Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tools for Transmedia part one - Storify and Shadow Cities

There are a growing number of services and tools available for people who want to create transmedia projects, tools that not only give creators a new way to get their stories out to people but also juggles the creative parts of peoples’ brains (in a good way, I might add!) Here are two quite different ones, Storify and Shadow Cities.

Storify is a ”real-time curation service” that lets a user build his/her own story from a number of sources (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube etc) and insert own comments to create a kind of a story around a subject. It’s easy to handle – what I found is that the most time-consuming part is finding the most meaningful content and arrange them so that the pieces fit together nicely and logically. In a way, it’s very much like writing a blog post, but more handy in many ways – not bothering with embedding, searches possible through the same interface etc.

A brief video explaining the concept:

As for using Storify in a transmedia project, a couple of the things that immediately sprung to mind were, for instance

• curating the storyworld, by being able to in one place give people access to the different narrative strands in a logical and informative (and why not entertaining!) way
• encourage users to use the service to glean new information from seamingly non-connected pieces of content (could be as crude as the classic ”take the first letter of every sentence in the five articles written on the subject and see what they combine too” or something more elaborate)

There are, I’m sure, a number of other ways to use Storify in a transmedia setting. It’s an easy tool that gives quick results that can be easily distributed to a huge number of users/followers. That in itself should be attractive to transmedia creators!

The other service is from the other end of the spectra. The iPhone game ”Shadow Cities” was launched by Grey Area of Finland a little over a week ago. It’s a game that uses OpenMap as the basis, and then puts a magical layer on top of the real world, a layer where the user participates as a wizard of sorts.

You sign up as a wizard for one of two sides; the Animators (or ”Hippies”, as the opposition usually calls them) or Architects (affectionally called ”Drones” by some of the Animators). Then the battle is on, to conquer Gateways that give you energy, to fight and catch Spirits, to Research new Mana Potions, to advance in levels and gain new Spells, and so on. Through Beacons you can jump anywhere in the world, even though the game is only realeased on the Finnish App Store as of yet. (It’s GPS-based, so where ever you are in the real world, that’s where you are in Shadow Cities when you log on. Turning on the app in a crowded place in a big city can very well land you in the middle of a serious magical fight… which is great fun! )

Now, the background story is flimsy to say the least. I do not think anyone has any idea about why we do what we do (yes, I’ve been playing it since it was released, addictive it is, yes!) apart from the need for there to be a struggle between two opponents for there to be the necessary competition. There are also some flaws in the game mechanics, but these are being corrected (hopefully) continously, so there is bound the be many improvements over the coming months.

This game does juggle the transmedia creative brain quite a lot, I must say. If the game engine would be licensable, there is no end to the fun we could have with this app. Think of being the Harry Potter of the real world, throwing ”real” spells as you move through the physical world, fighting monsters and evil stuff along the way (or be a Death Eater, if that’s your thing). Or connect it to something like TRON or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or suchlike; why not the Underworld property or just about any story where there already is implemented the idea of a ”layer” on top of our regular world.

Do check Shadow Cities out, when you get the chance. Here’s a short explanatory video to give you an idea of what it’s about (mind you, playing it for a week, there is a lot less running around and a lot more farming Gateways....)

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