Saturday, June 28, 2008

Synergistic Storytelling

THE MATRIX is a series of comics from cult writers and artists, such as Bill Sienkiwicz (Elektra: Assassin, 1986-87), Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, 1989-96), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, 1986-87), Paul Chadwick (Concrete, 1987-98), Peter Bagge (Hate, 1990-92). THE MATRIX is also two games - ENTER THE MATRIX produced by David Perry's Shiny Entertainment, and a massively multiplayer gamer set in the world of THE MATRIX, scripted in part by Paul Chadwick.
The Wachowskis wanted to wind the story of THE MATRIX across all of these media and have it all add up to one compelling whole.
One Example: In the Matrix Reloaded, Niobe appears unexpectedly in the freeway chase just in time to rescue Morpheus and Trinity, but for people who play the game, getting Niobe to the rendezvous point is the key mission. We re-encounter Niobe at the start of THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS where she was left off at the climax of the game ENTER THE MATRIX.
By the standards of classical Hollywood storytelling, these gaps (such as the failure to explain where Niobe came from) or excesses in the film confuse the spectator. The old Hollywood system depended upon redundancy to ensure that viewers could follow the plot at all times, even if they were distracted or went out to the lobby for a popcorn refill during a crucial scene. The new Hollywood demands that we keep our eyes on the road all times, and that we do research before we arrive at the theater.

A little too much asked from film goers who are not so handy with other media's. Targeting thus only to a niche audiences, this is where the filmmakers did a little wrong as the excitement that THE MATRIX created didn't get reflected that much with the sequels, but it can still be a glorified failure. Why? Read on...
Danny Bilson, the Vice President of the Intellectual Property Development at Electronic Arts says:
Going forward, people are going to want to go deeper into stuff they care about rather than sampling a lot of stuff. If there’s something I love, I want it to be bigger than just those two hours in the movie theatre or a one hour a week experience on TV. I want a deepening of the universe,
…I want to participate in it. I’ve just been introduced to the world in the film and I want to get there, explore it. You need that connection to the world to make participation exciting.
This level of integration and co-ordination is difficult to achieve even though the economic logic of the larger media conglomerates encourage them to think in terms of synergies and franchises. So far, the most successful Transmedia franchises have emerged when a single creator or creative unit maintains control. Hollywood might well study the ways the Lucas film has managed and cultivated its INDIANA JONES and STAR WARS (1977) franchises.
{A particular note on Paul Chadwick}
We can see collaborative authorship at work by looking more closely at the three comic stories created by Paul Chadwick, “Déjà vu,” “Let it all fall down,” and “The Millers Tale.” Chadwick’s comics were ultimately so embraced by the Wachoski brothers that Chadwick was asked to develop plots and dialogue for the online MATRIX game. Chadwick might, at first glance, seem an odd choice to work on a major movie franchise. He is a cult comic creator best known for CONCRETE and for his strong commitment to environmentalist politics. Working on the very edge of the superhero genre, Chadwick uses CONCRETE, a massive stone husk that houses the mind of a former political speech writer, to ask questions about the current social and economic order. In THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN (1996), Concrete joins forces with the Earth First! Moves war on the timber industry to protect an old-growth forest. Chadwick’s political commitments are expressed not only through the stories but also through his visual style: he creates full page spreads that integrates his protagonists into their environments, showing the small creatures that exist all around us, hidden from view but impacted by the choices we make.
what happens to the world - PAUL CHADWICK
In “The Miller’s Tale”, his protagonist, a member of the Zion underground, tries to reclaim a land so that he can harvest wheat and make bread. Risking his life, he travels across the blackened landscape in search of seeds with which he can plant new crops; he grinds the grain to make loaves to feed the Resistance- movement. Chadwick’s miller is ultimately killed, but the comic ends with a beautiful full-page image of the plant life growing over the ruins we recognize from the appearance in several of THE MATRIX movies.
More on Transmedia Storytelling
Transmedia storytelling is perhaps at its most elaborate, so far, in children’s media franchise life POKEMON or YU-GI-OH! As education professors David Bukingham and Julian Sefton-Green explain, ”Pokemon is something you do, not just something you read or watch or consume.” There are several hundred different POKEMON, each with multiple evolutionary forms and a complex set of rivalries and attachments. There is no one text where one can go to get the information about these various species; rather, the child assembles what they know about the POKEMON from various media with the result that each child knows something his or her friends do not and thus has a chance to share this expertise with other. Buckingham and Sefton-Green explain: “Children may watch the television cartoon, for example, as a way of gathering knowledge that they can later utilize in playing the computer game or in trading cards or vice versa…the text in POKEMON are not designed merely to be consumed in the passive sense of the word…In order to be part of the POKEMON culture, and to learn what you need to know, be part of the POKEMON culture, and to learn what you need to know, you must actively seek out new information and new products and, crucially, engage with others in doing so.”
(abridged text from: convergence culture - henry jenkins)


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