Lead Designer at Zatobo. Currently working on Vinland: Arctic Assault. "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

Report RSS Mixed Media Writing : What is it?

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Mixed media writing is a term that I keep on talking about, but have never really explained what it is, nor have I discussed what it means for my own work on the world of Vinland. When asked what is it that I enjoy doing most, I would have to answer “creating worlds”. While imaging new geographical locations or thinking up new characters might be interesting, it is how all these elements work together that really holds the fascination. With the emergence of ever improving technologies the interplay between these themes becomes more and more advanced, and is continually unlocking new opportunities in creating worlds. In this article I want to begin discussing just what these elements are, and how they work together.

Essentially mixed media writing is the process of creating a world through multiple platforms, each one filling in new details in the greater picture. Where a single book tells only one part of a whole, a series of books can cover multiple stories and so fill in much more detail about the entire world in which the characters are living, and thus reveal far more about the particularities of this creation compared to the reality in which we all live. Mixed media writing takes this concept a step further, building on the strengths and weaknesses of each platform to fill in even more of the detail. Currently I would argue that there are three big players in the storytelling-entertainment industry, books, film/television and games.

Books, are great at building character. This is because you can get inside that person and hear not only their dialogue and watch their action, but also listen in on their very thoughts, and it is this personal touch which really builds up how these characters behave. Film or television on the other hand allow a more visual experience, showing you how the world looks and behaves while still populating it with the interesting characters (though lacking the thought processes), and act to really dramatise any action sequences to raise a thrill that books can only dream of. Finally we have computer games, these share many of the benefits of the other two mediums (and their pitfalls), but allow the player to really experience the world. Their exploration of the world is not tied solely to the imagination of the author / director but they also have the ability to create their own tales and story from their experiences. Games give the player a world and invite them to experience it for themselves.

Individually each is of course a very powerful tool in creating their worlds. Books have started off many of the most well known; for instance Lord of the Rings or Narnia while film/television have their own franchises, think Star Trek or Star Wars, and games have theirs too such as the Elder Scrolls or Warcraft.

You will immediately thing “hold on a moment, all of these have films / books / games made of them too!”, and this just goes on to highlight just how powerful mixed media storytelling has become, and how important it is to each of these worlds, which would most likely be a mere shadow of what they are now. Each world uses the strengths and weaknesses of their medium to impart a little more of the detail of that world, and each person who consumes this does not suddenly forget what they learnt, they keep it and subsequent offerings only increase the image of this world in their mind.

In the Lord of the Rings books they may learn about how Bilbo fears the ring and its influence on him far more than you get from the films, but the films in turn impart more of a visual clue to the differences between the Orks and Uruk Hai than was possible in the books, while imparting more of a sense of the true scale of what they were up against. The games on the other hand, let you explore different areas of Middle Earth that are not covered in the books, and experience the world outside of the direct influence of the Fellowship.

Taken individually you would only get a small fraction, a tiny piece of what makes the world turn, but when these are compound the image becomes far more complete and the world takes on a life of its own.

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Image courtesy of the Matrix

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