July 14, 2006
ABC Family Transmedia Project Launches Next Week

Next week will see the launch of an interesting experiment for the ABC Family Channel, which will be launching a transmedia experience for viewers of its two-hour television movie Fallen.

The movie itself is an adaptation of a popular series of books by author Tom Sniegoski, so the project begins with a transmedia focus in terms of adaptation. But the true nature of transmedia storytelling isn't just telling the same story in multiple platforms--rather, it is to have a story in which various parts or chapters reveal themselves in different media forms.

That's what the Fallen project hopes to do. Producers have already planned to air four more hours of Fallen next year and wanted to create a storytelling platform that would keep viewers invested in the Fallen story between installments of the television movies. Which is why they are launching an online game of Fallen that will continue throughout the summer.

The game is planned to be in real-time. It will launch after the movie airs next Sunday and will last throughout the summer, with participants being given new clues as they continue through the story. The project contains elements of an alternate reality game (ARG).

The movie will launch the game by giving a clue to the online game. All of this will propel viewers to go to the Web site, where the game will focus on the story of a character named Faith.

According to a press release on the show, the game will travel "between fantasy and reality," made possible through "a carefully designed combination of gameplay, video-rich media and online story telling which revolves around a girl embroiled in a mystery so compelling, it will shake the very foundation of humanity."

Okay. I think there could be some hyperbole there, but I will bite on the line that this is an innovative idea. ABC Family will be teaming with game producer and director Matt Wolf and online game studio Xenophile Media for this project.

I think the transmedia format sounds like a great way to keep viewer interest alive during installments of programs like this, which come very infrequently. In some ways, the project may be informed by the Matrix experiments. The key here is to make the Faith mystery be relevant to the movie experience without simply recreating too many elements of the original story. It needs to be different but involved.

In order to make this as rewarding an experience as possible, it would make sense for the Faith game to build into the television content that will launch in 2007. Events and characters introduced in the game should end up appearing to or referred to in the television content as a reward to those who participated in this transmedia product.

The jury's out until the content starts appearing, but the project certainly has merit.

Thanks to Henry Jenkins for making me aware of this project.