In the past few decades, technical innovations, the increasing mediatization of everyday life, and the economic interests of global media conglomerates have led to a highly interconnected media landscape where intellectual property is often spread across a variety of media platforms. One of the effects of this technological, economic, and cultural media convergence appears to be the increasing visibility and presence of transmedial entertainment franchises which represent—usually, but not necessarily: fictional—stories, characters, and worlds across the borders of conventionally distinct media.
In light of the socio-cultural relevance and the commercial success of transmedial entertainment franchises in contemporary media culture, it will come as no surprise that media studies have started to focus on transmedial phenomena as well, with terms such as ›transmedia(l) storytelling‹ or ›transmedial worlds‹ enjoying ever broader popularity. However, the astonishing heterogeneity of forms that can be observed with regard to transmedial phenomena is usually not quite as present in the discourses of media studies. It is this heterogeneity of forms that will be further examined by the present special issue of IMAGE, which is the final installment of a three-part series.
A substantial part of the essays collected in the present as well as the two previously published special issues of IMAGE is based on papers presented during the Winter School »Transmedial Worlds in Convergent Media Culture«, which took place from February 24 to February 28, 2014 at the Graduate Academy of the University of Tübingen and was supported by the Institutional Strategy of the University of Tübingen (German Research Foundation, ZUK 63).
The paradigms of media change and convergence in relation to the so-called ›new media‹ have kept scholars occupied for more than two decades. In the US and the UK, the switch from analogue to digital television comprises just the most recent step of technological developments offering an unprecedented variety of ways in which national, transnational, and global audiences are able to access television content.
This article’s aim is to offer a macroscopic review of these changing ways within the US television market during the past decade. This will be done with a distinct focus on statistical data in order to diachronically substantiate the often-attributed active role that consumers played in the larger transformations that are nowadays subsumed under the term ›convergence‹. Subsequently, the article will provide a short case study of the US premium-cable network HBO in order to exemplify the mechanisms at work within this larger convergence landscape that does not stop at the borders of the United States, but transcends nationalities to form a truly global media setting.
New technological innovations offer a range of possibilities not only to tell a story via a single medium, but also to expand the diegetic world of the story via diverse devices. This leads to an expanded story universe (i.e., hyperdiegesis), not only confronting the recipients when they use the story’s core medium but also accompanying them in their daily life when using social networks or reading newspapers. This article takes into account the existing definitions of transmedia phenomena and their structures in order to suggest a theoretical approach that uses semiotic and structuralist models applicable not only to individual texts but also to their interdependent constructions. These models are then applied to the ARTE production About:Kate (2013). Here, the transmedial way of telling the story (›discours‹) is functional for the content of the series (›histoire‹) and the communication of its overall semantic meaning.
Warhammer 40,000 (or Warhammer 40k) is a science fantasy tabletop war game set in a dystopian vision of the 41st millennium, with a xenophobic and fascist galaxy-spanning ›Imperium of Man‹ fighting in numerous never-ending wars against various inhuman opponents, among them transdimensional demons, ancient robots and swarms of planet-eating bugs. Since its release in 1987, the game has become one of the most successful tabletop brands and has given birth to numerous spinoffs in the form of (more than 120) novels, pen-and-paper role-playing games, comics, and video games. This article acts as an introduction to the complex structure of this particular transmedial franchise, but also explores the consequences of a ludic ›mother ship‹ for further transmedial extensions: as players experience the world by simulative means, they gain a unique ›empirical‹ approach to the facts of the world, which will influence their further dealings with other elements of the storyworld, be it a game, a novel, or a comic. Using a ludological approach, the article then attempts to find the common structural elements shared between the games of the Warhammer 40,000 brand, thus opening the way for further explorations from the perspective of a transmedial ludology. Furthermore, it sheds light on the franchise’s attempts to advance its storyline with the collective help of fans and players of the original tabletop war game ›mother ship‹, in the process revealing a conflict between the conception of the transmedial storyworld as (mostly) static setting, on the one hand, and as dynamic storyline, on the other.
Building on Henry Jenkins’ definition of transmedia storytelling as »the art of worldmaking« (JENKINS 2006: 114), which puts the world at the center of storytelling, this article focuses on two tools for the apprehension of a transmedial world from a perspective which takes into account the specificity of media and production: the transmedial ›bible‹ and the ›canon‹. For this purpose, I use as an example the entertainment franchise Halo (343i), which originated in the videogame Halo. Combat Evolved (2001).
Video games have not only become an integral part of most transmedial entertainment franchises but also influenced the narrative and aesthetic conventions of other media, especially film. One consequence of this is the growing prominence of ›game-like‹ narratives (and storyworlds) that subordinate characters and storytelling to more abstract principles of narrative organization. In this article, it is argued that this ›game logic‹ leads to some transmedial storyworlds being especially well-suited for an adaptation as a video game, and that the novel-based transmedial world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is such a world. Drawing on transmedial narratology, film studies, and game studies, the relationship between transmedial worlds and games will be discussed with reference to three different Game of Thrones video games: the action role-playing game Game of Thrones (2012), the browser game Game of Thrones Ascent (2013), and the real-time strategy game A Game of Thrones. Genesis (2011). As will be shown, all three games follow very different strategies in identifying and implementing the core elements of the respective storyworld, mainly informed by generic conventions and (assumed) player preferences. Thus, the comparison also casts a light on medium-specific strengths and weaknesses regarding video games’ contribution to a broader transmedia storytelling context.
There is no denying that transmedia storytelling has been gaining increasing attention in recent media, literature, and game studies. Introduced in Henry Jenkins’ famous (though not aspiring to be groundbreaking) book Convergence Culture (cf. JENKINS 2006), the term has already appeared—to recall the most notable contributions—in media (cf. DENA 2009; SCOLARI 2009), game (cf. KLASTRUP/TOSCA 2004; THON 2009), literature (cf. WOLF 2012), television (cf. EVANS 2011) and, last but not least, narrative studies (cf. RYAN 2001; 2004; 2006; 2014), becoming, therefore, a hallmark of contemporary participatory culture. This instinctive association of transmedia studies with everything labeled ›new media storytelling‹ may be, however, one of the term’s few disadvantages. After all, what was the third edition of Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), if not transmedial? Indeed, the work entails a fantastic story (the imaginary voyage of Hythloday), fictional world-building (the foundation of the island of Utopia), concept art (the woodcuts by Ambrosius Holbein), metafictional augmentations (fictive poems, dialogues, and letters), and even a facsimile of the imaginary alphabet. This is possibly why more universally attributed transmedia studies could follow the path marked by Richard Saint-Gelais’ concept of transfictionality (cf. SAINT-GELAIS 2007; 2011), Marie-Laure Ryan’s distinctions between transmediality and transfictionality (cf. RYAN 2013), or even David Herman’s notion of the whole transmedial narratology (cf. HERMAN 2004).