Transmedia Defined: Andy Burns Talks To Defiance Executive Producer Nathan Richardsson

This past Sunday saw the airing of the new Showcase/SyFy series, Defiance. The press release for the show sums up the concept nicely:

Starring Grant Bowler and Julie Benz, Defiance introduces an exotically changed planet Earth, its landscapes permanently altered following the sudden – and tumultuous – arrival of seven unique alien races. In this somewhat unknown and unpredictable landscape, the richly diverse, newly-formed civilization of humans and aliens must learn to co-exist peacefully. Combining the scope of a fantasy blockbuster with the intimacy of a small-town drama, it’s the story of courage and survival in a frontier town where factions of humans and aliens must stand together against outside forces that threaten their existence. The innovative transmedia event, Defiance, is the first-ever convergence of television and online gaming, featuring an interconnected world between the two mediums as they evolve together into one overall story.

Transmedia? What does that mean? Well, luckily, we had a chance to talk via email with gaming company Trion’s Vice President of Development, Nathan Richardsson, who also happens to be the Executive Producer behind the multi-platform massive online third-person shooter, Defiance. It all ties together so nicely, doesn’t it?. Check out the live action trailer for the game below and then hit the jump and read our interview.

DefianceAndy Burns: Thanks for talking to Biff Bam Pop, Nathan! So, the idea of combining a television show and a video game that work off one another concurrently is extremely cool – can you give us some insight into how Defiance came together?

Nathan Richardsson: Five years ago, Syfy was looking at how to do something new in entertainment and eventually teamed up with Trion with the goal of creating a transmedia experience. After going through a lot of the existing worlds already created it became apparent that an entirely now concept had to be created. This was both to avoid any restraints that games and shows get when using licensed properties but also a world which could tell great stories in both show and game.

Andy Burns: Your role with Defiance the video game is developer and executive producer – for those unaware of what those responsibilities entail in the gaming world, could you give some insight?

Nathan Richardsson: I’m responsible for the game and the great team that develops it. This is more leadership (pointing in a direction, cheerleading) than it is direct management for example. It’s a large team, about 150 people, so my day involves anything from product strategy and long-term goals to firefighting when that’s required. It’s mainly empowering people and supporting them to achieve our goals, sometimes just staying out of the way 🙂

Andy Burns: Could you give an example or two of how the narrative of Defiance the television show can inform Defiance the video game and vice versa? 

Nathan Richardsson: You don’t have to play the game to watch the show and vice versa, it’s all contextually explained in each medium. However, if you do both, you’ll get more background and a deeper understanding of what’s happening within the game or show. Crossover events can start with a series of missions in the game and when the next episode airs, that narrative continues in the show.

Andy Burns: The concept is so unique, but I would imagine it would be more intense and time-consuming ensuring that the game lines up with show concepts and narratives – is that the case at all, or am I over thinking it?

Nathan Richardsson: Yes and no. You can think of Defiance as a larger story, the story of the universe. Then we intentionally locate the show in St. Louis, the rebirth of civilization and the game in San Francisco, the new frontier or wild west. This gave us the freedom to tell our stories without being too dependent on each other and instead spent that effort making sure that core pillars, characters etc. are in synch between the teams. We want that freedom, otherwise the show and game would end up being restrained just like most licensed game or shows have to deal with.

Andy Burns: I know that series star Grant Bowler’s character Nolan appears in the game as well – how will Nolan play into the game?

Nathan Richardsson: Nolan is in game right now and with the nature of the crossover events, you will literally see characters cross between game and show. Nolan isn’t the only one that does that, there are more examples.

Andy Burns: With both the game available  and the series now airing on Showcase, what are your feelings about what’s to come? Excitement? Nervous? A combo of the two?

Nathan Richardsson: Haha, both, absolutely and quite a few more emotions added to that mix. In the end we’re ecstatic to finally be here and are all very excited but the nervousness comes with the complexity and moving parts at play. It’s all fun and games though 🙂

Thanks to Nathan Richardsson for talking to Biff Bam Pop, and to Showcase for making it happen. You can find out more about Defiance the game  and series here. Defiance airs Monday nights at 10 on Showcase.

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