|The Art of Immersion
How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood,
Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories
by Frank Rose
«We can spy the future in Frank Rose’s brilliant tour of the pyrotechnic collision between movies and games. This insightful, yet well researched, book convinced me that immersive experiences are rapidly becoming the main event in media, and has re-framed my ideas about both movies and games.
Future-spotting doesn’t get much better than this.»
– Kevin Kelly, author of What Technology Wants
«A highly readable, deeply engaging account of shifts in the entertainment industry which have paved the way for more expansive, immersive, interactive forms of fun. . . . Accessible and urgent.»
– Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture
Not long ago we are spectators, passive consumers of mass media. Now, on YouTube and blogs and Facebook and Twitter, we are media. And while we watch more television than ever before, how we watch it is changing in ways we have barely slowed down to register. No longer content in our traditional role as couch potatoes, we approach television shows, movies, even advertising as invitations to participate – as experiences to immerse ourselves in at will. In THE ART OF IMMERSION, longtime Wired contributing editor Frank Rose talks to the people who are reshaping media for a two-way world – people like Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (Lost), James Cameron (Avatar), Will Wright (The Sims), and dozens of others whose ideas are changing how we play, how we communicate, how we think.
The shift is profound. After centuries of linear storytelling, we are witnessing the emergence of a new form of narrative that’s native to the Internet. Told through many media at once in a nonlinear fashion, these new narratives encourage us not merely to watch but to participate, often engaging us in the same way that games do. This is "deep media": stories that are not just entertaining but immersive, that take you deeper than an hour-long TV drama or a two-hour movie or a 30-second spot will permit.
Today this new narrative is still nascent. But we see signs of its emergence all around us: in television shows like Lost and The Office, which spin a nuanced tale not just on TV but through online videos and games. In movies like The Dark Knight and Tron: Legacy, which have drawn millions of people into an elaborate game that gives them a role, however fleeting, in the latest Hollywood production. In social media, from YouTube to Facebook to Twitter, which encourage people to document their lives online in a fluid, collaborative, and very public autobiography. Everywhere we look, stories are breaking the bounds imposed by print and film and video. A TV show is not just a TV show. A movie is not just to be watched onscreen. A diary is splayed out for the world to see.
This isn’t the first time the way we tell stories has changed. Every major advance in communications has given birth to a new form of narrative: the printing press and and moveable type led to the emergence of the novel in the 17th and 18th centuries; the motion picture camera, after a long period of experimentation, gave rise to movies; television created the sitcom. The Internet, like all these technologies in their earliest days, was at first used mainly as a vehicle for retransmitting familiar formats. For all the talk of “new media,” it served as little more than a new delivery mechanism for old media, from newspapers to music to TV shows.
That was then. In the months and years ahead, professional storytellers of every persuasion – people in movies, in television, in video games, and in marketing – will need to function in a world in which distinctions that were clear throughout the past century are becoming increasingly blurred:
• The blurring of author and audience: Whose story is it?
• The blurring of story and game: How do you engage with it?
• The blurring of entertainment and marketing: What function does it serve?
• The blurring of fiction and reality: Where does one end and the other begin?
THE ART OF IMMERSION shows how this is happening and why, and what it means for us all.