The Story Machine – Transmedia Games in Education

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The Story Machine – Transmedia Games in Education

[Category: In Class, After Class]
The Story Machine – Transmedia Games in Education
by Johan Fors

Would you like to hunt down a dangerous pyromaniac obsessed with local history, solve a century old conspiracy involving creatures from Swedish folklore or discover London, as the henchman of Dr. Moriarty – all while enhancing your literacy skills and practicing your digital competence? This is the Story Machine, a new take on digital education and gamification.

My name is Johan Fors and I work as a game developer at the Swedish EdTech company Lin Education. I don’t make video games though, but something called transmedia games. The difference between a transmedia game and a video game is that a traditional video game is played on a screen, within a virtual world, and exists only within that space. A transmedia game, or alternate reality game, uses the real world as its game world and blurs the lines between fiction and reality. It is played on social media, dedicated websites and in real world locations. These types of games have been around for a while, primarily as marketing campaigns, but in our project The Story Machine, we are using transmedia game mechanics as an educational tool. The Story Machine is an innovation project that started in 2015. It is partly founded by Sweden´s innovation agency Vinnova and is a collaboration between Lin Education, GR utbildning, the University West in Trollhättan, and Botkyrka municipality.

The benefits of using transmedia games as an educational tool is that you can motivate students to learn independently, by placing them inside a thrilling fictional context, where they must gather information and complete tasks to advance in the story and solve the game’s mysteries. As opposed to conventional gamification, which motivates task solving through traditional rules of play like progress mechanics, competition, and leveling up, The Story Machine motivates mainly through engaging narratives, with close connections to the students everyday surroundings. They have to be active in the digital world, chatting with fictional characters on social media like Twitter and Tumblr and visiting custom made websites, expanding the story world of the game while also visiting places in the real world and expanding learning outside of the classroom.

One of the most played games of the project is “Purified by Fire”, or “Luttras av Eld” in Swedish. It is the pyromaniac story mentioned earlier and is thematically inspired by the Swedish crime genre, which includes other works such as the Millennium trilogy. To stop a pyromaniac from burning down historical buildings in their community, students must collect clues, solve riddles online, and research local history to try to find out where the pyromaniac will strike next and get there as fast as they can in an attempt to stop him.

The games are played during school hours, but the students can also interact with the characters in their free time during the week that the game is played. As a game master I have to be ready to answer tweets and messages 24/7. Many of the students choose to interact with the game outside of their mandatory lessons, which proves that they find the story truly interesting and that an engaging fictional context can motivate independent learning activities. 1000 Swedish students and teachers have participated in the games so far, and together we have created amazing transmedia stories and collaboratively explored a new form of education.

If you want to learn more, please send an email to:

Website (Swedish):
DevBlog (Swedish):ättelsemaskinen-i- svensk-skola

Project Partners:
Lin Education (swedish):

GR utbildning:

University West:

Botkyrka municipality: