Transmedia Tuesday: The Secret World's Games Within Games
The Secret World is a relatively new Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (or MMORPG) from Funcom, the makers of Age of Conan and Anarchy Online. To a certain extent it's pretty familiar MMORPG fare—you create your character within a given faction and jump into a world filled with missions to kill monsters and (if you so desire) fight players of the opposing factions. Secret World is set in the world we live in, but the conceit is that, unbeknownst to most of us, there is a secret world hiding behind our normal, everyday lives. This is a world filled with monsters, cults, and secretive cabals who seek to stop evil, or perhaps to turn it to their own mysterious purposes.
One of the things that sets the game apart is the fact that there are no classes and no levels (game mechanics common in one form or another to almost all role playing games, online or otherwise). Instead, as you complete missions and kill monsters, you earn skill points that allow you to tailor the combat skills of your character. The skills that you earn (there are over 500 in the game) and the combinations that you can use them in become a major part of how you customize your character and your game experience.
Now, the savvy among you may be wondering, "what the heck does this have to do with transmedia storytelling?" Excellent question. Within the game there are several categories of mission. In some you collect or return items. In some you sneak around. In most you kill monsters of some sort. In one particular type of mission (the "investigation" mission), you search for clues to solve a mystery. These missions are generally killing-free and they can be quite difficult. You typically need to study an item for clues and then use those clues to locate another item or location, and so on, over several steps until you can solve the mystery.
Sometimes the information you need is not in the game world itself. You may need to access the Internet to find what you are looking for. This may be as simple as Googling the translation of a Latin phrase (The Secret World has a built-in web browser), but occasionally you need to visit a specific website, like a blog, or a particular YouTube video.
Here's an example.
That's an in-world blog written by a fictional character about a fictional character, and yet the blog actually exists in the non-game world, as you can see. It's part of the game's initial conceit that the fictional story is actually taking place in the world we all live in. Along with the story from two weeks ago about Defiance, this is more evidence that some companies are taking note of how powerful a tool transmedia stories can be, even as a component of a larger, more traditional project.
Since there is some reason to see this as a sign of the times, are there other properties you'd like to see bleed their stories into the real world a bit? Or, is it better to keep the fiction fictional and reality real, as a precaution against taking games and stories to literally?