Exploring the Many Worlds of Transmedia

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The World’s First Alternate Reality Game

The World’s First Alternate Reality Game

By on Dec 7, 2013 in Featured |

Transmedia storytelling has recently been gaining popularity with the development of the “online world” as well as our cultural shift towards digital entertainment. For the most part, storytellers and novelist everywhere have done a phenomenal job with creating lifelike and relatable adventures for us to enjoy from afar, taking solace in the knowledge that our only job is to continue reading. But, what would happen if that was not our only job? What happens if your failure to act in some way lead to the death of your favorite character? Imagine. A story that changes based on choices with limitless outcomes that your must pick in order for it to progress. Take that a step further. Throw in several thousand other readers whose decisions carry equal weight alongside your own. You are faced with problems that you cannot solve without their help. Even you choose not to act, that still impacts the narrative, even without your knowledge. It becomes difficult to differentiate between reality and fantasy doesn’t it? Stories like this are currently in existence and have been for a number of years under the title of an Alternate Reality Game or ARG for short. An ARG is a form of digital or transmedia storytelling that is largely interactive with the readers or “players.” ARGs tend to be somewhat consuming, blurring the lines between both reality and fantasy by attempting to convince players that “This is not a game,” a term coined and abbreviated “TINAG.” Many people tend to think that the TINAG is something that is something that is morally questionable, as it purposely misleads the players, yet at the same time something that is necessary for gameplay, as most books or video games do not “break the fourth wall” so to speak.   As all of this is such a complex concept, it is completely understandable to wonder, “Who exactly came up with this massively complex and deep story structure?” In order to answer that question, one must look back a full twelve years to the work of such names as The Cloudmakers, The Puppeteers, and Haley Joel Osment.   The year is 2001 and A.I. Artificial Intelligence is the year’s most anticipated Sci-fi film. Steven Spielburg fans watched in eager expectation while the...

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Have recent changes to league of legends successfully reduced player “toxicity”?

Have recent changes to league of legends successfully reduced player “toxicity”?

By on Dec 7, 2013 in Featured |

  Anyone who has played League of Legends, or any other online multiplayer game has likely “toxic” players. In this case, toxic means players who actions make each individual session less fun to play and degrade the game experience as a whole. These players can range from flamers, who attack other players with verbal abuse, griefers, who intentionally try to hinder progress in the game, and leavers who, as the name may imply, leave the game as soon as things going south. We have all been there. These people are no fun. They make our play experience miserable and make us want to stop playing the game. Most games have very few enforced methods of dealing with these players beyond, “If you don’t like them, don’t play with them.” However, Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, has long held an aggressive stance in dealing toxic players. In League of Legends, players have two means of dealing with toxic players. The first is a function of the game generally referred to as “Leaver Buster”. Leaver Buster automatically tracks players who abandon their team in the middle of a game of League of Legends. If a person leaves one game, or their internet fails, they will simply receive a warning and be banned from joining the queue for another match for several minutes. Leaving several games over a short period of time can lead to a player being banned from queuing for games for several days. The other method of dealing with toxic players is the tribunal. After a match, players are given the option to report grievances against any other player in the match they just played. If a player multiple reports over several games, their case will be sent to the tribunal. In the tribunal a randomly selected volunteer jury of League of Legends players will be shown the chat log from that game, the kill/death/assist statistics for each player, and the character being used by each player, along with any notes added by reporting players. The players reviewing each case will then vote to punish or pardon the offender. If the majority of jurors agree to pardon the offender, then the case will be dropped and...

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Con-Topia: A Convention For All Your Favorite Shows

