Category Archives: Exploring interactive media

Propp, V. (1928) Morphology of the Folktale. Second edition. Translation by USA: American Folklore Society and Indiana University. (1968) Available from: http://homes.di.unimi.it/~alberti/Mm10/doc/propp.pdf [Accessed 27th March]

It is a well-known fact that a large amount of traditional fairy tales or folk tales follow a very well established, easily identifiable narrative structure. Many of these stories originally started orally as tales which were told to children to teach them valuable life lessons about cultural beliefs: obey your parents, don’t be selfish etc. and these themes would run throughout the protagonist’s internal and external quest.

Vladimir Propp was a Russian theorist and folklorist who has had an extremely large influence on modern culture as well as other scholars such as Ronan Barthes and Levi Strauss. He had a very precise and regimented way of deciphering Russian folklore. His theories are based largely on narrative structure and character functions which (although originally were applied to folklore) can easily be applied to all types of text or film.

A term that Propp uses very often in Morphology of the Folktale is diachronic, which means that the audience experiences the story with the protagonist, Gretel, and we are tailoring our app version of the game to stick with this idea so that our audience feel like they are embarking on the journey too. He also states that many tales actually “proceed from a certain situation of insufficiency or lack” which works with our take because lack is the catalyst in both the original story and our recreation: the family is poor so the children are abandoned, Gretel needs to collect 100 magic beans, Hansel is starving which is why he eats the witches’ house.

Sweet Hostage both follows and differs from Propp’s morphology of the folklore (see chapter II, The Functions of Dramatis Personae). When writing the detailed version of the storyline, we wanted to keep the general structure as true to the original tale of Hansel and Gretel as possible but more importantly, we wanted to break the typical fairy tale conventions to adapt it to modern day culture. For example, Hansel is still the one to be tempted (not by a gingerbread house but by the narcotic, porridge) and Gretel is the one that saves the day. However, we have taken the idea of Gretel saving the day and elongated it to be the main storyline, rather than just the climax.

As well as keeping the general structure of the tale the same, we also wanted to break fairy tale conventions in order to add to the humour and modernity of Sweet Hostage. For this reason, there is no Propp-style romantic interest as reward at the end because Gretel sets out to rescue her careless brother and overthrow the evil witch. We have developed Gretel to fit the hero archetype to fit in with present day and turned the ‘Damsel in distress’ convention on its head with Hansel locked in the (metaphorical) tower with Gretel being the one to fight her way to him.

Pratten, R. (2011) Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling: A Practical Guide for Beginners. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Available from: http://www.tstoryteller.com/getting-started-in-transmedia-storytelling [Accessed 10th February 2015]

Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling is the essential guide to creating a successful, captivating transmedia experience. It guides you through every process of production, teaching you vital lessons about story, platforms, audience etc. It was chapter 2.4.1 and 2.4.2 which I found the most valuable as it was something I was least confident and had the least experience with, ‘Audiences – Identifying and Understanding Them.’ Due to the advance in 2.0 web, audiences have changed the way they interact with media, the traditional hypodermic needle model for media consumption is redundant now as people chose what information they digest. People watch, listen to, and play what and when they want to – if we as creators, transmedia storytellers, can’t immediately grab the attention of our audience, then no excitement will be generated by our product. We need to think, in a world where everyone has access to hundreds of thousands of games at their fingertips, why would they chose to play our game?

Pratten’s advice about identifying and understanding your audience went into depths I didn’t even realise were relevant. His two key steps to delivering a relatable and compelling story are 1. Identify your audience 2. Understand what turns them on. He then goes into explaining what you should consider when identifying your audience, e.g. age, occupation, social goals, when, where and how they watch films and listen to music. After reading this section, I set about incorporating examples from his list to write a few audience profiles of people who I think would be likely to be involved in our transmedia project, ‘Sweet Hostage.’ Although you can’t exactly describe the people that would play this, you need to have a rough idea of what makes people tick, so that when it comes to showing your product to a focus group they aren’t merely going to respond with ‘I just don’t like it’ etc.

