This past week, Amsterdam played host to Cinekid, the annual international film, TV, and new media festival for young people. The festival also provides separate sessions for professionals working in these entertainment media. One of these sessions, the Junior Cross Media Market, brings together producers of transmedia content for children with international financiers and co-producers, including broadcasters, networks, and entertainment companies.
The Junior Cross Media Market was held on October 28th, and while ARGNet was unable to attend the Market in its entirety, we were able to attend and report on Jeff Gomez‘s transmedia masterclass.
Gomez has made quite a name for himself in the field of transmedia. He’s the President and CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a company that has been developing cross- and transmedia strategies for big Hollywood companies including Disney and 20th Century Fox along with other major brands such as Coca Cola, Hasbro, and Mattel. Most recently, SRE worked on campaigns for the Tron, Transformers, and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises.
Gomez has been on the advisory board for Cinekid for a few years, and was invited to speak on the subject of transmedia with the specific goal of educating an international audience of professionals in the television and movie industries about transmedia storytelling techniques and devising a transmedia strategy for specific brands or products. Monique de Haas, one of the driving forces behind From Story to Legend, introduced Gomez, remarking that Gomez was a key player in the push to arrange accreditation for transmedia producers with the Producers Guild of America.
This installment returns to our coverage of PICNIC with one of the “PICNIC Specials” sessions, and advanced masterclass entitled Everything We Know About Transmedia Is Wrong! It’s worth noting that some speakers referred to the session as Everything You Know About Transmedia is Wrong!, a subtle distinction. The panel was moderated by Seth Shapiro, two-time Emmy Award winner, principal of New Amsterdam Media, and a leader in the field of digital media, having worked for a number of media initiatives. One of these initiatives that may be familiar to our readers is Tim Kring’s Conspiracy for Good.
All of the panelists were first given the opportunity to introduce themselves along with a short presentation on their ideas on transmedia. First up was Dan Hon, co-founder of Mind Candy and Six to Start, currently a senior creative at the London branch of Wieden + Kennedy. Dan started by showcasing one of W+K’s recent major success stories, the Old Spice viral campaign. He then prefaced his definition of transmedia by discussing The Beast, a game that many consider to be the first alternate reality game. Hon reminded the audience that The Beast played out on the pre-YouTube, pre-Facebook and pre-Twitter “archaic web”, a time when sharing and collaboration online was synonymous with email. The Beast and its launch was based on the principle of “Internet archeology”: if you start digging for something online, you might just discover a story and even get involved in it. So, in the case of The Beast, people intrigued enough by a brief mention of a “sentient machine therapist” working on the movie A.I. to search further would stumble upon a deep narrative.
According to Dan, there’s a major challenge facing the traditional alternate reality game, something we might nowadays call transmedia entertainment: people seem to associate them with massive collaborative problem solving and puzzles. One of Hon’s major complaints with current alternate reality game and transmedia development upon which he as waxed eloquent in the past is that ARGs are not mainstream enough because they “incorporate obscure shit that no one want to see or do” by relying on tactics such as steganography, cryptography and solving stupid puzzles. Hon chastises developers, saying,
Stop doing this! Your audience is not stupid. If you put a work of fiction in front of them, they will understand what it is and we do not have to pretend that ‘it is not a fucking game.’ The number of people who are interested in mathematical cryptography is very very small; instead, let’s make stuff that just entertains people. I don’t want to jump through hoops to enjoy something, I want to view Charlie bit my finger on YouTube.
What if, Hon posits, the first alternate reality game wasn’t based on a scifi movie, catering to a geek audience? What if it was based on the movie Amélie, which also came out in 2001? An interesting question. What would have happened? It begs the question: are we are using the alternate reality gaming genre in the right way?
This article is the first installment in ARGNet’s coverage of PICNIC 2010. Over the coming days, Daniël van Gool will provide summaries of the sessions he attended as part of ARGNet’s media partnership with PICNIC.
