Back in April, I attended the MIT Business in Gaming conference, where I sat in on a panel called Hollywood, Music, & Games, from which I posted my notes here: The Now and Future of Games in Hollywood.
Chris Weaver, one of the panelists and a consulting researcher with the Consortium, made an interesting and critical comment that I've been thinking about for the past few weeks: We have not yet seen our transmedia Mozart. What he figuratively stated was that in the (American) entertainment industry, especially in the professional studios of Hollywood (here, a word that both evokes the geographical filmscape and also represents a metonymical substitution for the major players in each industry of film, gaming, etc.), there have been no creators of transmedia works that have been able to successfully construct a unified project that harnesses the power of each medium (whether through the producer's skills or collaboration with other creatives) to its largest potential.
Since I last read Convergence Culture a few years ago, especially Henry's chapter on transmedia storytelling, I have always explained the concept of transmedia with the example of the Wachowski Brother's The Matrix (1999 - 2005).
Henry writes, "No film franchise has ever made such demands on its consumers" (94). The remainder of this statement's paragraph elucidates the complex plot of the film trilogy, which bleeds out into a video game, animated shorts, and comics. What Henry pinpoints yet concurrently avoids discussing is the involved chain of media with which consumers are required to interact. Yes, they must understand all of these story arcs, but they must also be able to consume them. While Henry explains, "The Matrix is entertainment for the age of media convergence, integrating multiple texts to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium," he might also have highlighted that The Matrix is entertainment in an age of media literacy: audience members must possess the capabilities of dealing with texts across mediums.
And, the most important goal of the transmedia producer: the audience member must enjoy the product.
However, the trend in the industry that we are seeing right now is thus: transmedia franchises are profiting, not from the praise of fans for the creativity of the franchise, but from the money of fans purchasing uninspiring cross-platform tie-ins. Similarly, we are seeing more and more peripheral media of an initial text not act as related-but-separate story arcs, but capitalize on the extended experience of the audience.
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