Transmedia Storytelling

If we accept Henry Jenkins’ argument that transmedia navigation is an important literacy practice since the advent of new media, then it’s not much of a leap to wonder about the significance of students’ own transmedia storytelling: extending story worlds across media. I had the pleasure to spend some time with a group of Josh Caton’s students who were doing just that (Rish & Caton, 2011). They were creating fantasy worlds with writing, found and created images, and digital cartography…as well as, extending those story worlds into videogame design.

Recently, I wrote a chapter about one of the students’ transmedia storytelling for an edited collection on literacy practices involved with video games (Rish, 2014). Roger and his world building group created a fantasy world called Forvanskaad. Roger extended that world into a videogame demo that you can download and play yourself.

Deslan defeats suppressor

I invite you to read the chapter from the book preview in order to consider how we can position students as:

Transmedia critics who consider the affordances and constraints of different media that help to render a storyworld;

Readers, viewers, and players who co-create an inherently incomplete storyworld by filling in gaps created by negative capability with their own understandings based on the story and their knowledge of the genre and/or medium;

New media scholars who consider the extent to which an articulation of the storyworld adapts existing articulations (e.g., movie adaptation) or extends the storyworld in some way (e.g., webisodes);

New media scholars who consider the role of paratexts in contributing to a storyworld and how a single articulation (e.g., feature film) can alter and/or define the appearance and purpose of the paratexts (e.g., novel cover art with feature film actors);

Creative directors of a transmedia franchise who decide what is the most appropriate articulation for rendering part of a storyworld;

Ethnographers who consider the multiple trajectories people take across media when navigating a transmedia franchise;

Videogame designers who consider the significance and purpose of dramatic irony, wherein the player knows more than the character, for advancing the plot and the gameplay;

Videogame critics who consider the significance and purpose of characters breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the player;

Critical videogame modders who consider how to modify existing games with lampshade hanging and redesign (e.g., Sorry Mario Bros!) that acknowledges cliché and/or problematic tropes (e.g., damsel in distress); and

Fanfiction authors/designers who take up an empty noun in a written story, movie, or videogame and considers how to develop the empty noun as intracompositional transmedia (e.g., written book within a videogame).


Rish, R.M. (2014). Students’ transmedia storytelling: Building fantasy storyworlds in video game design. In H.R. Gerber, & S.S. Abrams (Eds.), Bridging literacies with videogames (pp. 30-52). Boston, MA: Sense Publishers.

Rish, R.M., & Caton, J. (2011). Building fantasy worlds together with collaborative writing: Creative, social, and pedagogic challengesEnglish Journal100(5), 21-28.

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