Improving Transmedia Narratives

The purpose of this post is to communicate the importance to transmedia storytelling of a good story, meaningful choices and less effort on the part of the audience.

I  was inspired by this paper “Improving Computer Game Narrative Using Polti Ratios” by Richard Hall and Kirsty Baird to consider how I might create similar equations to evaluate the strength of transmedia experiences. Hall and Baird create three equations for assessing the strength of a narrative game..

Level of Drama(LoD)= P/E
–P = count of all Polti situations / E = events

Variety of Drama(VoD)= U/36
–U = Unique Polti situations / max 36 available

Involvement in Drama(IiD)= U/(M+5*C)
–U = Unique Polit situations /
–M = main characters
–C = minor characters

Here’s my version for transmedia which works towards a formula for “engagement” (for want of a better word) by looking at the author’s considerations when creating an experience – such as number of characters, channels of communication, touchpoints on and offline, impact of audience choices on the narrative and strength of the narrative.

Confusion Factor (Cf) = (M+C) * Ac

–Characters x Accounts
–Accounts = number of ways to contact the characters
–Goal: keep this number low (1 character x 1 account = 1 = best chance of no confusion)

Immersion(I) = P/Cf

–Count of Polti units/Confusion factor
–“Immersion” = likelihood of audience getting hooked (immersed). Assumption is that a stronger story makes for better immersion in the world. Note that confusion weakens the immersion
–Goal: Higher the better

Agency* = (Consequences/Choices)

–Consequence = (knowledge to make decision x impact of decision) x story turning points. Consequences for character ought to be consequences for audience too and vice versa. Turning point means story takes a different direction or moves towards a different final outcome
–Knowledge & impact are in range 0 to 1 where 0 = no knowledge and no impact and 1 = full knowledge and greatest impact
–Goal: Higher is better

Engagement (E) = I * A / (T1 + 5*T2)

–T1=Online touchpoints
–T2=Offline touchpoints. Note that the 5 multiplying factor is somewhat arbitrary but implies real world activities require more effort and therefore ought to pack a great reward for the audience
–(Immersion * Agency)/(Online touchpoints + 5*Offline touchpoints)
–Goal: Higher the better
Something for further inclusion and discussion is the role of time. For example, is it better for the experience to run faster than it is slower? I think this might be true. And if it is, then experiences that need to last longer need a stronger story.

*For discussion of Agency I recommend reading this paper: “Commitment to Meaning: A Reframing of Agency in Games” by Karen & Joshua Tanenbaum

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