Exploring the Many Worlds of Transmedia

Posts by bharris

The Second Screen: Transmedia or Plain Media?

The Second Screen: Transmedia or Plain Media?

By on Dec 7, 2013 in Featured | 1 comment

One of the things you might notice about the new generation of consoles is the universal adaptation of second-screen gameplay options. The most drastic is Nintendo’s Wii U controller, with the screen built right into the controller, though there are also Sony’s Remote Play and PlayStation App solutions and Microsoft’s SmartGlass implementation that all allow the player to add outside devices to their console gaming experience. These intrigued me on two fronts: the first, which was relatively easy to answer, was where this all came from. The second, which was virtually impossible to answer, was: are these transmedia experiences? To find out, I needed to make sure that I understood just exactly what everything was, what it could do, and what was going on. Since Sony has two options, it’s important to recognize the difference between the two before looking at them critically: Remote Play specifically refers to using a PlayStation console with a PlayStation handheld, which allows for a game to be played using the Vita or PSP as both the screen and the controller, freeing up the television for use by others. The App, on the other hand, acts as a second screen offering fundamentally different, yet complementary, processes to what is happening on the PS4. For example, it could be used as a rear view mirror in a racing game, or as a minimap in an adventure. It also allows for the player to access their friends list, stats, and profile, as well as allowing the player to use it to control other system apps like video playback, all while being available on iOS and Android devices. Xbox SmartGlass, which is Microsoft’s solution, is little different than the PlayStation App. It can be used on modern iOS, Android and Windows Phone smartphones and offers similar integration with the Xbox to be used as a remote control, to launch apps, make searches, get information about currently playing videos, and, yes, extend gameplay to a small screen. It also allows the user to view their friends, Avatar, games, and, most importantly, the stores! Nintendo put the biggest bet on a second screen by far by building it right into the controller for the console. The controller is shaped...

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Halo’s transmedia strategy: The Matrix vs. Star Wars

Halo’s transmedia strategy: The Matrix vs. Star Wars

By on Dec 1, 2013 in Featured | 1 comment

In 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was released as a launch title and the killer app for the Xbox. It was praised heavily for its graphics and gameplay, as well as its environments. It won high accolades (currently boasting a 97 on Metacritic) and several Game of the Year awards and was the second best-selling game for the console over the course of its life (behind its sequel Halo 2). At the time, its plot was commended, though as the initial luster of the series has faded, the story of the games is one of the first things to come under criticism. However, that story, as bare as it can be at times, is not the full story. The first release in the Halo series was technically The Fall of Reach, a prequel book released two weeks before the game. This was the first step of the series in moving beyond yet another 3D console shooter, such as Rare’s acclaimed Perfect Dark, and instead moving toward a transmedia experience more similar to Star Wars or The Matrix. But Star Wars and The Matrix, both spanning films, games, cartoons and literature, take two very different approaches to transmedia storytelling, and I’m interested in finding where Halo, arguably alone among video game universes in the breadth of its transmedia presence, compares to these two empires. I suppose it would be relevant for me to state that I am going to be treating Star Wars and The Matrix as two largely opposite forms of transmedia. While simply expressing the story of a universe through various media is enough to constitute a transmedia experience, the quality of that experience varies heavily, maybe enough to largely devalue the point of a transmedia empire. While providing some very good standalone stories in its broader arsenal of media, I would argue that the Star Wars franchise’s presence is largely unsuccessful at providing a true transmedia experience. The Matrix, on the other hand, was argued by Henry Jenkins to be more than the sum of its parts. Narratively speaking, the films were merely important, rather than vital. They did not overwrite or ignore the comics, games or stories, even though the attention on the franchise commercially and popularly...

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