Writer and game designer Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) hass corralled 25 Things You Should Know About Transmedia Storytelling which you should read before it becomes 26 or 50. But, if you’re rushy, at least read my favorite half dozen from his list:
Current Transmedia Definition
The current and straightest-forwardest (not a word) definition of transmedia is when you take a single story or storyworld and break it apart like hard toffee so that each of its pieces can live across multiple formats. This definition features little nuance, but hey, fuck it. That’s why this list exists — to gather up the foamy bubbles of nuance and slurp them into our greedy info-hungry mouths.
Still Gotta Give Good Story
Good storytelling is still good storytelling. Doesn’t matter how the story is being told. And this is where transmedia stops being a buzzword, ceases to be a gimmick — no matter what you call it, no matter how many screens you slap it on, no matter how experimental you choose to get, you still have to know the ins and outs of strong storytelling. You cannot and should not lean on the crutch of transmedia.
True Heart, False Face
I find that a lot of what people call “transmedia” fits the technical definition (as noted at the fore of the post) but fails to take into account what for me is more important: the philosophical definition. For me, what makes true transmedia unique and beyond the buzzword, past the gimmick, is when it carries two corollaries to that earlier definition: first, it offers audience investment and lets them act as collaborators; two, the story was intended to be a transmedia experiment from the very beginning.
Let The Audience Drive The Dune Buggy
Here’s why transmedia storytellers need to put their auteur egos off to the side — because the audience needs to control a chunk of the action. This can be overt, where the audience is literally allowed control (or even provenance) over the narrative, and their input changes the entire experience. This can be covert, where audience investment helps to shape the output if not directly change it. But the audience must be part of the feedback loop — and in this increasing age of interactivity, the audience wants their slice.
The Word I Like: “Emergence”
I’m starting to feel that the success of a given transmedia project lives or dies on how much emergence it affords — emergent gameplay being unexpected or unintended game interaction, and emergent narrative being stories growing out of the experience that you did not plan for or anticipate (and note that both are strongly driven by audience). You cannot demand or force emergence, but I think you can cultivate it by leaving room for it, by designing aspects that cede authorial control (or some portion of it) to those who are participating in your story. It also may work if you just hand out buckets of hallucinogens.
Not Every Story Requires It
Transmedia isn’t a big pop culture Snuggie. It is not one size fits all. Some stories just don’t demand that kind of treatment. They’re better off as single-serving entities — book, film, show, comic, deranged hallucination, Scientology pamphlet, whatever. But on the other end of the coin, transmedia isn’t a genre-only thing. I mean, it often is in practice. But it shouldn’t be. And it doesn’t have to be. (25 Things You Should Know About Transmedia Storytelling)