Media Culture: Interactivity

When I think of interactivity, my mind immediately jumps to computer games. I’ve grown up with them, after all. The examples and definitions of interactivity, however, are much broader. The reading for this week (Lévy, 2010) opens with the observation that “‘Interactivity’ has proved to be one of the most widely and vaguely used words in the description, criticism and marketing of new media.”

One factor in determining a medium’s interactivity, Lévy argues, is the degree of communication it allows between one person and another. Another variable factor is the element of negotiation between person and programme. A single-player computer game, for example, “is more interactive than television … the TV viewer zaps and selects; the player acts.” (ibid., p.226)

P.T.'s logo
P.T.’s logo

In order to gain some perspective of the effects of this interactivity, I decided to look at it in the context of advertising. Many people would think of advertising as a one-way, widespread mass-market endeavour. However, advertising has taken some very interesting steps into the field of interactivity, and in doing so has tapped into small and dedicated audiences.

One campaign that utilised interactivity in advertising was P.T. (2014). This “interactive teaser” was announced in a press conference by Sony at Gamescom 2014:

With very little information given and a previously unknown company, 7780s Studio, mentioned in connection with the teaser, P.T. was released as a free download for PS4s on the same day as the announcement.

The ensuing experience was well-captured in a video recorded by Polygon shortly after the game’s release, in which they fumbled through the teaser while commenting on the unusual nature of its announcement:

http://www.polygon.com/2014/8/12/5996669/silent-hills-reveal-fail-pt-gamescom-kojima-del-toro

Screenshot taken from P.T.
Screenshot taken from P.T.

The mystery surrounding the game and its deliberately obtuse puzzles caused players to come together, pooling their thoughts and theories as to how to ‘complete’ the teaser.

One writer on interactive advertising remarks, “Why not build content specifically for … niche audiences and tell them an online story that is crafted specifically for them?” (Scott, 2013, p. 43) This is the simple logic that P.T. followed – appealing to a specific niche of horror enthusiasts with a short and effective horror story.

P.T was a teaser, but also a game, and evoked the same interactive principles to the benefit of the campaign. One book on Virtual Reality refers to “the strong perceptual illusion” that VR seeks to evoke – a “sense of presence” (Biocca & Delaney, 2010, p. 61). The game environment can, to an extent, seek to evoke this same illusion – Levy refers to it as a “field of danger” (Lévy, 2010, p. 227), a suitable term considering P.T.’s tone.

Thanks to the speed of the online community, it wasn’t long before P.T.‘s true nature was unravelled; upon completion, the teaser showed an announcement trailer for Silent Hills, a game being developed by Kojima Productions – the aforementioned 7780s Studio being a complete fabrication.

Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb reacting to PT
Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb reacting to PT

The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, not just to the announcement but to P.T. itself: at the time, Polygon called the announcement the “biggest story out of Gamescom 2014” (Kollar, 2014). P.T. was named by Giant Bomb as “Horror Game of the Year” (Giant Bomb, 2014).

At the time of release, P.T. effectively encouraged a niche audience to interact with each other as well as with the advertisement itself. I think that this, along with the well-executed sense of immersion, was the key to the campaign’s popularity and P.T.‘s intrinsic value.

-Jesse (@Backblogguy)

Bibliography

Biocca, F. & Delaney, B., 2010. Immersive Virtual Reality Technology. In: F. Biocca & M. R. Levy, eds. Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 57-124.

Giant Bomb, 2014. Giant Bomb’s 2014 Game of the Year Awards: Day Five Text Recap. [Online]
Available at: http://www.giantbomb.com/articles/giant-bomb-s-2014-game-of-the-year-awards-day-five/1100-5126/
[Accessed 12 May 2015].

IGN, 2014. IGN Live Presents: Sony Press Conference – Gamescom 2014. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bP9BBbfTGsk&feature=youtu.be&t=44m30s
[Accessed 12 May 2015].

IGN, 2014. Silent Hills – Teaser Trailer. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay_RAkE7bUY
[Accessed 12 May 2015].

P.T., 2014. PlayStation 4 [Game]. Konami: Tokyo.

Kollar, P., 2014. Watch us fail to figure out the Silent Hill teaser game. [Online]
Available at: http://www.polygon.com/2014/8/12/5996669/silent-hills-reveal-fail-pt-gamescom-kojima-del-toro
[Accessed 12 May 2015].

Lévy, P., 2010. Interactivity. In: S. Giddings & M. Lister, eds. The New Media and Technocultures Reader. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 226-229.

Scott, D. M., 2013. The New Rules of Marketing & PR. 4th ed. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

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