The main character of the feature film is David, an android boy who doesn’t know he’s an android and who loves his mother. The support characters are Monica Swinton and Henry Swinton and their biological son Martin Swinton, sidekick Gigolo Joe, and a talking supertoy called Teddy. The mother and father characters are forgettable and would not travel across a transmedia storytelling. Teddy the supertoy gives as sense that David is perhaps – only – a toy.
There relationship between David and the people he meets in the world is what makes the movie interesting to watch. David is made to be the perfect son, never aging and always loving. To initiate his love, the parent has to perform an imprinting sequence that attaches the child to the parent – the mother Monica. David and his ‘father’ Henry, however remain unattached. “David and Henry are somewhat distant from each other and, while Monica performs the imprinting sequence with David, Henry never does” (IMDB).
The storyworld is a supporting character on its own; as an expansive space it sets the background for a “civil war” between robots and humans. Through secondary characters such as the robot-killers on the Flesh Market and the hedonistic inhabitants of the Rouge City we get a sense of the storyworld. Robots have developed to a state where they have reached the uncanny valley people feel uneasy about their presence, which is fast threatening the android population with nothing less than holocaust. The AI storyworld is a dangerous place for free robots, as when captured, they are taken to the flesh market to be publicly executed; a dystopian view of how people will treat machines that become too similar to them.
The characters in the alternate reality game are not the same as the film’s characters; in fact the film character do not ever actively participate as the game begins 16 years after the movie ends but extensive biographical material can be found though, for example one “website revealed that Martin Swinton grew up to be an architect who, after being traumatized by David’s disappearance, spent his career building sentient AI houses” (IMDB). The robot-making corporations are central to the story, however, and the name of certain Jeanine Salla, a robotherapist from Bangalore University, who is an expert in the emotional construction of AIs – is the cue players find in the movie’s credits. Jeanine’s granddaughter Laia Salla had a relationship with Evan, the killed scientist, and a family friend of the Sallas, whose murder by a an android names Venus set the story off.
Doing a web search on Jeanine Salla brought up several in-game web pages “such as the homepage of Salla’s employer, Bangalore World University” (Wikipedia, 2011). If the played would do his research, he would find Laia Salla’s name and Jeanine’s phone number, that when called would be answered by an in-game automated message, providing additional cues to follower. Going down the rabbit hole step-by-step, following similar cues was how the game’s story unfolded. On certain step, non-player characters would get involved set up by the game’s Puppetmasters to add even more realism to the experience; access to these characters would be through email and in one case through a phone call, with a in-game voice actor; humans engage with characters and with sound, and being able to speak to what seems to be a real person on a phone, extends characters from the game world into the real world – and also plays to the thematic of the movie – the question, what is real?
Continue reading part 2/3: Audience.