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Authentic in All Caps: a playful comedy-drama by Christy Dena case study

Authentic in All Caps: a playful comedy-drama by Christy Dena

By Ana Vasile published on 09/07/2011 0 comment(s)

 

The first independent project created by Christy Dena one of the transmedia worldwide legends, “Authentic in All Caps” has just been launched with a fresh new website and teaser. The project is presented as an audio drama that takes the cybernaut across the web, interacting with fictional websites while hearing the character’s stories behind them. It is an online episodic comedy-drama that is “explorable, ever expanding, reactive, playful, and replayable” as depicted by Dena herself.

The Story

The project’s website presents the story as a dark investigation between two worlds:

An Underworld gambling philosopher desperately trying to earn a living in the Overworld as an autopsy pathologist takes on a bet to find the meaning of death. Despite help from her part-time Time Traveling Assistant, she finds her investigation upsets fellow Gambling Philosophers, Ticket Inspectors, Artist Assassins and the Quantum Physicists’ Organized Crime Boss. Ultimately, her inability to fit in with either the Overworld or the Underworld makes everyone involved want to kill her

Christy Dena was kind enough to answer our questions and to give us special insights into the project’s creation, without spoiling your future experience of “Authentic in All Caps”:

How would you qualify Authentic in All Caps? Is it a new form of entertainment?

It actually is a new form of entertainment! This is surprising, since new things are quite rare and publicity spin usually claims a project is new when it is not. But I have researched for a long time to find out if anyone has ever created a project where characters guide you via audio across websites, and I haven’t found a single one. Many people have created alternate reality games, where fictional websites are created and the players need to traverse the web to find them. I’ll be doing that. And many people have created audio-driven street games, where characters guide players through streets via audio. I’ll be doing that, but across the web. So it really is a new form of entertainment, and a new way of navigating and experiencing the web.

Were you inspired by your research in the transmedia field?

I was inspired by my research and work in the transmedia field, and beyond. The design of this project is based on my research insights into the way people respond to complexity, and the role media plays in that experience. It is also based on my work as an experience designer, writer and producer on transmedia projects – both alternate reality games and the expansion of films, TV shows, games and theatre. I’ve learnt a lot over these past eight years, and I am keen to act on them in an independent setting. I’m also inspired by my experiences with and excursions into a variety of artforms and interests: animation, pervasive gaming, experience design, music, emotions, performance, philosophy, mortality, ritual, and my ongoing attempts to feel at home in this world.

 

What transmedia rules or practices did you apply in the creation of your project?

There are some things I’m utilising that have worked for me and for others in the past, and there are some things I’m not utilising even though they appear to have worked for others in the past. I’m drawing on a variety of things I’ve learnt regarding audience/player behaviour whether they have been enacted before for others or not. These include accessibility, simplicity that encourages mastery, “beauty”, pacing, and so on. Creating creative projects, and especially the role of a director, requires making decisions all the time. Nothing happens as you intend it and so you continually have to figure out ways to reach your vision through a different path. This sometimes means letting some things go.

Will the social networks play a role in the plot?

I cannot confirm what social networks we’ll use just yet (as I’m still doing the writing and design and I don’t want to reveal some). But at the moment we are using Facebook and Twitter (or networks that look like them). Social networks play a role in grounding the characters in this world, and also enabling the audience/players to communicate with them and contribute to the greater storyworld.
I’ve read that the user’s input can influence the story? How exactly did you imagined that flexibility of the script?

User input is a very tricky proposition at any time, and it is even more complicated in this project. This is because the project is designed to be released and experienced in real-time first (like a traditional ARG unfolds live), but then once that live unfolding happens the project becomes automated. This means anyone can experience the world at anytime (if is not a one-off event), but it does create a lot of challenging design issues. I’m using a mix of human response and automation to achieve this. And in the end, it is in some ways the creation of two projects: one that is live and one that is replayable.

What exactly do you mean by « interactive with the website »? What kind of quest or tasks would the users perform? 

The experience is designed to encourage activity in a way that is easy and rewarding. The audio (and sometimes visuals) give in-story calls to action to encourage clicking on the websites and across websites. It is not quest or task-heavy at all, but there are things to do both during the playing of the audio and after.

What can we expect from this project presented as “playful, reactive, explorable”?

Authentic in All Caps is explorable, ever expanding, reactive, playful, and replayable. What explorable means, is there are things you can take your time discovering yourself if you wish (like other websites, characters, sub-plots). It is ever-expanding, which means it is designed to keep growing during its live launch and afterwards, by our own actions as creators and by the actions of players. The world is reactive to the actions of players, in that there are certain things that the players do that will cause a response and can permanently change the world. When I say it is also a playful world, I’m referring to the fun things you can do of your own choice with little rules attached to them. And finally, Authentic in All Caps is a project you can experience more than once and people can enter at any time…which I call replayable!

Ana Vasile était rédactrice et assistante en charge des publications du Transmedia Lab de janvier à novembre 2011.

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