Why Transmedia Storytelling Engages Readers: Reason #1

Last month, we kicked off a series of posts on transmedia storytelling–what it is, how it works, and how you can use transmedia storytelling techniques to reach more readers and provide readers with a deeper, richer story experience. You can view a complete list of back posts here.

This past week, I had one of those spontaneous moments of laughter and shared experience with my kids that I couldn’t plan if I tried. My boys–both teens–are well on their way to becoming adults. As such, they have their own friends, their own schedules, and their own likes and dislikes. Their lives no longer perfectly parallel mine the way they did when they were little–when every activity required parental permission,  a chaperon, and (most likely) a chauffeur. So you’ll understand when I tell you that this unplanned event was the highlight of my day! We were discussing a silly game recently posted online, a marketing gambit for the movie A Million Ways to Die in the West. (Go on, check it out…you know you want to! And you can probably beat my high score of…zero!…sheep successfully delivered to Old Stump. I did have four surviving party members, though.)

A Million Ways to Die in the West game

This game reminded my kids of an educational game they’d played in elementary school, the “Oregon Trail”. The goals of both games are similar: get your wagon train safely across the country via the Oregon Trail. Accomplishing this task is near-impossible for both games as well. The new version, though, is sort of a mash-up with Frogger, and Donkey Kong, and is immensely more entertaining (although probably less educational….) It had my kids in stitches! They staged a head-to-head contest, each playing the game on a different computer, to see who could reach the game’s end with the most surviving sheep (and party members!)

The “Trail to Old Stump” game is an example of transmedia advertising–the movie makers used a video game platform to entice a different audience segment to learn more about the movie, and this audience segment might not have checked it out otherwise. It’s not transmedia storytelling, though, because it doesn’t add to (or even retell) the story told by the movie. It’s just a bit of fun to attract more viewers.

However, the incident provides an excellent illustration three reasons why transmedia storytelling is such a powerful way to engage your audience. ESPECIALLY if you write for young people. We’re going to look at the first of these three reasons today…

#1: Transmedia Storytelling Reaches Young People Where They Are: ONLINE

If you have teens in your house, you’ve probably seen the same progression I have. Although we started out with the best of intentions to monitor and limit our kids’ time online, it’s become more and more difficult with each passing year–and not just because my boys are older and more independent. Over the past decade, more and more of kids’ activities have gained an online component. That’s where they go for entertainment. That’s where they collaborate with classmates (simultaneous editing on a Google doc, anyone?). They have to check class notes and assignments online; they have to have internet access in order to complete homework; and when they finish assignments, those get turned in online as well.

95% of Teens (ages 12-17) Are Online –Pew Research Internet Project, Teens Fact Sheet

Communication with friends also happens online, whether through email, Facebook, Facebook chat, Google hangouts, or other instant messenger client. “Get-togethers” often involve logging onto a multiplayer computer game with friends, where they can chat while battling for a star system, building a model on Minecraft,

…or teaming up to defeat a zone boss in the latest MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game–such as Eve Online, WildStar, or the old standby, World of Warcraft.)

“The Internet has become THE youth medium of choice.” –“Born to Be Wired: The Role of New Media for a Digital Generation

According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, today’s young people spend more than 7 1/2 hours consuming media–streaming music, checking social media, Web surfing, playing video games, etc. Add in the growing tendency to multitask? Researchers found that during that 7 1/2 hours, they packed in an average of 11 hours of media content.

[Tweet “Expand storytelling to include web comics, video, & other online media to reach teens where they are–ONLINE. “]

Have you seen the same trend toward increased time online in your home? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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