Henry Jenkins describes transmedia storytelling as “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience” (Jenkins), but what does that really mean? Essentially transmedia is the idea that a narrative is able to continue its story past the end of a certain type of media. One franchise that I feel has done this exceptionally well is Harry Potter. I, like many others, was very into the world of Harry Potter as a child. Because of this, I experienced first hand the ideas that Jenkins was talking about. After the series of books were adapted into movies, synergy set in––the creation of many different connections back to the central text. This led to action figures, LEGO sets, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter amusement park in Universal Studios, and what I intend to discuss here, video games.
There were a vast array of games that came out in connection to Harry Potter, but one series in specific that I played was LEGO Harry Potter. This was a two part series that came out as Years 1-4 and Years 5-7. These games elicit the ideas of world-building and multiform story to allow the players an experience that they all around could not receive from reading the books or watching the movies. The original texts themselves create a world that the viewer/reader can not achieve in real life, and therefore will want to explore more in depth. The video games make it able for them to do exactly that.
This game loosely conforms to Janet Murray’s idea of multiform story. A multiform story is one which gives the audience the plot or storyline in multiple different ways (Murray 30). The LEGO Harry Potter game does this by giving the player a vast array of different characters to play as (seen in the image to the right), each that have special abilities and powers that others do not. This allows the players to get a view into the world which the characters live in from more than one perspective.
Jenkins also describes the idea of world-building, where the transmedia item is not based on just one character or part of the plot, but rather the entire world that the characters exist inside of (Jenkins). Since the world of Harry Potter is not one that the audience interacts with on a daily basis, and therefore wants to further understand, they can use the game to explore and further understand the world. For example, in the game (as well as in the world of Harry Potter), creating potions is an important part of mastering wizardy. However if a potion is created incorrectly, it can have unintended effects like changing the character into a frog temporarily. This helps the audience understand what it is like to live in such a world where things are beyond our imagination.
Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an AcaFan. 22 Mar. 2007. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html>.
Murray, Janet Horowitz. “Chapter 2: Harbingers of the Holodeck.” Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: Free, 1997. Print.