Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 and Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory at York University, Canada

Building Imaginary Worlds

I’ll break the ice on Wolf, although I am probably the wrong person to do so having never read any Tolkien and being an avid Star Wars hater. But I did read some Jenkins last semester so I know a bit about world building and transmedia story telling. I agree with Wolf that a good world is not a clean story from beginning to end but rather a place for creation and possibilities. I grew up with “possible worlds” where things were slightly different than the actual world, and had terrible computer games to accompany my favourite shows/movies to help me “experience” the world more thoroughly. I thought he was really on point when he said that we as audiences are changing. Jenkins said we used to look for a good story, then a good character to carry us through multiple stories, and now a world that we can escape into, but Wolf adds that the story no longer ends when we leave the theatre. As an audience we no longer need closure from our movies/shows, and are happy to look to other media to “experience” more of the world. Wolf talks a lot about how world building is innate and evolutionary but I would have liked to see him talk more about this audience effect. If we have been building worlds since we have been telling stories, why does “subcreation” and transmedia storytelling seem to be picking up so much steam now? And more so, what makes imaginary worlds so appealing to the audience, not just to the builder? I also think he plays it a bit more naive than Jenkins, failing to talk in length about the economic gain available through transmedia and world building. The Dark Knight and other hype machines have allowed audiences to enter their “possible world” before even telling them the story, ensuring their ticket purchase. How much of this phenomena is fuelled by studios and other corporations trying to sell their product in different ways? And finally, I think an interesting comparison can be made between McGonigal and Wolf, through the use of imaginary worlds for healing. I love the movie “Marwencol” that he briefly discusses. The idea that this man couldn’t afford therapy after getting out of his coma so he created the town of Marwencol and a world where he could heal people and thwart his attackers reminded me of McGonigal’s idea that we turn to games because real life is hopeless. Wolf said that worlds are created as much by the audience as by the author, so maybe the collective building of imaginary worlds is group therapy for anyone feeling disconnected from the primary world? And maybe that answers my first question?

Thu, January 23 2014 » FC2_2014

One Response

  1. cowdery January 27 2014 @ 12:40 pm

    Having been born in the same year as Wolf I can understand his fascination with world building. Star Wars was one of the foundations of early life. We didn’t just watch this movie, we played it. Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth) speaks at length about the power of this franchise as one that taps into many religious mythologies. While he doesn’t explicitly define ‘world building’ he does offer insight into why these texts are so powerful in our society at the moment. That said I agree with your comment that Wolf seems slightly naive or just doesn’t care to explore the money motivation of this transmedia explosion.

    Wolf writes, “As an experienced screenwriter told me, ‘When I first started, you would pitch a story because without a good story, you didn’t really have a film. Later, once sequels started to take off, you pitched a character because a good character could support multiple stories. And now, you pitch a world because a world can support multiple characters and multiple stories across multiple media.’ ”

    To me this is the modern key to world building. In a society with multiple platforms (entry points) and a sea of content you need worlds because singular stories don’t always lend themselves to varied platforms. One need only imagine how uninteresting a Star Wars video game would be if all that was required was to re-enact the story of the film. Allow a user to explore a the world of the Jedi and the Empire and you have new content and new stories that users do not know the result of. This is also true of the animated series.

    It would be interesting to explore a failed world creation franchise to see what was missing. This might help us understand further what works and why?