Con-Topia: A Convention For All Your Favorite Shows

By on Dec 7, 2013 in Featured |

Almost everyone knows what Comic-Con is. Most people have never gone to Comic-Con, but it’s importance in launching new shows and movies by having panels full of actors and sneak peaks at new footage have given it a reputation. Comic-Con San Diego is an annual event dating back to 1970. The three focuses of the convention are comic books, films, and science fiction/fantasy literature. The con was set up to give these medias more attention, and with over 130,000 attendees in the last few years, the strategy is clearly paying off. It has been so successful in fact, that in recent years cons have been springing up all over the place, bringing fans closer to then ever to their favorite characters, actors, movies, and t.v. shows.   It began with the expansion of the San Diego Comic Convention’s Cons to include APE, WonderCon, ProCon, and Con/Fusion. These days though, cons have become show or movie specific. Recent and upcoming cons include EyeCon, (The Vampire Diaries and The Originals) BloodyNightCon, (The Vampire Diaries) Asylum 12, (Supernatural) Wolfs Bane 2, (Teen Wolf) Ravens, (Pretty Little Liars and One Tree Hill) The Final Journey, (Stargate) Days Of The Wolf (Teen Wolf) and the Official Star Trek Convention. These are just a few.   Not only are these cons creating a new revenue stream for these shows and franchises, they are also altering the way fans interact with the texts that are these shows and movies. Often at these cons actors, writers, and directors give hints to the fans about what coming up in the new season. They will talk about deleted scenes, artistic intentions and background information the the audience is not privy to just by watching the show. T.V. shows and movies are are texts with multiple authors. There are the producers who pay for them and want them to look a certain way, directors who shoot them according to their particular vision, actors who play parts based on the backgrounds and personalities they create alongside the writers, who come up with the specific story lines for every shot. With the emergence of these cons fans are able to get a behind the scenes look at the process like they never...

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“Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray” questions about authorship

“Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray” questions about authorship

By on Dec 7, 2013 in Featured |

For my Oscar Wilde Seminar this semester I’ve been working on an essay that deals with an interesting concept; adaptation.  In my essay, I look at the Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray with the aim of evaluating its effectiveness as an adaptation. One of the points that has been really fascinating to think about however has been the question of authorship.  A graphic novel is a text that has many contributors to get it off the ground and make it into an effective vessel for narrative.  If there are many people contributing to the creation of the narrative and the artifact that conveys it who then do we call the author? All of them? None of them? Is Wilde still the only author? First lets consider some of the hands that go into producing a graphic novel: we’ve got a “writer”, an “artist”, a “colorist”, a “letterer” and one or more “editors”.  Ok so of this list let’s remove the editors, they don’t really go into “producing” the narrative they really are more involved in the process of “refining” it. Now For this particular text this leaves the writer: Roy Thomas, the artist: Sebastian Fiumara, The colorist: Giulia Brusco, and the letterer: Dave Sharpe.  Each of these individuals contributes to the way a reader experiences the adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray.  However, does that really let us say that they are authors in their own right? Thomas is the adaptive writer; it’s his job to take Wilde’s initial text and generate from it a version that is usable in comic form.  In the introduction to the trade hardback of Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray Thomas states that the “aim was to tell Wilde’s story, in the author’s own words wherever possible.” Thomas set out not to retell Wilde’s story but rather to adapt what existed into a form that was readily usable in the comic form.  This resulted in the truncation of many of the longer philosophical dialogs but still, Thomas added very little “text” to Wilde’s initial work while converting it into a form that allowed the rest of the team to build a comic around it. Fiumara, Brusco and Sharpe have...

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Brains, Baudrillard and Bodily Immersion

Brains, Baudrillard and Bodily Immersion

By on Dec 7, 2013 in Featured |

Floaty philosophy and media forms have certainly not been uncommon bed fellows in human cultural history.  We love to implant our complex musings and conceptualizations of abstract and mysterious human thought into our stories, as it arguably plays a crucial role in helping us to feel immersed and connected with the interactions between people and other such entities in the stories we tell.  Science also has a strong role within storytelling in that it similarly builds narrative worlds we can identify with and feel connected to, but for the longest time scientific thought itself has been unable to touch on these qualities of immersive reality and human empathy within our media forms that make these stories so real to us.  However, the discovery of a new type of neuron in the brain, the mirror neuron, might just carry some implications that will change all that. These mirror neurons were originally discovered by Italian neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti and his merry crew of science men who had placed electrodes on the ventral premotor cortex of macaque monkeys in order to record and study the firing of neurons that known to have a close connection to hand and mouth actions.  As it was subsequently discovered, the neurons in the brain of a monkey observing another monkey putting food to his mouth would fire identically to the neurons firing in the other monkey’s brains as he performed the actions.  Soon confirmed to function the same for humans as well, these mirror neurons essentially assume the perspective by firing as if the person observing was performing the observed action.  Soon after the discovery of these mirror neurons in the premotor cortex, supplemental research proved their existence in the primary somatosensory cortex as well- a part of the brain closely linked with various kinds of sensation. While these discoveries came bundled with a load of new, potential implications about human thought, it was Vilayanur Ramachandran whose astute reflections and research on this newly discovered neurological phenomenon, which his TED Talk discusses in terms even an undergraduate Anthropology major can understand, carry so much relevance to immersion within fictional narratives.  In his TED talk, Ramachandran’s makes two main points, each corresponding with the mirror neurons in...

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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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