Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) is an interdisciplinary centre for research/ creation in game studies and design, digital culture and interactive art

Research & Creation

BATLAND: Transmedia Strategy & Videogame Spatiality in Gotham City

Kalervo Sinervo

Batland: Transmedia Strategy & Videogame Spatiality in Gotham City is an interdisciplinary study of how transmedia strategy (the construction and management of massively collaborative popular culture franchises) has impacted digital gameworlds, and what these gameworlds can tell us about transmedia protocols. It builds a foundation for critiquing and reshaping transmedia theory through frameworks of media studies, game studies, and urban geography. To elaborate this argument, the project focuses on Gotham City. As the hometown of pop culture icon Batman, Gotham has appeared consistently across every conceivable medium and venue for franchising for nearly 80 years, making it arguably the most ubiquitous North American transmedia world of the past century. By examining its history of representation across media--particularly videogames--and reading Batman media texts as an assemblage produced in a networked transmedia complex, I argue that these products are often allegorical for their own processes of development and techniques of cultivating fandom. A focus on narrative as assemblage cuts through the dialectical tension between transmedia as a narrative storytelling mode, and transmedia as a strategic and tactical business model.

The case studies comprise a historical overview of the commercial and narrative functions Gotham City serves in a range of media including comics, film, and merchandise; an examination of the Arkham games series’ geographical qualities; and an interrogation of the licensing structures and transmedial techniques of the Lego Batman franchise. By examining environment and spatial considerations in the context of transmedia protocol, the thesis demonstrates that complexes dictate the construction of fictional and virtual spaces by dealing with them in terms of the functions they serve commercially within specific media. In game studies, AAA productions based on licensed IP can lead to interesting questions, including: what does the use of real-world Montreal graffiti in Arkham Origins tell us about oversight processes in development and in-game player circulation? How does the history of the Lego Group and its movement into licensing reflect the story of the last hundred years of industrial development? And when will the promises of participatory culture catch up to late capitalism's capabilities to subsume its challengers?

Publication Type