Our daily development blog series for the alternate reality game, The Source, continues with the perspective of Jim Taylor, Game Changer Chicago Design Lab’s Learning Technology Director. Jim writes about the transmedia aspects of The Source.
Since my arrival from Los Angeles (where I worked as a game designer at Tap, Crackle, Pop), it’s been a true pleasure to meet the cast of characters here at Game Changer Chicago. As I’ve been settling into my new role, I’ve also been helping plan and implement the transmedia strategy for The Source.
From the outset, The Source has been an inherently transmedia game, taking players from onsite activities at the University of Chicago, to webisodes, to blog posts, and then through a series of online challenges (and back again). To deepen the online world of The Source, we’ve released the characters from the story onto Facebook, where they post, converse with each other, and even interact with the players from time to time. These posts (from the fictional characters) usually play off of the most recent webisodes and onsite activities. Most of the character posts are light and playful - essentially serving as reminders and reinforcements of story content - but some take the next step, encouraging players (in friendly ways) to reflect on recent game activities. That’s the practical side of the social media content, but there’s a more subtle side as well. There are always opportunities on Facebook and Twitter for deeper characterization. Although this is entertainment, we want the players to think differently about how to engage this story. We want the players to be curious enough about the story to dig through the social media updates in order to find small clues and details that make the characters complex, intricate, and real. In online spaces, people don’t always present their own character in straightforward ways; more often, one has to work to assemble a coherent idea of a person across many small updates.
When the 13 teams (of 10-12 players each) meet on The University of Chicago campus, they often start the day by discussing the webisodes. We’re hoping that the players that browse through the social media posts for the characters know more of the intricacies of the story and characters, and therefore have more to contribute to these group discussions. As is the case in many fan cultures, new information becomes a valuable currency.
For the players, curiosity about the story is the driving force propelling them through the games and activities. We want to harness that curiosity from the story to inspire learning, online exploration, discovery and analytic thinking. We want them to be excited to find all the little details of the story.