Why Does ‘Fanagement’ Sound Like A Dirty Word?

Transmedia concepts can be considered in one of two basic forms. Top-down, where the Transmedia expression of a narrative is handled by one single, large, corporate source. This form often falls under the broad header of fanagement (Hills, 2012). Fanagement is where there is an expectation that fans will create, but the transmedia product is being created by a central source, with an absolute control. In transmedia with fanagement, control is important, and products created within that transmedia sphere are created by a corporate-level entity.

Naturally, Twine is not something that’s going to appeal to this kind of produsage.

Twine is the best tool for the job if you have no better tools. Therefore, the place you’re going to find Twine is from the fanbase upwards, rather than from a corporate source downwards. Thanks to Twine’s utility, it’s best as a form of produsage – which means if you’re going to see a Twine game as a part of a transmedia experience, it will probably come from produsage sources.

Can Twine be transmedia? Of course it can. It’s a written medium. A webcomic could have a twine game. A webseries could have a Twine game. But… it almost certainly won’t be something that shows up in a source with a fanagement strategy. Twine is a tool for the many, for the distributed and individual, and therefore, a tool for fans.

Twine is a creature of Web 2.0, a period when consumers become part of the wall of produsage. You can look to the explosion of sources like Harry Potter (Leogrande, 2012) – a media form whose marketing and release is timed wonderfully (if accidentally) to coincide with Web 2.0’s growth – and see this same pattern. There weren’t fans making ninety-minute movies of the Harry Potter story, expanding its canon. They were making text files and card games and fan comics. It’s into that niche that Twine falls: Creation by people who yearn to create without gatekeepers and without demands.


 

References:

  • Hills, Matt. “Torchwood‟ s trans-transmedia: Media tie-ins and brand „fanagement‟.” Participations. Journal of Audience & Reception Studies 9.2 (2012): 409-428.
  • Leogrande, Cathy. “From the Sorcerer’s Stone to the Magic Quill: Transmedia Storytelling and the Potterverse.” Magic is Might 2012 (2013).

What Box?

1395524786319Original Image by Mr Joyboy

Last week I forwarded that unlike games like Minecraft, Twine, a game platform, wants to break boundaries through its audience. Let’s talk about how Twine has broken boundaries, in two ways: first, in the Interactive Fiction community, and second, whether or not Twine games are games. Space is limited, of course, so we’ll be necessarily brief!

What we call The Interactive Fiction community formed in the mid 1990s in response to what was seen as slow death of parser-based adventure (McIntosh 2014). It’s basically nonprofessional development of videogames like the earliest, text-parser games, ala Adventure and Zork. Since 1995, part of this community has held the XYZZY Awards, accolades for exceptional games, and in 2013, for the first time, Twine games outnumbered other forms of game (Klimas 2014). This caused a stir, which Twine creator Chris Klimas described as an opportunity, citing the way Twine’s limitations would suggest Twine users try other formats, like parsers, to express their games.

Twine’s also part of the question of but is it a game? The audience for Twine aren’t just people who play and make Twine games, but also videogame journalists. Specifically, there’s the long-standing debate of what, in common parlance qualifies as a game, catalysed recently by the indie hit Gone Home (Sinclair 2014).

This question is itself massive and too large for a tiny little blog post to handle, but the concept of hypertext (Goodwin 2014), the text and media created not just by the narrative, but by replaying that narrative and sharing that narrative with others, is foundational to understanding it – and Twine is partially responsible for starting that conversation up again. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to talk more on Hypertext in the coming units, but go read that article, it’s really good.

Twine is pushing its audience to push their boundaries, and then, to push Twine’s boundaries. It’s too soon to say, but just how many people are going to talk games in ten years’ time that started out dorking around with Twine after school?

References

Goodwin, Joel. 2014. Stop Crying About Choice. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.electrondance.com/stop-crying-about-choice/. [Accessed 10 April 14].

Klimas, Chris . 2014. War Pestilence Famine Death & Twine. [ONLINE] Available at: http://storycade.com/war-pestilence-famine-death-twine/. [Accessed 10 April 14].

Sinclair, Brendan. 2014. Why is Gone Home a game? [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-03-20-why-is-gone-home-a-game. [Accessed 10 April 14].

The Interactive Fiction Competition. 2014. History. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ifcomp.org/history. [Accessed 10 April 14].

Goodnight, Sweet Blog

The media loves to talk about the media.

Me

I’m pretty lucky.

First things first, I’m a fan of comic books. That’s not normally a sign of good luck, but here it is because it means I was already well-acquainted with the Comics Code Authority and the moral panic that surrounded The Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic Wertham. I also play Dungeons and Dragons, which meant I was treated to the moral panic that surrounded Mazes and Monsters, which made me well-acquainted with the moral panic that supported BADD. I play Video Games, which means, yep, front seat to the controversy around violence, in particular Doom and the Columbine Massacre, and the opportunists in Wertham’s mould.

History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Media Effects is an alive-and-well cycle of incorrect assumptions.

These are things I watched unfold in real time in my life; I watched the media becoming more transnational and saw the jarring difference in perspectives on, for example, the Irish between the United States (who provided the entertainment media) and the United Kingdom (who provided my relatives with terror threats). The sign of the Irish man represented something very different to a British mother than it did to an American news presenter. Thus, signs.

I was raised to believe everyone in the media was lying to me. As an adult, I found that they were, but not in the way I expected – there was no demonic conspiracy at work, but rather a simple matter of interests seeking to make money. This was known to me, and therefore, I’m used to looking at who owns the media already, what they can use to convince people, and how that might influence journalism at large.

