The second day of the StoryWorld conference begins with two interesting sessions that I’m sure will bother some folks who believe the only good transmedia story is an alternate reality game (ARG).
Interconnected and mobile technologies are pervasive across much larger population centers now, which means more people (and more types of people) have come to expect content delivered to them in multiple ways. Because of this, the world of transmedia narratives and storytelling sit underneath a much larger tent.
Louis-Pierre Pharand from Canada’s Ubisoft Workshop kicked off day two with a discussion about how his company views transmedia narrative development within traditional console games. (He used the Assassin’s Creed series to illustrate his points.)
He described the companies approach to transmedia storytelling as:
- A story world building technique
- that produces co-ordinated, multi-platform stories
- with each platform produces its own stand-alone narrative
- that creates new entries into the world.
Two ideas popped into my head as he was talking.
The first was prompted by this comment: “A secondary character is not a character. He’s a character.” Pharand was discussing the idea that every element within a story should server some purpose, and every element within a story can be expanded upon to create a larger world.
The second was the idea that transmedia narratives aren’t re-inventing storytelling (another comment Pharand made on the dais). Speakers continually harken back to “campfire storytelling,” which is the metaphor we use to describe what we imagine is the earliest form of storytelling. Certainly distribution methods have changed, and each method has expanded the storytelling palette. However, great storytelling still comes down to three ideas:
- You need great characters who connect with the audience.
- You need a great narrative that gives those charactes a reason to exist.
- You need a great brand (in this case, a world) that audiences want to visit.
Without developing those three elements — character, narrative, brand/world — your narrative (and Pharand meant any narrative, I suspect, not just game narratives) won’t resonate with people.