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DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Entries in videogames (2)

Wednesday
Oct022013

The Coming of Wearable Computing Content

It's disconcerting now, going to some tech-centric event where a handful of folks are sporting Google Glass (and fending off the curious), but in a few years, we'll get used to (and wear) a slew of new computing devices coming onto the market -- not only eyewear, but watches and who knows what else. 

What will the killer app be for tech-powered eyewear? To date, most attention has been paid to video, in part because the market is just emerging and developers haven't applied their ingenuity and genius to the new form factor. (There are lots of accounts from those among the select Glass users, my favorite being from novelist Gary Shteyngart in The New Yorker.)

But here's a safe bet: games will be very, very popular, just as they are on mobile devices, laptops, desktops.. hell, people just love games.

Google Glass is in the early stages of defining the user experience and engagement structure of the platform, which includes head movement, voice commands, and earpiece touching. Oh, and lest we forget, the experience is inside the real world, so it's 3-D. 

So what happens in a game when you add all of those variables, especially when most game developers, even on today's sensor-rich iOS and Android devices, do not take advantage of many of the functions that they could use to create unique gaming experiences?

We are about to find out with the announcement of a new games production lab focused on next-generation wearable tech devices like Google Glass. 

Toronto-based Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and Menlo Park CA-based Mind Pirate have teamed up to create the ideaBOOST/Mind Pirate Production Lab. The Lab will recruit North American developers of games and other interactive content during a three-month boot camp, the results of which may be published and brought to market as early as Q1 2014.

Mind Pirate is a start-up focused on multi-platform game development and has created a next-generation game platform, Callisto, to create products for mobile wearable devices, like Google Glass.  Callisto does not release publicly to third parties until 2014, making ideaBOOST/Mind Pirate Production Lab program participants among the first in the world to get their hands on this next-generation technology.

Mind Pirate is headed up by my old pal Shawn Hardin, a serial entrepreneur whom we recruited to serve on the Advisory Board of the CFC's new digital media business accelerator called ideaBOOST. Synergy ensued as he and his team connected and brainstormed with Ana Serrano, CFC Chief Digital Officer and the visionary behind ideaBOOST. You can read their quotes in the press release here.

Mind Pirate and its investors are betting on their platform called Callisto which they believe will be a game-changer as the market's first and only tightly integrated client-side and server side game-focused platform that supports leading mobile devices with a special emphasis on so-called 'wearables'. It enables developers to create content and experiences that merge the virtual and physical worlds by taking advantage of the native capabilities of the underlying hardware while creating a consistent experience across different devices, including iOS and Android.

Interested parties can start submitting applications on October 2, 2013 by visiting ideaboost.ca/mindpirate. The application deadline is October 22, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. PST. The program will begin November 20, 2013 at the CFC headquarters in Toronto.

Disclosure: I am a senior advisor to the CFC and ideaBOOST.

Tuesday
Jul052011

WHY “TRANSMEDIA” IS CATCHING ON (Part One)

• Part One: Shouting “Fire” in the Theatre 


“Isaac Newton didn't discover gravity, he just named it,” one TV writer-producer quipped during a recent conversation about “transmedia.”

And so it would seem, despite a testy flame war over the term transmedia –– or perhaps because of it –– the “transmedia” movement is catching on across the media business. 

“Transmedia” is shorthand for a grab bag of production and distribution practices and audience engagement techniques that have emerged over the past decade, and when taken together, promise a new kind of media experience.

Along the way, practitioners and pundits have applied many terms to describe this type of production –– interactive or participatory media, cross-platform or multi-platform storytelling, deep or immersive media, experience design, story franchises, sequels, packaging, integrated media, 360 production….the list goes on.

What’s new here is the idea that storytellers can create deeper experiences for their audiences when they unfold a story and its world via multiple venues, and when they invite consumers to participate meaningfully in that world –– especially when they do so from the outset of the project.

