Walt Disney Imagineering has been using the Disney theme parks and resorts as centers for innovation in storytelling for decades, finding interesting ways to create rich experiences that play out across media. And while the team may be better known for joining narrative with animatronics and special effects for rides like the Haunted Mansion, the team has developed a number of more subtle transmedia experiences that experimented with location-based storytelling. For Phineas and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure (previously the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure), Walt Disney World visitors use a mobile phone to activate a series of clues hidden in Epcot’s architectural design, while Sorcerors of the Magic Kingom uses collectible cards to allow Disney World visitors to battle against Disney villains at magic portals scattered across the resort. And thanks to Walt Disney’s Living Worlds program, you might have the chance to collaborate with the Disney Imagineers on your own great idea.
Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development (WDI R&D) announced the Living Worlds program during last month’s StoryWorld Conference as an effort to catalyze and support the growing transmedia community. Interested applicants are tasked with submitting a high-level proposal by December 1st for a location-based narrative experience intended to run for at least two weeks that gives participants the ability to influence the story without costing “more than the GDP of any single nation to mount.” The story cannot use any existing intellectual properties, including Disney properties. During the second round, select participants will be asked to flesh out the concepts into a more developed proposal for consideration.
Scott Trowbridge, Creative Vice President at WDI R&D, says he sees the program as an opportunity for applicants “to gain experience and expertise by giving them an opportunity to produce their work at a professional level.” He adds, “[w]e’re on the cusp of a significant evolution in narrative form. The combination of emerging technologies, societal shifts and audience expectations all combine to make this an exciting time for artists interested in breaking the frames for traditional storytelling.”
While the opportunity to collaborate with Disney Imagineering to realize your dream project is compelling, it’s important to be familiar with the terms and conditions that come attached to the application. While all applicants retain full ownership of their intellectual property, all submissions should be considered public and non-confidential, and applicants grant WDI “a fully paid-up, transferable, non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free license” to their submissions, along with the right to sub-license the work to third parties. When asked for clarification on the terms, Trowbridge explained that “given that we are engaging [the] artists with the intent to produce their proposal, we must be granted the rights to do so, or in other words, a license to use their creative work, which must be transferable and perpetual.” Trowbridge stressed that WDI R&D would work with artists whose proposals were selected to set up an agreement and working relationship to develop the proposal through to complete concept and potential production.
Editor’s Note: At this year’s StoryWorld conference in Los Angeles, Fourth Wall Studios’ Chief Creative Officer Elan Lee stated that alternate reality games are dead as part of the conference’s final panel on “The Way Forward” for the transmedia industry. As one of the driving forces at Microsoft behind The Beast, Lee’s statement questioning the role of alternate reality games warrants closer examination. Adrian Hon, one of The Beast‘s player-moderators, former Director of Play at Mind Candy, and CEO at Six to Start, penned the following opinion piece exploring the statement.
“ARGs are dead”. We’ve heard it said many times over the years, and now most recently by Elan Lee, Founder of Fourth Wall Studios, at the Storyworld conference in LA this past October. While I wasn’t at the conference I gather the statement was made sincerely, and to hear it from one of alternate reality gaming’s ‘founding fathers’ caused no small surprise.
Taken literally, it isn’t true. ARGs are still being created for properties as big as The Avengers, Team Fortress 2, and Google, and grassroots ARGs are still being made, such as the TVTropes Echo Chamber game. It’s possible that fewer advertising and marketing dollars are being spent on ARGs these days, and it’s certain that ARGs no longer command the same number of column inches that they used to – but I’m not sure that 2012 represents such a precipitous change from 2011 or 2010 in those respects.
From a commercial standpoint, things haven’t changed much either. We can’t say that “ARGs are dead” because they don’t make money, as they never really did in the first place. Almost all ARGs have either been promotional or non-profit, with the few exceptions such as Perplex City, eDoc Laundry, and Majestic not being successful enough to sustain themselves over the long term.
You could argue that promotional ARGs generate a return on investment (ROI) by, say, increasing movie ticket sales or selling more cars, but to be perfectly frank, I doubt they ever did in a truly meaningful way – and I doubt that things are any worse today, either. Certainly there isn’t much solid, independently verifiable evidence of ROI out there – instead we’ve had to rely on self-reported figures that are easily biased or falsified. One day I hope ARG designers will engage in a ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ process where we all reveal our true player engagement stats and our near-total lack of knowledge about whether that engagement represented a genuine, bottom-line financial return for the commissioners, but I suspect that will have to wait for at least another few years.
