ACG Unabridged: Evan Jones

Evan Jones is that rare combination: Creative, a great head for business, and a stand-up human being, too. That makes Stitch Media one of the companies I completely love working with (no, no, of course I love your company the most!) Evan has been in the transmedia business for ages, and he's got an Emmy to his name, so when he talks, you'd do well to listen. I sure do.

Q: How did you get into transmedia?

A: Complete and utter indecision.  Call it a fear of commitment, but I have always lived my life enjoying all aspects of storytelling and I couldn't see myself defining my own creative efforts under a single medium.  It's bizarre how you look back on life and see the path so clearly.  Some of my earliest memories involve scavenger hunts around my farm, telling stories on long car trips and getting immersed in stories so much I'd be creating spin-off stories in those worlds.  Silly stuff like making stop-motion videos of action figures after reading comic books all morning.  I was always experimenting.

I do remember the exact moment the light bulb went off as an adult though.  I'd been studying Computer Science for three years at University because the earliest days of the dot-com were upon us and everyone was talking about 'computers are where the jobs are'.  I was literally falling asleep in every class.  There is no way my brain needed to know that much about Machine Language.  At the same time, I was distracting myself with all these creative hobbies - I was Production Manager at my community radio station; I was acting in theatre; I was writing for school newspapers; etc.  And then I got a job as Tech Support for the local hospital.  They actually said "You know about computers - can you make us a website?" So I grabbed an HTML book and started cranking out the most embarrassing website you've ever seen.  I am pretty sure we had multiple blinking objects.  But the moment I launched it, I was hooked.  There were so many creative roles needed for even this administrative website that the next day I registered my own domain and started building a blog from scratch.  Somewhere to just start writing and tossing some of my work online where others could see it.

From there, transmedia was just built in.  I was constantly dabbling in all forms of media production and its underlying technology, so when an idea struck me it was only natural to ask "Which methods should I use to tell this story?" None was more important than any other because at that stage I wasn't thinking about business models or career paths - I was just tinkering.  As I was making different games and books and videos and organizing events, I started to see that the same people were finding them and giving me feedback.  I realized that I didn't have to start all my stories from scratch because many of the 'fans' would have seen my earlier work.  I could choose to start new projects by building on my past work like a sort of shorthand.  It allowed me to go much deeper into each project without reinventing the wheel, and it excited me to know that people enjoying a story enough in one platform to seek out the next portion of it somewhere else in a completely different but complementary way.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your favorite projects?

A: This is a challenge because it shifts from so many viewpoints.  I have favorites as a player, as a writer, as a producer and as an entrepreneur. Of course, some of the first alternate reality games I ever played will stick with me because they excited me enough to shift my career path entirely.  A completely self-serving favorite is my first mainstream transmedia project, ReGenesis - all my enthusiasm as a player went into that project and taught me a ton of lessons I use today.

I also feel it's important to stretch projects outside of straight transmedia.  I mentioned earlier that some of my work started to bleed into the next and those ideas really came from voraciously reading Kurt Vonnegut Jr. as I entered university - characters kept appearing in completely unrelated circumstances but carrying all the baggage that they came to symbolize in each story - it was a sort of narrative shorthand that I loved.  At the same time I was reading pulp noir mystery novels and studying film and realized that they were set in a mythic place where Los Angeles was always rainy and riddled with bullets. I was also a child of Star Wars and only as an adult do I see how early on the ideas of 'transmedia' and 'story worlds' were planted in my mind.  I still think of the oblique reference the Obi-wan makes to the 'Clone Wars' in 1977 that sent my imagination reeling as a child and now seeing it fulfilled a generation later.  I'm also a shameless fan of 'reality television' and how it parallels interactive narrative by taking unpredictable situations and putting them on rails.  You've spoken yourself about the 'illusion of interactivity' and I think reality television does this extremely well.

 


 

This is bonus material from A Creator's Guide to Transmedia Storytelling, out on June 22 -- just one month away! Preorder your copy today. And once you do... why don't you get it signed in advance?