Whatever the nomenclature, the transmedia trend is gaining traction, fueled by some observable trends:

• Demand. Today’s audiences expect their media to be social, participatory and customized for every device they use, especially the much-coveted hard-core fans who are especially drawn to properties which let them go them deeper into a story or discover something first.

Creativity.  The formulaic is giving way to the innovative, as producers, including a new crop of digital natives, compete to engage fans in their stories over time and space with new approaches and on new devices.

Buzz. Transmedia is becoming the Next Big Thing in both Hollywood and on Madison Avenue with more press coverage, more blogs and websites, more panels at film festivals and commercial conferences and ultimately more pitch meetings.

• Money. Big names in film, television, and games are placing bets on talent with transmedia chops. New studios have been capitalized to produce made-for-multiplatform properties, and proven creative services firms in the space are prepping their own original projects. Marketing dollars now routinely extend anchor properties onto additional platforms.

From Interactivism to Transmedia

I’m excited about all of this activity because for more than 20 years, I have helped artists and companies develop new forms of storytelling across many platforms (movies, music, TV, PCs, CD-ROMs, game consoles, mobile phones, set-top boxes, the Web). The programs I created at the American Film Institute attracted true believers who were fervently trying to reinvent Hollywood in the wake of the digital revolution, a movement that I called “interactivism.”

Which is why I joined a transmedia panel at May’s Digital Hollywood. Whereupon, I immersed myself in the vigorous online fight over “transmedia” nomenclature, definition, and turf.

The hubbub dates to the April 2010 decision by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) to authorize a new credit – Transmedia Producer.”. This credit was drafted primarily by Jeff Gomez, CEO of New York-based transmedia consulting firm Starlight Runner.

Sides were quickly drawn between supporters and detractors of the PGA move. Advocates believed that the credit provided legitimization and would stimulate more multi-platform production. Opponents felt that PGA’s definition was too narrow, and left out many forms of cross-platform projects. Among the most vigorous opponents were producers of Alternate Reality Games or ARG’s.

“Why do we have to define it yet?” asks indie filmmaker Lance Weiler. “Why can’t we just continue to experiment?”  Because, says TV writer-producer Jesse Alexander (“Lost” and “Heroes”), “You have to give it a name so people can talk about it. Isaac Newton didn't discover gravity, he named it.”

Anger finally erupted at the 2011 SXSW interactive conference in March, and then spilled onto the public Internet where a flame war ensued. Take a stroll through some of the posts and comments to decide if the fight matters, or if it is/was a tempest in a teapot:

• A history of tweets on the topic by Londoner Rachel Clarke, using the new Storify tool.

• A play-by-play rundown of the fight from 4D fiction.

• A blog post by Steve Peters, veteran producer of alternate-reality games, in which he swears off the use of the word.

Another by Atlanta-based designer Brooke Thompson, railed against Hollywood “snake oil salesmen”.

• The #antitransmedia hashtag which Peters established on Twitter as a rallying point for critics.

• A Flickr image that features the word “anti” spray-painted over Wikipedia’s transmedia entry.

• An April Fast Company post entitled ‘Seven Myths About Transmedia Storytelling Debunked’  by USC Professor Henry Jenkins, who had pioneered the term back in the early ‘00s. Jenkins said, “Companies are laying claim to expertise in producing transmedia content. But many using the term don't really understand what they are saying.”

• A May Facebook post by GMD Studio’s Brian Clark, in which he parsed the competing tribes and contended that their real distinction was who had creative control. This conversation drew hundreds of comments and has been reposted by other bloggers in several countries.

Ironically, this online kerfuffle has only heightened Transmedia’s buzz, helped to spotlight the breadth of the movement and fed into a deepening appreciation within all segments of the entertainment community that transmedia is the Next Big Thing.

PART TWOMany Paths to Audience Participation for Transmedia Talent

To learn more about transmedia, check out my Delicious account and this slideshare presentation.