For its second year, the StoryWorld Conference & Expo will be taking in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood for three days of panels and presentations from October 17-19 exploring transmedia storytelling from the practitioner’s perspective. Last year’s conference in San Francisco managed to bring in an impressive lineup of practitioners in the space, and this year looks to continue the trend. ARGNet is once again a media sponsor for the event, so you’ll find a discount code at the end of the article. Even if you’re not planning on attending, read on for information about a line-up of free podcasts promoting the event, curated by Transmedia LA.
Last year, StoryWorld’s focus was on the practitioner, with Conference Chair Alison Norrington proudly declaring that “[t]here are no theorists speaking at StoryWorld. I’ve done everything I can to remain focussed on amplifying the wisdom of practitioners who will share their real-life experiences.” While the schedule of events for this year’s conference retains that focus on highlighting practitioners, StoryWorld is placing a renewed focus on partnering with existing organizations to hone the message.
The first day’s panels, for instance, were developed through a partnership with Walt Disney Research & Development. Disney assembled the panels for October 17th, and Disney Imagineers are slated to moderate all of their panels. Similarly, the meetup group Transmedia LA has prepared a full lineup of podcasts, starting with one on Transmedia Activism later today. During the Unconference the afternoon of October 19th, Transmedia LA will be presenting a case study on their Miracle Mile Paradox alternate reality game while Storycode will discuss their recent Story Hack in New York.
If you’re interested in attending StoryWorld, register soon: Early-Bird Pricing ($550 for an individual ticket to the conference) ends this Friday, August 17. You can use the promotional code ARGNET to secure a rate of $525 until the end of August: after that, it will provide a $25 discount off the regular $650 ticket fee.
Between October 31st and November 2nd, the StoryWorld Conference & Expo will be taking transmedia to San Francisco. Last month, I gave a WEBCast for the conference discussing three recent campaigns, and I’m pleased to announce that ARGNet is one of the event’s media sponsors. The upside for you is the extension of our discount code for $50 off registration, available at the end of this article.
In a recent article on her blog, StoryWorld Conference Chair Alison Norrington explains her vision for the conference as an opportunity to bring together “writers, designers, filmmakers, producers, techies and digital mavens” to tackle the numerous challenges that arise in the planning and implementation of transmedia campaigns. Highlighting this focus, Norrington notes, “There are no theorists speaking at StoryWorld. I’ve done everything I can to remain focused on amplifying the wisdom of practitioners who will share their real-life experiences.” Thus, panel topics center around launch considerations, possible business models, and the integration of narrative and gaming elements.
And StoryWorld is not lacking in terms of practitioners: a quick glance at StoryWorld’s schedule for the first two days of the three day conference shows that one of the biggest challenges attendees will face is choosing between the different panel tracks, with many major players in the industry participating in panels at the same time. The final day of the conference is focused on the attendees themselves, offering speed mentoring sessions, workshops, an unconference, and a platform to present projects in development.
Early registration ends on August 31, but whether you register before or after that date, remember to use the discount code ARGN11 for an additional $50 off registration.
Edited to clarify: the StoryWorld discount rate only applies to Individual Full-Conference registrations
Digital Book World, an online community for publishing professionals and host to the StoryWorld Conference + Expo, will feature ARGNet owner and senior editor Michael Andersen in StoryWorld’s July 27th WEBcast. The webcast is titled What’s Possible with Transmedia: Case Studies in Successful Projects and will air at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
According to Digital Book World, the transmedia campaigns that Andersen will talk about during this roundtable webcast include HBO’s recent Maester’s Path experience; Chain Factor, the Numb3rs tv series’ episode tie-in experience (and addictive flash game) from 2007; and Valve’s Portal 2 ARG.
Attendees may register here for this free webcast. Registration is required to attend the free webcast and to access the audio recording.
For those interested in attending the StoryWorld Conference + Expo, ARGNet is pleased to offer our readers a promotional code. When registering for StoryWorld, use the code ARGN11 to receive $50 off the early bird price for StoryWorld’s conference registration.
What: StoryWorld WEBcast featuring ARGNet’s Michael Andersen
When: Wednesday, July 27th at 1:00 p.m. EDT
Where: Register here