Halo: it’s one of the most recognizable game franchises next to Mario or Zelda. It is also home to a very extensive universe with a wealth of knowledge, including many books, web-series, and short videos. The games are the main source of the narrative and are what drive the series, unlike other franchises which have films as their main source, with video games as a transmedia source. Before the launch of Halo 4 in 2012, it was announced there would be a live action mini-series, named Forward Unto Dawn, to be shown online prior to the release of the game.
This mini online series was the first ever live action series done by the Halo franchise that succeeded in is production (see the failed/unfinished attempt here). In the text by Henry Jenkins, ‘world-building’ is referred to as “stories [that] are based not on individual characters or specific plots but rather complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories” (Jenkins), and in Halo: Forward Unto Dawn, this is exactly what is done. This was in a sense a prequel to the video game Halo 4. It provided the background stories for one of the side, and albeit a little forced, characters. However, as a fan, it was still incredible to see although it added very little knowledge to the Halo universe. Nevertheless, it achieved just what it set out to do, satisfy the Halo audience with a little something extra, and ultimately boost sales. It was streamed on YouTube for free and on Halo’s Xbox app, Halo Waypoint (now the Halo Channel) several weeks before launch of the game with an episode being released each week. Where this narrative in the series ended, was then picked up right where the game began, creating a seamless transition for the players. This opened up a whole new side to the story of Halo 4 by creating a narrative for one of the side characters in the game, thus ‘world-building’.
Halo Waypoint, as afore mentioned, acts as a migratory cue to further ‘world-building’. Using Jenkins’s definition from transmedia, the media must “enable the production and circulation of knowledge within a networked society.” (Jenkins) When playing the game, it will prompt the player to leave the game and explore other media on Halo Waypoint, such as videos, community creations, and interactive player statistics. These migratory cues located in the game, further persuade the viewer to investigate the information embedded in the universe, and see what other players do with the tools inside the game. This leads to the idea expressed by Janet Murray as ‘hypertext’, where the viewer is constantly scrolling (in this case searching through the Xbox interface) through video, text, and other sources, which “may have no clear ending” (Murray 56). These interactive sets of data on Halo Waypoint serve to fill in areas of data some players may have missed or to simply enthrall current and knowledgeable players with it.
Halo is a bestselling game and it continues to update its interactive features, such as the reboot of Halo Waypoint to the now, Halo Channel. As long as they continue to make great games and tell great stories, they will keep their audience happy and in doing so, continue to produce transmedia sources for their audience.
Murray, Janet Horowitz. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: Free, 1997. Print.
Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an AcaFan. Henry Jenkins, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.