BABY-EATING ALIENS MIGHT ACTUALLY RUIN THE GAME – GAME-CENTRIC TRANSMEDIA AUDIENCE EXPERIENCES

Elisa Wiik

University of Tampere

Right now transmedia is on the rise among several different game developers. Game studios such as Remedy Entertainment, Telltale Games, Activision Blizzard and Interlude are all experimenting with transmedia content. Only time will tell if this trend will only be curiosity among game developers or will it become something much more, a new way to produce and consume game-related entertainment. Consumers are the key to these projects success or demise and it is important to study what kind of experiences these transmedia products do offer.

The definition of transmedia used in this paper is one defined by Henry Jenkins. According to him, transmedia is telling stories through different media, so that the stories are interlinked and form a whole. The paper also examines different ways of defining transmedia and introduces several audience reception studies of the topic. It seems that amongst transmedia audience reception studies, a prevalent core text is either a television show or a movie. Studies where the core text is a game seem to be in the minority. In this paper, I suggest a need for a game-centric transmedia studies. A game-centric transmedia posits games as either the core text or as a co-core text of a transmedia constellation.

The audience reception in this paper focuses on the transmedial product Defiance, an American science fiction game and a TV-series produced at the same time sharing the same universe, locations, characters and events. The TV-series was cancelled after season three aired in the summer of 2015 but the game is still ongoing. Defiance transmedia content included special in-game missions, inclusion of gamers and their characters into the TV-show and short webisodes available on the internet.

A web survey was created for the purpose of finding out answers to these research questions: What are the perceived positive and negative aspects of transmedial game content in Defiance? What are the motivational factors for game-centric transmedial engagements? The survey was divided into four different sections: watching and playing, crossover content, other transmedia and background info.

Watching and playing contained general questions about the Defiance watching and playing habits, crossover content had specific questions about Defiance crossover parts and other transmedia dealt with habits and preferences about transmedia other than Defiance. Background info contained gender, country and year of birth of the participant as well as scaled questions about being a fan and a gamer. The survey was answered by 89 persons and the answers were examined using qualitative content analysis as well as basic quantitative analysis.

The results revealed an unbalanced nature of the Defiance transmedial content and spoke for the players’ need to experience narrative continuation as well as characters true to their television counterparts. The most often cited motivations to engage with game-centric transmedial content included immersion, interaction as well as story volume and expansion. The results were in contrast with earlier transmedia audience studies and suggested that game-centric audience studies are needed to further explore this divergence in relation to TV drama-centered transmedia studies.