Between 2019 – 2020 The University of South Wales collaborated with a consortium of creative commercial practitioners dubbed Fictioneers in a UKRI funded, Audience of the Future R&D demonstrator project designed to further develop digital storytelling within the UK Creative Industries. Using the popular Wallace and Gromit IP, the consortium drew upon their combined skills in games production, animation, creative marketing and new technology development to create a location-based experience targeting young audiences entitled Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up, designed to propel new and playful identities for a traditional narrative media.
Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up is an ambitious and complex production. Through their research and development efforts, Fictioneers sought to develop a viable production alternative to branching tree, digital story-telling structures which risk combinatorial explosion. Instead, the application delivers a rich tapestry of serialised, short media elements. Linked by a central, enhanced mobile application, the multi-platform media include YouTube videos and comics, as well as augmented reality game-play challenges. The application aims to engage new audiences and provide innovative ways for long term fans to interact with media favourites. Mimicking a variety of social newsfeed items these media elements are variable, chunked and optional to view. They are also pre-determined and closely networked via the 23 ELO 2021 - abstracts central newsfeed. The story-flow is complex nevertheless, incorporating enhanced augmented reality story-telling, multi-platform media and mobile game-play.
The hybridity of this experience posed new challenges regarding the most definitive way to describe the experience on offer, as well as the most helpful frameworks to evaluate it. With few alternative terms on hand to describe this genre, the term experience was often used to describe the sort of hybrid encounter made possible via this complex network of media influences, but experience is still an open-ended concept that can be hard to pin-point. Alternative terms like digital story-telling may also be useful place-holders to help delineate interactive and narrativised experiences from traditional media encounters, nevertheless such terminology is still only useful to an extent. Narrative frameworks such as characterisation, pace and tone are relevant to projects like Wallace & Gromit: Big Fix Up, but they don’t capture all the elements that audiences encounter in real time. Describing the experience as a game can be equally problematic, since it can set up expectations of a very different type of challenge-driven, dramatic experience than this application delivers.
In this paper I explore what additional insights can be gained by also considering the interplay of technology and creativity within the research and development process. Technology is a defining feature of this digital storytelling experience. Augmented reality technologies, for example, offer dynamic, enhanced tracking and visualisation opportunities, whilst also demanding strict file-size constraints, comprehensive audience testing and extensive cross-disciplinary collaboration. By evaluating the creative and technical processes shaping the development of this hybrid media identity, I explore the ways in which any effective definition of this new type of distributed genre is likely to be as much about co-ordination, as new experience.
A text and video conference paper by Bronwin Patrickson, Research Fellow for Impact & Evaluation