The overton window neatly brings me to the public sphere – the idea of media that does influence how we talk about issues of public interest. After pictures of terrorists (both good and bad) and the disheartening understanding of where my eventual future is going, why not a more light example? The public sphere can be influenced even by jokes – such as taking a silly internet joke and using it as a way to draw both sides of a political group together. Rick Astley’s work is part of the public sphere, but more interestingly, the joke of it is also part of that public sphere, in a different form, which has taken on a totally different form here.

I’m lucky because this class has been basically all about taking things I already understood, and dedicated time to really grind into the bedrock of what makes them work. It’s asked me to talk about my ideas and explain them, and it’s also challenged them in some places, to make them stronger. I’m lucky because this isn’t a media landscape I was born into, it was a reflection of the life I’ve lived.

In The Game Of Media Events, You Consume, Or You Die

Right now I’m doing four subjects, in my second semester. BCM110, BCM112, ENGL101, and MGMT102. Business Communications & Media prereqs, English LIterary Criticism, and Business Language. In these four classes, there is one class where Game of Thrones has not been mentioned. Guess which one?

If you’re a smartarse, you’d peg it correctly at the English Literary one. We have other books to talk about. We have other stories to reference, after all. But I’m still fascinated with the way that the lecturers and tutors for the BCM and MGMT topics are so fascinated by using Game of Thrones as a cultural touchstone. It’s not even that the story is exceptional (though it’s certainly good in its complexity), but I’m more fascinated by the commonality.

The three people who actively invest and speak of Game of Thrones, the ones who make glib references to Tyrion’s wit or Jaime’s skill or Ed Stark’s doomedness, they’re all in the campus wing that focuses on business and media. What’s more, that’s where the students seem most interested in it, too.

It’s fascinating.

I’m watching the epidimiology of an idea, a media event in slow release. It’s not about the story, it’s not about the books, it’s about being part of this movement. In the church, we had a word for that, though this is far more benign.

If you’re plugged into the media landscape, if you’re aware, you know what Game of Thrones is about, you know about The Walking Dead‘s plot, you’re probably also aware of Breaking Bad and House of Cards. If you’re in the LGBT community? Chances are you know about Orange is the New Black, and this connects you to people you’ve never met and never will and whether you love it or hate it or are outraged or enabled by these stories, the story is not as important as the people it connects you to.

Because, in the right time and the right place, that feels like everyone.

The Media(ted Public Forum) is the Message

Discussing Mediated Public Spheres, the temptation is to reach for something ongoing – like a broadsheet newspaper and its overall character – or specific – like an individual advertisement. These are both examples of things within the Mediated Public Sphere, in that they discuss ideas with an eye to changing them (even if the change is ‘you’re not buying this thing – you should change that!‘), and they have no immediate audience feedback. They’re definitively meant to reach wide audiences, too. What’s interesting about both of them however is their relationship with time.

A serialised newspaper wants to be read regularly and repetitively. People rarely go back looking at back issues of newspapers to see what the newspaper was like. Advertising is (usually) meant to be extremely temporary, churning constantly to try new angles and new trends. What’s interesting to me are the media works that fall in between. Videogames are my poison of choice, but there’s something else recently that’s been on my mind.

Source: Wired
Source: Wired

The Hunger Games movies serve as a crystallising point for a host of issues. In the content of the movie themselves, briefly, there’s:

More fascinating than that, though, are the issues raised by the movie being a movie. The Hunger Games started as a book; and now the movie casts light on:

None of these are easy issues to touch on, and most interestingly, The Hunger Games doesn’t really make any attempt to answer these issues. It simply is, and the conversation and convention swirl around it like a storm.

Now consider how strange it’s going to look in twenty years’ time. People will go back and view it – especially as a nostalgia piece. Will the same issues matter?

The Twines That Bind

Before we can talk about Twine’s audience and how it engages the audience, let’s talk about games about creativity. There’s a small family of games lately (and growing, of course), games that follow in the legacy of things like The Incredible Machine and Scorched Earth of being designed more around letting players mess around with a sandbox of creative tools than they are about completing the goal or finishing the level. The vanguard of this genre right now is probably Notch’s Minecraft, a monstrously successful indie game.

Minecraft is essentially a Web 2.0 darling, where players create things in Minecraft, share them via social media, and that encourages others to also make things (Lastowka, 2012). Minecraft is a system of mindblowing complexity, comparative to Twine. While both are made up of systems that inter-relate, Minecraft is so complex that it’s what’s known as Turing-Complete (0xabad1dea, 2013), that it can have other computers built inside it.

Twine is not complex. Twine does not present a game in which elements are moved, but it presents games as its output. It’s designed to be free, and is distributed via the most widespread form of internet access. As discussed last time, Twine is radically inclusive, a property that’s designed to create a product where the common reaction to a Twine game should be I can make one of those. This is why there are a number of Twine games about queerness and San Fransisco – some members of those communities made Twine games, shared them, and their friends, who had mutual interests and experiences, made their own.

Twine differs from an experience like Minecraft because Minecraft wants the prosumer to play within the sandbox. Twine, on the other hand, wants to give people the chance to to escape its sandbox.


References

Greg Lastowka. “Minecraft as Web 2.0: Amateur Creativity in Digital Games” Amateur Media: Social, cultural and legal perspectives (2012).
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/lastowka/6

0xabad1dea. “Weird Machines In Video Games.” GitHub Gists. 2013. Available At:+ https://gist.github.com/0xabad1dea/7740977#file-weird-machines-video-games-md. [Accessed 02 Apr. 2014]