The advice that Pratten gives about audience relates directly to the topic of platforms. Without understanding the people we want to market our product to, we will be unable to use platforms appropriately to get our content across to the target audience. He says that first and foremost, you need to ‘consider the audience’s lifestyle’ and gives a good example, “If you’ve got a story appealing to single parent families, is it likely that they will attend live events?” I took on these ideas and found that our audience are far more likely to be accessing games and other interactive content while on the go via mobile devices, therefore all the platforms we are using (YouTube, Tumblr, game app, twitter) are available on tablets and smartphones to suit the demands of the audience. Our aim is for the transmedia experience to be easily integrated into people’s lives and fit with their lifestyle whether they’re tweeting Little Red’s Rebellion on the bus or tuning into the witch’s political statement on their break.

Jameson, F. (1991) POSTMODERNISM, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Duke University Press: Durham, NC. Available from: http://flawedart.net/courses/articles/Jameson_Postmodernism__cultural_logic_late_capitalism.pdf [Accessed 12th February]

During the research and pre-production stage of creating our transmedia project, it came apparent that Sweet Hostage was becoming a patchwork quilt of various themes and tropes based around the whole fairy tale genre. The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of parody is “an imitation of the style of a specific writer, artist or genre with deliberate exaggeration” and its definition of pastiche is “an artistic work consisting of a medley of pieces imitating various sources”, but Marxist and literary critic, Fredric Jameson reinvents these terms to highlight the movement in film and media from a modernist to a postmodern society.

Jameson believes that in the current postmodern culture, it is impossible to create anything new, that “stylistic innovation is no longer possible” and that postmodern culture is a simple regurgitation of past quotations. This is how he describes pastiche and an example of the postmodern pastiche in film is Star Wars (1997) which he describes as a nostalgia film, which the adult public can use to gratify a craving to relive the nostalgia of their past. Reading POSTMODERNISM, or, The Cultural logic of Late Capitalism alongside this module has helped me to always keep the theme of postmodernity in the back of my mind so that whenever we were creating something together, I would always be trying to think of ways to add to the pastiche effect like deciding the name or logo for an organisation to add in more fairy tale tropes.

It would be cool to be able to call Sweet Hostage a nostalgic transmedia experience and we would hope that both adults and children can play the game, watch the videos, tweet the characters and feel like they are reliving a small piece of their childhood. As well as introducing easily identifiable fairy tale characters such as goldilocks (Goldee), the wolf (Mr. Wolfe), Hansel and Gretel, Little Red etc. we have also brought in ideas from nursery rhymes (three blind mice) and fables (the magic porridge pot, porridge being the main contraband in the forest). We wanted to use lots of concepts and themes from various fairy tales to create familiarity and add humour in a similar way that The Simpson’s pull off when they collaborate with other popular cartoons. I feel as though creating this patchwork quilt, “cannibalisation of the past” (Jameson), would reach out to a wider target audience that just the original 14-21 year old age range because there are so many elements to it that I think anyone can relate to it and hopefully find the humour in it (despite Jameson’s cynical description of the pastiche form and how it lacks sense of humour).

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These are the images I have taken in the Wyre Forest, Worcestershire which will hopefully be used as backgrounds for the coded, watered down version of our game, Sweet Hostage.

As the forest is the main setting, I took a few photos of different kinds of woodland areas, with paths, without e.t.c.

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Above and below are some examples of the editing techniques I used to create the certain fantasy look. All the images were processed in relatively the same way:

  1. Boost contrast, exposure if necessary in preparation for colour to be adjusted.
  2. Turn up the blacks which adds depth and brings out detail in the trees and foliage.
  3. Turn up the clarity higher than you would for a portrait for example. (This makes the lines a lot stronger, reducing flatness)
  4. According to each image, adjust the green and aqua hue controls which adds to the fantasy style.
  5. Apply vignette if appropriate.

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These are the posters I created for the disappearance and capture of Hansel. The first one will be uploaded onto our social media sites (tumblr and twitter) when Hansel disappears and the next day, the poster will be uploaded again with the witches’ demand for 100 MBS (magic beans). Anthony will also use these on the game. It will be hanging up on a tree and after clicking it, Gretel realises her task and this sets things in motion for the rest of the gameplay.

This is one of the propaganda posters which I made to be used for the social media side of the project. I stuck it up on a tree and shared it with my team so that they can distribute the images through twitter sites when they fancy it. I started by drawing a simple outline of six ‘candy houses’, combining tropes from the different cultures and styles that we have taken inspiration from. I tried to combine elements from the witches house from the original Hansel and Gretel fairytale with modern, cartoony style elements while trying to incorporate a propaganda-like bitter-sweet sarcasm as well.

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