Transmedia storytelling – a course that will teach you to write beyond film and TV

Maybe I overpromise a bit in my headline, but it’s not far from the truth. Transmedia storytelling course at York University was a pleasant surprise. It is mandatory for students who just came to the York Screenwriting program, which I salute. And while I am on the topic, I would love to see more narrative design and writing for games’ mandatory courses. However, it feels to me that the gaming industry and career opportunities for Screenwriting majors are not yet recognized at York University; hopefully, that will change.

Transmedia storytelling is a course in which you develop an alternate reality game connected to some TV/Film/Other property. You will pitch your ideas, and the best ones will be developed in the form of a high-concept pitch. We worked in groups and had a great time developing projects. My pitch was for Station Eleven but was not picked, so I worked on the Despicable Me alternate reality game for almost a semester. The professor in this course was Thomas Wallner, who had five Emmy nominations – two wins. He also won the Hot Docs Special Jury Prize as a documentary filmmaker. It’s always interesting to work with professionals as he is and to learn how the mind of a great filmmaker/producer/writer works. That is an additional benefit of this class, which is only sometimes the case with other professors. 

I especially loved the feedback part – you will receive and give a lot of feedback in the course. There is not so much writing – you will work more on developing the concept, which is broad, as you need to think about your game genre and target audience, characters, players, journey, etc. The exciting part was to think about non-linear storylines and world-building; you are making a game for a known world, but it’s up to you how and what.