Storyworld conference panel
At the end of October I crossed flightpaths with fellow DCRC researcher Sam Kinsley. He was heading back from carrying out field studies in California as a follow up to his doctoral work, while I headed toward San Francisco for the first Storyworld Conference and Expo.
The idea behind Storyworld is that
“Transmedia entertainment—the art and business of creating a rich, cohesive story world that reaches audiences through film, book, game, social media, and more—is the most exciting and potentially lucrative development in entertainment today”
I was there to be part of a panel, but also to find out more about the approaches people are taking to making businesses out of transmedia, and what the parallels might be with our pervasive media studio case studies. I’ll be writing more on that at a later date; suffice to say there was a lot of overlap with the thinking coming out of the KTF work here, parallel experiences for those working and trying to make a living in the field.
There were over 400 people packing into the conference over three days. And there was a definite buzz of excitement about the projects being shared, the people who were there and for me, a feeling of being in a really interesting and exciting space where people talked about stuff they were doing, not just theories about how they might do it, but practical tips too. There were tantalising glimpses of projects that people had been or are involved in, and it made me want to find out more. It was a great introduction to everything you want to know about Transmedia Storytelling, and it will be really interesting to watch the conference develop. Next year it is in Hollywood…
I’ll share some more about the conference in future posts along more thematic lines, but here I just wanted to blow our DCRC trumpet about why I was there. I had been invited by Conference Chair of Storyworld, Alison Norrington, to be on a panel called "Streets that Tell Stories – How Pervasive Gaming Engages Audiences" alongside Hazel Grian and Jeff Hull. The panel was moderated by Christy Dena and was described in the programme thus:
Live urban games (LUGs), Live Action Role Play (LARPS) and pervasive gaming encourage and rely on instinctive playful behaviors that are inherent in engagement and immersion. This session will encourage answers to questions such as: – what is pervasive gaming? – how to leverage real-world locations and spaces to tell contextual stories – how to engage audiences and consumers with scripted, improvised and participatory live events – what are the risks and opportunities?
Christy asked us to mention our personal backgrounds as a way of showing what interests can lead people into working in pervasive media. We referred to various projects that we had worked on or been involved with as a way of showing the breadth of our experiences before Christy asked us questions to kick off the conversation.
I described myself as someone who has spent the last decade in and around all sorts of projects working with cutting-edge technologies (from my time with HP research labs, the Wearables/Equator group at Bristol Uni, Mobile Bristol and more recently the Pervasive Media studio and DCRC. I talked briefly about our current work at DCRC on the Knowledge Transfer Fellowship; how we are attempting to capture the language and ideas emerging around the projects coming out of the Pervasive Media Studio, and the soon-to-be-launched Pervasive Media Cookbook that will share our findings back to designers and creative producers working in the field.
Hazel Grian is well-known to the pmstudio network, as a writer and creator of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) with a background in theatre, performance, and film. She is now Assistant Creative Director of Aardman Digital. She initially referred to her work with slingshot on 2.8 hours later, the city wide Zombie chase game (http://2.8hourslater.com/ ), as well as the various ARGs that she has written and developed.
Jeff Hull is based in San Francisco, and amongst other things is founder and creative director of Nonchalance a hybrid arts consultancy based in San Francisco responsible for the jejune institute and Nonchalance games “for curious dilettantes” who want to “explore the deep forests of San Francisco”.
I was lucky to be alongside very interesting fellow panellists and really enjoyed listening to them speak. It’s always hard to remember what was talked about when you are engaged in the conversation with each other but here are a few notes from our discussion. We talked about:
- the way that pervasive games and events transform the way that people view the city – this does not have to be because it is a game, it can be through hearing someone’s story about a particular place, like the monkey on the balcony (email me if you want to know more)
- collaboration with the audience and trusting them to get the story
- you have to think about balancing elements of engagement and spectacle when you might have players who are immersed in the experience and perhaps an audience of bystanders
- the definite bias in pervasive media towards games and theatre ie event-based projects. I wouldn’t necessarily say a lot of them were transmedia – in that there aren’t multiple ways of getting to the story, they are stand-alone events.
- Jeff referred to his work as “Situationists 2.0, with better tools”. I agreed that the Situationist Manifesto is really interesting to read now and is relevant for people working in this field, but I tend not to use 2.0 on the end of any word.
- I think that we all acknowledged that what is currently ‘out there’ involves a relatively small sector of society – the ‘curious dilettantes’ of Nonchalance or the Hipsters studied by Dan Dixon. It’s not that I want everything to be mainstream and homogenised, but I like projects that are open to enabling people’s own creative input, or even better, projects developing software/hardware that are easy for people to use to create their own, as we had with mobile bristol and mscape.
The last question that Christy asked us was what we would like to see, and I may have said something about my personal desire for something a bit ‘quieter’ that doesn’t involve running or having to keep up with other people’s fast pace, and that I can ‘do’ when and where I want to so that it fits in with my Real Life. I am sure I am not alone in this – where are those games/experiences for the fans of Bridesmaids and Mamma Mia, or readers of romantic fiction? (On a sidenote I had an interesting conversation while in SF with Elizabeth Churchill of Yahoo research about women reading romantic fiction on Kindle so that others can’t belittle them for their choice of reading matter).
The panel discussion seemed to go down well with the audience, generating a lot of questions and conversations. It was good to see Hazel on form.
Luckily for my fading memory there are a few blog posts and tweets re our panel – check out this one by Mark Wallace
My particular favourite tweet was
The conference hashtag was #swc11 and there are still post-conference tweets going round a fortnight later. Definitely worth a look to see what is being written up. I know that I am still assimilating a very intensive three days with a completely new set of people, and will be sharing more soon.