The world’s first transmedia game. That’s what Trion Worlds and Syfy promised with Defiance; a new level of connectivity between video games and television. However the results of this transmedia experiment have been less than stellar-so far.
Defiance is set in the year 2046 on a futuristic Earth that has been terraformed beyond recognition by the 2030 “Arkfall” event, a mysterious explosion that sent Votan technology crashing into the Earth. The results of this catastrophe create a planet so hostile that humans and Votans must work together if they hope to survive.
Audiences viewing Defiance (the show) follow ark hunters Nolan and his adopted Irathient daughter, Irisa, as they settle in what used to be St. Louis, a small border town named Defiance. Those venturing into Defiance (the game), an open world third person MMORPG shooter, find themselves based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The beauty of this concept is that it takes into consideration the larger implications of global events, i.e. what happens in the Bay Area can effect Defiance and vice versa.
Unfortunately, we don’t really see much of this going on. There are plenty of characters that cross over between the game and the show. Even players can get in on the crossover action. According to the official Defiance website, the “ultimate” crossover from season one occurred when a player by the name of Zachary Prast won the “Most Wanted” contest. Prast’s in game victory was rewarded with a wanted poster featuring his likeness in Episode 12: “Past is Prologue.” Currently players are competing for the chance to bring their character to life on the show. Both of these contests serve as a link between the world we see on TV, and the world we interact with in the game. The player’s ability to determine the direction of the show based on their actions in game has yet to be applied. Perhaps the closest the game has come to actually influencing the show, was when players raced to find the cure to a mysterious plague that swiftly spread from the Bay Area to Defiance.
With season one wrapped up and season two airing next summer, Syfy and Trion can build on the groundwork they’ve established and fulfill their transmedia promise. As a shooter Defiance is strong. There are plenty of weapons and abilities that will keep players coming back for more. Quests are where this game tends to fall flat. It boils down to a continuous game of fetch. One way they can accomplish this is by adding more quests that give players the sense they are shaping Defiance. More substantial quests that have a barring on Defiance in some way would add a whole new degree of complexity to the game play, and would be a large step towards true transmedia.
DLC is another way Trion can step up to the plate. They recently added the Castithan race with DLC #1 on August 20th, bringing the number of playable characters to three. But what if you could play as a Mutant Human, a Raider, or a Nintey-Niner? We have at least four more confirmed DLC’s coming out, so one can only hope those characters are in the mix. Then players could stop trade between the East and West, steal arks, draw members of Defiance into war…the possibilities are endless.
If Trion can begin evolving Defiance through new meaningful quests and characters now, Syfy’s team can start analyzing how in game events will effect the show before it airs next year. Although Defiance was not an instant success, it is far to early to call it a failure. The bridge between television and video game is shaky, but a couple of modifications could revolutionize it forever.