Platforms for Storytelling

The media landscape today is a complicated network of connected platforms that content is released on to. When we talk about platforms we mean categories or types of media content that can be consumed by audiences. Example of these platforms may be: films, episodic shows (tv, web series), games, literature (comic, graphic novels, books), or even social media (facebook, twitter). Each platform has their own affordance and limitations that, as media practitioner, we need to take into consideration when creating content and stories to be released with each platform.

In a transmedia story, content that form a narrative can be distributed on to multiple platforms. This is the fundamental idea behind transmedia storytelling; content released on each platform is interlinking and adds on to the overarching narrative of the story. This overarching narrative operates withing a Storyworld. A great example of how different platforms can be used to collectively tell a story is The Matrix franchise. Here the creators of the series uses many platforms and each of their affordance to tell a story. The three Matrix films were released as the primary text and the main entry point to the franchise. During the film, however, references were made to other aspects of the narrative. Comic books, an anime film, and games were released to expand the narrative of the film within the Storyworld. You can probably argue that film was used as the primary text because it is very mainstream - it reaches a large number of audiences. Once a fan-base is established, a more complex and targeted narrative can be distributed onto different platforms. Comic books and games are platforms that have a targeted audience. Only a certain group of people will engage with this medium. However, if audience do engage with the narrative in this platform, it can be a very rewarding entertainment experience.

Other transmedia works in recent years have taken advantage of using multiple platforms to tell a story. The Lord of the Rings, first a book trilogy released in 1954, wasn’t originally created to be a transmedia work. However, the fantasy adventure narrative provided a great opportunity to form a transmedia narrative. In 2001, Peter Jackson adapted the books into a film trilogy. The franchise expanded in popularity and games were developed which expanded the narratives. These games were The Battle for Middle Eath I, II, and subsequent expansion packs. It is alway important to keep in mind that there games (except for the first game) explored another aspect of the story that wasn’t explored in other mediums.

Have a look at the table below for a quick overview of different media platforms for storytelling and their unique features and affordance.

PLATFORM

ELEMENTS

UNIQUE FEATURES

Film

Moving image, audio, non-interactive, fixed interaction time, passive viewing

Popular, reaches a wide audience, commercial

Episodic Shows

Moving image, audio, non-interactive, fixed interaction time, passive viewing, shorter, episodic

Quick; episodes extend the duration of the transmedia work over time. changes the nature of how audience engages. overall extended narrative

Gaming

interactive, animated/moving graphics, music, sound effects, no fixed interaction time,

players become an extension of the story world: they can act as a character, manipulate the world, and possibly form their own narrative

Toys (action figures, costumes, trading cards)

playable, physical, tactile

hands-on media, collectible, allows players to become part of the world physically. helps form ideas of collective identity and competition and passion! (i.e. trading card collections)

Music (Song)

only audio, fixed interaction time, single media environment (just sound).

sing-alongable

Artwork (Photography, Painting, Installation etc.)

only image, no fixed interaction time, single media environment (just image).

highlights key moments, encourages hardcore fans to appreciate and engage further

Literature (Novels)

written word, more detailed, fixed time, but longer than most other media

encourages reader’s imagination

Graphic Novels, Comics

written word, images, expressive, fixed time but duration is quite long.

encourages reader’s imagination, niche market

Social Media

videos, audio, text, image, networked, quick and fast connectivity, interactive

direct interaction with the personal audience member - personalization. encourages audience participation. bridge between the story world and the real world.