I’ll leave the last word of this post to Stephen Dinehart, who commented on the current hype around transmedia:

– I think perhaps the best way to see through the hype is not to listen to it. Just create.

So, let’s go out there (or, stay in here for that matter) and create. I’m really looking forward to the next few years.

2 thoughts on “What makes a good transmedia format?

  1. Late in finding this, but I really enjoyed your thoughts and comments – I especially like "As more and more projects are being developed, there seems to be a need to look beyond the ”what is transmedia?” or ”why transmedia?” to the much harder ”should I and this project go into transmedia?”. "Slowly working my way through your other articles and pots!

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