Steve Peters Interview
We continue our month of Transmedia Storytelling interviews with Steve Peters, founding partner of No Mimes Media. As a pioneering force in Alternate Reality Games and Transmedia Entertainment, he has worked on some of the biggest and most successful interactive experiences to date, including campaigns for Watchmen, The Dark Knight, Microsoft, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix and Nine Inch Nails. His Why So Serious campaign for The Dark Knight and Year Zero campaign for Nine Inch Nails both won the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes Cyber Lions ceremony. Steve talked to us candidly about the Transmedia vs ARG debate, and the three biggest challenges facing interactive storytelling.
As a pioneer of both ARG and Transmedia Entertainment you have a hard-earned and unique perspective. In the past, you have been at the center of controversy around the use of the term Transmedia. How do you define Transmedia and Alternative Reality Games and how do you compare and contrast them?
This is a great, if not contentious question! There are a lot of definitions being bandied about, but here’s what I operate under in my own head: A transmedia story is a single story that is told simultaneously across multiple platforms using current digital technologies. To me, the key parts of that definition (and the parts that make what I do unique) are the single-story part and the simultaneous part. Things all happen together in sync to tell the same story. The stuff I’ve been working on with Fourth Wall Studios at Rides.tv illustrates this exactly. What’s more, these stories are single-player, re-playable and shareable.
As for Alternate Reality Games such as the one I designed for the film The Dark Knight (Why So Serious), I consider them a unique subset of transmedia storytelling. How they differ from something like Rides is that they typically take place in real time over a period of weeks or months and are played by a community. ARGs are more like music festivals, while Rides are like MP3 albums, if that makes sense. Once an ARG is over, you can’t play it again, which I think is a huge limitation.
After many years of participating in multi-platform, interactive narratives, the general public is unconsciously familiar with the concept of story experiences. Despite this, there is virtually no mainstream dialogue about Transmedia. Is this a problem or is this to be expected given the infancy of the movement?
You know, I really dislike the term “Transmedia.” It’s academic and has become a buzzword that is used inaccurately more often than not. I think this will be solved once the first Big Transmedia Story truly goes mainstream. I think the audience will determine this more than the creators; the creation experience isn’t as important as the user experience. I mean, the audience didn’t refer to I Love Lucy as “a three-camera shoot.” They called it I Love Lucy. I don’t think the term “sitcom” came into being until much later.
Other than the many ground-breaking projects you and No Mimes Media have been a part of, are there other Transmedia or ARG projects (past or present) that you recommend our readers check out?
As I mentioned above, the most prominent is the work done at Fourth Wall Studios on Rides.tv. One of the series there, Dirty Work, just won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Series, so I think it’s really the best example of what’s possible. It’s unlike anything else out there that I know of.