Defiance is marketed as the first multi-platform shooter MMO: a third-person video game which interconnects with a global television program on Syfy. It promises to deliver a “ground breaking entertainment experience” which allows users to influence the narrative through game play. The game and television series interconnect in a more sophisticated manner than previous attempts at coordinating such relationships have achieved. In the past, games have played exploratory roles in transmedia arcs, allowing players to explore the storyworld and landscape. Occasionally, game-play is structured around a predefined goal; the consequences of which will be realised in another form (for example, in Enter The Matrix, a gaming component of The Matrix franchise, users were allowed to “play-out” a plot point/mission which was later referred to in one of the movies). One of the barriers to greater connectivity between games and other platforms is production scheduling. Most of the time games-as-transmedia are built around narratives which are already complete in some other form. For example, whilst most ARGs allow users to participate with the text and its associated storyworld components (e.g. 2007s The Dark Knight ARG/campaign) users are powerless to affect change in the films narrative.
Rob Hill, senior producer on the game, recently spoke to Ars Technica about the relationship between the two platforms. “They exist within the same Universe”, he explained. “And primarily where we’re going to be different is the fact that things that happen in the game will occur in the show and things that happen in the show will occur in the game.” Trion Worlds and Syfy have been working together for three years to make sure the game and the show are consistent. The two will run in tandem and the series will feature character cross-overs between platforms. From a user perspective the project gives players the power to influence rather than merely explore. This could be an exciting new direction for commercial transmedia storytelling. President of Syfy, David Howe claims that Syfy can experiment with the project because its audience is made up of gamers and technophiles; however, this does not necessarily mean that gamers will be interested in engaging with the tv series, or that fans of the show will be interested in playing the game. After all, technophilia does not necessarily imply transmedia consumption habits. I’ll be interested to see how users respond to this.