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Simon Staffans: What Transmedia lessons can TV learn from video games?

For MediaCity Finland's Staffans, to nail multiplatform storytelling, TV should take a leaf from video games' book

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Game of Thrones, the video game

The international game industry is currently worth something in the region of 80 billion dollars annually. The TV industry by comparison is worth more than 200 billion dollars annually. It could be argued that these two industries would benefit from looking at what synergy effects could be had from collaborating over IP and development.  In this, transmedia storytelling methods can help a lot, when getting everything to synchronise logically to create a greater whole.

At the recent Nordic Game Conference (NDC), television came to the fore on several occurences. Yves Bordeleau from Cyanide gave an interesting insight into the challenges of working with the upcoming Game of Thrones game (photo); challenges such as keeping the same tone and feel as the HBO hit series, while at the same time build a great game experience. He revealed that the development team had to put up two different wikis – online dictionaries – one for the game development and another for the IP itself. These had to be constantly mirrored against each other to make sure that everything stayed logically synchronised.

Another example is the rapidly increasing number of services offering second screen solutions for TV shows, where companies like UK’s Zeebox are opening up for producers to integrate own play-along apps via their platform. Another prominent company at the conference was Rovio, the creators of the blockbuster Angry Birds game franchise, who, as was reported at MIPTV, is moving into television with a 52-episode weekly animation series, premiering in autumn.

At NDC, I had the opportunity of talking to Andrea Phillips, a transmedia writer, designer and producer who has worked on projects like the Maester’s Path and marketing campaign for Game of Thrones. She held a talk entitled ”Why Gaming Needs Transmedia”, where many of her key points could be related to the television industry as well.

She agrees fully that television and transmedia can be a perfect match, especially when looking at some of the core characteristics of television:

- “Television is brilliant, not only when it comes to storytelling but also since it has the great trait of being scheduled. You know when a television show will be aired and you know how long it will be until the next episode. That means that any producer or broadcaster has the possibility to use transmedia methods to keep the conversation and engagement going during the span between episodes.”

 

One solution would be to add what Andrea calls a ”B Plot”:

- If the ‘A Plot’ is the story told in a television series, there exists the possibility to add a ‘B Plot’, something that a character could conceivably do in the meanwhile leading up to the next episode. This can keep the audience engaged and talking about the programme, not only the day after a episode is aired, but the next day as well, and the next day, and the next.

 

An example could be one character riding off at the end of an episode. His or her experience could be shown as webisodes or blog posts or social media posts during the days leading up to the next episode, furthering the plot or acting as a separate plot, while still not contradicting the ‘A Plot’.

The possibilities are many, while the challenges are almost as numerous. Still, fusing television and games in a transmedia context has the potential to engage an audience on an even deeper level than merely a great TV series, provided it is done well.

 

Simon Staffans is a format developer for Media City Finland, and a regular contributor to MIPBlog. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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  1. Pingback: Simon Staffans: What Transmedia lessons can TV learn from video games? « Transmedia Camp 101