PICNIC reinvented itself once more this year. The self-proclaimed largest conference on innovation and creativity in Europe, held annually at the end of September in Amsterdam, managed to pull off another rather spectacular festival. Reinvention was a prominent feature of this year’s conference, as seen through it’s theme “Redesigning the World,” focusing on changes that are going on around us on different levels and with different impact.
This is ARGNet’s fifth year in a row covering the conference, and while many aspects have been reinvented, some thing remain constant. The PICNIC Club, which serves as the central hub of the event, looks amazing. The Club was impressively decorated, brimming with things to do and see and buzzing with people lounging, networking, eating (in actual picnic fashion) and browsing the offerings of several high and low-tech innovators. There was the 3D Lounge, where you can submerge yourself in audio and video using Sony’s new 3D TV system, as well as a setup of Microsoft’s Kinect (which, incidentally, if rumors are to be believed, will not feature the much-hyped Milo & Kate game that Peter Molyneux talked about extensively at last year’s PICNIC).
Over the next few days, I will be reporting on some of the sessions I attended, starting here with David Roman’s thoughts on emerging industries and the emerging markets they will (need to) be catering to, in a presentation titled ‘The Next Generation Enterprise meets the Net Generation Consumer.” Roman is the Chief Marketing Officer at Chinese-based PC manufacturer Lenovo, and has a history working with companies including HP, NVIDIA, and Apple.
Since 2007, The Digital Cowboys, with lively hosts Alex and Tony, have aired weekly podcasts on gaming, and this week ARGNet’s own Michael Andersen was their featured guest. Covering both past games and current campaigns, The Digital Cowboys Episode 166 is a must-listen for anyone interested in ARGs.
Newcomers should find the interview a particularly useful introduction to playing alternate reality games because it features an in-depth look at how to join the ARG-playing community and also a systematic discussion of the slang we tend to take for granted. Old-timers might appreciate the laughs, especially as Michael gives his personal take on some of the best and the worst of the genre and as the Digital Cowboys try to wrestle with some of the crazy things ARG players and creators do . . . for fun.
ARGNet’s own Associate Editor Marie Lamb appeared on South African marketing podcast The Digital Edge this past week to discuss alternate reality games. Marie was joined by alternate reality gaming developers Ken Eklund (World Without Oil), McKinney’s Chris Walsh (Art of the Heist), and Cherryflava’s Jonathan Cherry (Can You Twist). The Digital Edge produces weekly podcasts on topics related to digital marketing.
Marie provided a succinct explanation of what alternate reality games are (and what they are not). During the podcast, she noted that “a real ARG has to have two crucial elements, in my opinion, to succeed. It has to have a really good story, and it has to have a strong community of players. In the best ARGs, these two are interlinked.” Then Ken Eklund, Jonathan Cherry, and Chris Walsh each described the rationale behind launching an alternate reality game along with brief explanations of their respective projects.
Click Here to listen to the Digital Edge episode on alternate reality games.
It’s been a whirlwind of activity for us here at ARGNet, and the inbox is overflowing! We haven’t had much of a chance to look into most of these, but every rabbit hole is worth taking a peek into, so here’s what we have from the past few weeks:
April 22nd: A reader named Laura was kind enough to send in this newsworthy item: Kaede writes a monthly column in the Japanese creative magazine “Brain”, and this month’s column is all about ARGs! I (@lauraehall on Twitter) and a few other players (@jasper_su, @cubicgarden, Roberta Romero and @redbanshee) were contacted about using our photos, and they sent me a copy in return. The PDF is available at lauraehall.com/brainmag.pdf. They talk about Find the Lost Ring and Art of the Heist, and Unfiction gets a mention too, so I thought you guys would want to see! Thanks Laura!
April 23rd: We received this game tip from someone calling themselves Reasonableman: A game called “Help Lisa” is now playing. The start point is: http://www.youtube.com/pandoralee999 The game is promotion for The Ennead (enneadseries.com). There is a thread dedicated to this game at the Unfiction forums.