"Clockwork automata, steam-powered airships and ray guns have nothing to do with the convergence of online videos, mobile games, and theatrical productions. However, it’s become apparent to me that, although they’re wildly different movements, steampunk and transmedia share some essential traits, and that steampunk is a ripe genre for transmedia projects.
But let me rewind for a moment to clarify what we’re talking about here. If we can loosely describe steampunk as “Victorian-era science fiction,” then we can attempt to define transmedia as “a story that is told across multiple media.” While the jury is still out on the precise rules of what is or isn’t a transmedia story, I’ll do my best to break down the basic concept.
Ever since humans began telling stories, there have been a plethora of media forms and delivery mechanisms. From cave paintings and oral tradition to printed words and live theatre, people have always adapted their stories to different media. We’re still doing this today — how many times has Hollywood created a direct movie adaptation of a comic book? It’s only recently, however, that some people have moved beyond simple adaptation and have begun extending their stories across media. In other words, the movie isn’t simply a repeat of the comic book, but an additional element serving to continue the narrative and enhance the storyworld. This style of storytelling, in a nutshell, is transmedia.
One of my favorite questions to ask new steampunks I meet is, “how did you discover steampunk?” and each person replies with a unique story. Some discovered the genre through literature, some through costume events, and others through online blogs and forums. One of the wonderful things about steampunk is that it provides multiple points of entry for new fans, and this is true for many transmedia stories as well. In an ideal transmedia project, each media platform is able to stand alone — in other words, the viewer doesn’t need to have seen the film in order to enjoy the video game — but also serves to enhance the broader experience of the story. Through this additive comprehension, viewers are rewarded for engaging the story across its various platforms....."