Choose Your Own Ending

There is a new ‘mobile soap opera game’ (brace yourself there’s heaps more coming your way, including a ‘mobisode’ version of ’24’) called ‘TxtMsC’. It involves a series delivered on TV, mobile phone, with matchmaking service, the chance to win prizes and is marketed on radio and TV. The creator, Charlie Salem, claims it is ‘designed to be completely cross platform’. I couldn’t see how from the news items but in an interview with Salem (and iTV) the seems alot more compelling:

TxtMsC…presented viewers with a series of four 30-second music video-style comic vignettes–each featuring familiar UK television actors–that ran at the beginning and end of commercial breaks on the European version of E! Entertainment Television…Each vignette dramatized a dilemma, and was accompanied by a rap narrative delivered by a character called “Ms.
Cellulite,” played by Salem’s wife…Viewers were invited to decide what the characters in the vignette should do next: they could either text in a vote for a pre-determined option (“Text E if he should ask for her number”) or text in their own suggestion…Then, using artificial-intelligence and randomizing software that Salem wrote during his career as a video-game creator, a continuation of the narrative that corresponded to their individual votes or suggestions was sent to viewers’ mobiles, either in text or, if they had a 3G phone, in photostrip format.

The part I would baulk at was the dating element:

TxtMsC was also designed to function as a chat/dating/meet-up service: “When viewers
texted in their responses, they were invited to enter in their age, gender and post code,” he explained. “Because we knew where they were texting from, we were able to invite them to be matched up with people of a similar sense of humor, so that they could chat with them or even meet them. So, if you were texting from, say, North London, you could be texted back any time of the day with a message saying ‘There’s someone similar to you in your area: do you want to meet them or chat with them?’ Alternatively, if you need some kind of service or want to find someone in your area to do something with, it could be used to match you up.

Alternate uses to this system can be used in a story. Localised content is definately a device that can help immerse the player in the game, or story. I was fooled in another work (by myself not the designers), Jupiter Green, into thinking that the content was localised to my state. I was really excited about the idea and have been waiting to see something like this since. Though, GPS or localised media, is nothing new.
Another element of the work that was interesting, or at least a tick in the box of already recognised ‘aesthetics of immersive gaming’ (Jane McGonigal) is the notion of the audience having control. 4orty2wo call this ‘search operas’.

The fact that the vignettes generated a significant response was particularly gratifying, Salem added, in light of the fact that they were not promoted in advance: “Viewers actually told us that they were fascinated that these clips were just presented to them without any notice,” he said.

Salem has his sight on an even bigger project now:

“What I hope to target at the US would be a whodunnit version, called ‘MysteryTxT,’ in which television, cinema, Web and DVD audiences would get to work out who is the murderer.”

What is it about Bees?

A colleague and friend, Russell Fewster, forwarded an article that he thought I may find interesting: Mahonen, S. (2004) ‘Should “Bee” a Winner’, Stonnington Leader, Melbourne,13. And I did find it interesting…depressing…and encouraging…

A MALVERN author is at the forefront of a new style of writing for young adults.
Sarah Boland’s new novel To love Veronica Bee is the first book to be produced in the “pop fiction” genre.
“Pop fiction is more than just reading,” Ms Boland, 32, said.
“It’s about having a website of animated art and interactive games that goes with the book. The book is just one element of a very large project. You have to read the book to understand the website.”

Mmm…sounds like cross media to me. Actually, it’s what I call ‘transfiction’! Here is how Boland describes ‘pop fiction’ on her website:

  • Pop Fiction is more than just reading.
  • ItÂ’s about young people using multimedia to make art thatÂ’s related to a selected book.
  • You can use the storyÂ’s characters, plot, themes, issues, symbols, even important words to create your own Pop Fiction creations.
  • After making your Pop Fiction you get to star on the Pop Fiction website.
  • Even if you arenÂ’t a Pop Fiction star yet, you can still check out the Pop Fiction site and play online games, watch animation, check out artwork, interact with multimedia, listen to music, meet young and emerging artists and multimedia makers, plus heaps more!
  • Everything on bumble.com.au is made by young people.
  • They have read the book To love Veronica Bee, developed ideas for their artwork and/or multimedia, created their masterpiece and then posted it onto the website.
  • Some of the artwork and multimedia is dead-set wicked, some of it makes you laugh hard enough to spray milk out of your nose (thatÂ’s what John Barton said happened to him), some stuff is kinda related to the book and other stuff is really really related to the book — one thing is for sure though, its all gets posted for everyone to experience.
  • If you think reading is boring, then check out Pop Fiction! Or if you love books and canÂ’t seem to get enough of them, Pop Fiction will take books to a whole new level!

If you check out the website that goes with the book you’ll see the references to the book and how kids are participating with the site. This is very encouraging as I see the design of cross media needing to include the avenue for consumer participation. The narrative is not just ‘authored’ by the original designers but by the consumers as well.

I’m excited by this work and also glum because the idea is getting out long before I’ll get my work out (I’m writing a novel that is meant to be read in conjunction with a website where you can chat with the characters live). But, it is sooo goood to see a cross media work with a book in it! Gee, I am flabbergasted as to why more people aren’t doing it (I guess the time it takes is a factor!). Books are the most intensive immersive device we have. They are the perfect foundation for a cross media work that wants distribution and longevity.

Boland’s book is a great leap in the direction of ‘transfiction’ but it isn’t quite transfiction: I define it as multi-channel single-story creation. That is: one story told over more than one media.