The Cross-Media Journey of Muddle Earth: Design, Narrative and Brand Consistency in Game Adaptation
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2011 – MA in Media, Culture and Communication – Institute of Education, University of London
This thesis is based on an empirical study of the BBC’s Muddle Earth multiplayer online game. It is a study of game production in the context of cross-media strategies, and follows the adaptation journey of the Muddle Earth IP from a book, into a TV series, and finally into a game.
At a time when cross-media strategies have become an established part of the children’s media landscape, staying ‘on brand’ across different media is an essential factor to maximise audience benefits. In order to provide seamless cross-media experiences, game adaptations are required to live up to the expectations set up by their source materials – brand consistency becomes an essential target for production.
Brand consistency, however, is a fluid concept with floating meanings, often only defined in operation when producers provide feedback in processes of revision leading to the approval of new content. Furthermore, it can be found at different levels, from surface form (visual elements, game assets), to deeper content (tone, style and effect). The research investigates both, and makes use of narrative concepts and models to assess brand consistency at the more complex level of content.
Game adaptations are also required to meet the expectations of game players. Adapting into a new medium includes some level of remediation, but also entails the use of new devices and conventions, which offer different kinds of pleasures. This study looks at the ways in which these were translated, continued and modified in Muddle Earth.
The research looks at the text and its production, drawing on empirical data from game-playing, interviews with producers and the analysis of design and production documents. The theoretical framework is derived from game studies, adaptation studies, intertextuality theory, narrative theory, and political economy.