The [Story] World
Why the entertainment industry might be a great business incubator
Storyworlds are the central, generative intellectual property of transmedia.
Transmedia is a technique for telling a story or crafting an experience that extends across multiple platforms and formats using digital technologies.
For storytellers, transmedia represents a major shift from being format specific (eg. making a musical, movie, game, book, album, comic, etc) to making experiences that exist in multiple platforms simultaneously and offer audiences ways of both being a part of the story, and/or a viewer of the story in whichever way they like.
At a recent conference in Brisbane, Australia, Jeffrey Yohalem (Ubisoft) talked about the development of the games industry. He proposed that the level of sophistication in gaming today was about equal in relative terms with the level of sophistication in film making at the dawn of the 20th century (as encapsulated in this Miles Brothers film).
What this means in practical terms, is that storytelling and interactive narratives have a great richness that is yet to be realised. A richness that extends the powerful emotional arcs of great stories, and makes them tangible, real world entities. This opportunity for interactivity represents far more than tacky childrens theatre, or morbidly awkward ‘post-dramatic’ excuses to let drama students get naked.
Blast Theory — I’d Hide You
Blast Theory is a great example of this kind of new interactivity, swapping part of the ‘virtual reality’ we have become accustomed to in games and reversing it to create a ‘real virtualisation’ in which the storyworld of the game is superimposed and integrated into the real world.
‘Players’ join online and experience the game in quite a traditional way, via screen mediated display + controller. Second screen elements are added, allowing user to post to Twitter and while they aid or entrap the ‘runners’ who represent the real world ‘characters’ of the game. Meanwhile the runners are outside and execute instructions from the players, simultaneously engaging with an incidental real world audience (other people on the streets).
Interactive games such as I’d Hide You are not necessarily storyworlds in the complete sense, but they do operate within certain narrative conditions that are imposed on the fixed parameters that we all share on earth (our current, ‘real world’).
Embodied Virtual Travel
Adopting such a virtual first-person perspective and allowing even the most modest of agency to be co-opted by a remote player also offers a rich foundation from which to think about new ways of travel, whereby for those who cannot afford to (or are incapable) might still be able engage with the world, surf big waves, spend a day in the Gaza strip or even spend time on the moon — albeit via an avatar of sorts.
Storyworlds are whole worlds. Completely formed, with their very own laws of physics, unique biochemistry, cultural systems and family lineages. From these worlds, history is made, characters live and die, stories are told. They are sometimes fictional, and sometimes only slightly fractured versions of the reality we know today, and this offers unique opportunity to explore simulations of the way the world works.
HINT: Watch the trailer first before you read on, or watch the next video
Amazing! Going by the trailer, I was convinced that Ambition was set to give Interstellar a run for its box-office money
The Full Film
Ambition is an interesting case study. It’s not transmedia in the sense of the definition given above. Furthermore, even though it was produced by, and specifically features a project of the European Space Agency (@ESA_Rosetta); it is not an advertisement. So what is it?
Though it’s short, its a complete story — and storyworld — executed with exceptional production values. As such, it is a compelling demonstration of how storytelling might offer us a more authentic and emotionally engaging way to communicate the concepts we wish to promote in real business endevours. It is far more than an ‘extended advertisement’, dispensing completely with the incessant language of promotions that has come to plague the intermissions between every piece of content we consume these days.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes…………….[and maybe ads, too]
Life and work are hopelessly entangled, and so at least for the foreseeable future, businesses will continue to exist as the dominant form of social organisation wherein we carry out our life’s work.
With this in mind, storyworlds offer unusually fertile soil to embedd the core values and philosophy of a company into popular psychology. You might like to think of the past 30 years of product placements in major motion pictures as the ‘awkward adolescence’ of this kind of storyworld thinking.
When it’s done well, businesses melt seamlessly into the context of the story, they are just part of the world. Social norms and our tendencies to imitate characters we like do the rest. Case in point is the effect ‘Top Gun’ had on US Navy Enrollments (+ Ray Ban Aviator Sales)
Beyond placements, meta-references within film and television series also provide some interesting opportunities for bring the fictional world of the media property into the real world of the audience.
Pixar are infamous for the amount of meta-references (also known as Easter Eggs) contained within their films.
In The Adjustment Bureau, the phone number given to Matt Damon by Emily Blunt ((212) 664–7665) is owned by Universal Studios and will ring if called. It is not used to extend the story in anyway, and was also used in other films including Definitely, Maybe & Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Nonetheless, there are opportunities for these kinds of media transitions to extend or augment character stories, perhaps even to be performed in isolation or on demand for individual members of the audience.
The best way to predict your future is to create it — Abraham Lincoln
Let’s take a ‘rational moment’ to consider the fact that its highly unlikely anyone realistically predicted the cult success of the Back to the Future franchise and its impact on pop culture.
That being said — ‘Back to the Future Day’ (October 21, 2015) is coming up…. and nobody know this more acutely than Nike.
In 2009, Nike filed the patent paperwork for their iconic ‘powerlacing’ boots from Back to the Future 2 (set in 2015).
Entertainment reveals to us a way in which our speculation and simulation of the world through stories can create tangible business opportunities in the future.
Businesses that don’t exist yet…
…or are just about to
I don’t think I need to reiterate that the movie ‘Lucy’ is based on one of the stickiest science fiction myths ever (that we only use 10% of our brain)…
… But I will anyway…. its a myth
When the movie launched, Spritz (who had been in stealth start-up for about three years) released their speed reading technology, an applet you can use via a bookmark in your browser or via an app on your phone to burn through Plato’s ‘Republic’ at speeds that can reduce your reading time to roughly 4hrs (1000 words/min).
Hit the link below to experience the technology integrated with the movies ‘teaser’ splashpage. The gist — if you don’t want to venture off — is that Lucy tries to send a message to you (the viewer) and, fustrated by the slow and outmoded methods of traditional communication, she give you access to a more sophisticated method that will enable more information to be sent in the precious amount of time she has left —that tech, is Spritz.
Here’s an embedded demo for anyone who didn’t want to jump pages.
I know KungFu
While the Spritz / Lucy collaboration is a little more typical of an entertainment media product placement, the product-story fit is so good that the use case for the real-world business (Spritz) is given a significant boost by being aligned with the storyline of the movie. It’s easier for audiences to ‘get’ the idea, and since its delivered in a story format, also less irritating than a traditional advertisement.
Science Fiction, Science Future
There is absolutely no shortage of writing about the impact of Science Fiction in the popular mindset. But — until now, there has been relatively little examination of how storyworlds and business narratives can been brought together to create compelling experiences in which new businesses can be launched and experimental ideas can leverage the reach of entertainment media to introduce new audiences and demonstrate the value they hope to create in the world.
If you found this article valuable, please consider recommending & sharing the post. I look forward to seeing what you new storyworlds you create.
The [story] World was originally published in Story plus… on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.