Published on May 22nd, 2012 | by Merrill Simpson0
Much More Than Simply Pottermore
Per the three overflowing bookcases I have and the somewhat disturbing way I pine after a new hardback, all I want to do is to sit in an overstuffed chair, prop up my feet, sip a steaming mug of hot chocolate (just a little cream, thanks) and finally have that tryst with that lusty hardback I have been eyeing the past week. With that said, I am not ashamed for the following act: I have joined Pottermore. And yes, I am wearing fuzzy slippers and a smoking jacket. Are you jealous yet?
As you read through the first novel, the content on the website parallels each chapter with the miscellany from the genesis of the Wizarding World. The first thing you get to learn on Pottermore is the inspiration behind the now-legendary “number 4, Privet Drive” — an interesting tidbit I’ll let you discover yourself. For book nerds like me, this qualifies for a spot amidst the “top five signs you’re a citizen of Nerdom.” Yet Pottermore may just be the beginning of a truly revolutionary experience. An immersive one.
I could not help but get a little excited — like little girl excited — when I heard that J.K. Rowling was going to expand her novels through Pottermore. But what really intrigued me was the chimerical act of mixing two mediums: print and web. Of course, naysayers will shake their heads and say this isn’t anything new; “ever hear of the internet?” (I respond with a glint of crazy in my eye, a smear of red painted on my face, a slight smacking of my lips and a neurosis too crazy to diagnose. “Why so serious?”).
The year: 2007. The event: San Diego Comic-Con International. The gimmick: a large-scale scavenger hunt that would reveal the trailer to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. This was truly an immersive experience. Pottermore should take notes. If ever you’ve planned a date based on a scavenger hunt, then you can appreciate the amount of planning it takes to pull something like this off. Fans were asked to visit a site and it would reveal a clue. Each clue could potentially lead to a location (let’s say your local cupcake shop) and then that would lead you to another clue (thank you, nice cupcake lady, for the eerie “Why so serious?” frosted on my red velvet) and so on and so forth. Eventually, these clues lead to a secret website that streamed the trailer, and fans not only got the satisfaction of seeing the trailer but they got the catharsis of completing a journey.
Las Vegas has a sexy take on the immersive experience. Mystery Adventures Las Vegas, a company that caters to the immersive experience, creates a real-life Sherlock-Holmesian adventure. A murder has been committed and you’ve been asked to solve the mystery. The company has reserved a few deserted warehouse-esque places to help you channel your inner CSI. As they shuttle you around solving clues, you get to interact with actors who’ve been hired to mislead and help you on your gumshoeing. Entering the world of Las Vegas’s “underbelly” really blurs the line between reality and make-believe. And by the end of it, you have every right to say, “Take that Gil Grissom!” This creative adventure might be a little too intense for the likes of Harry Potter fans (“Avada Kedavra!” anyone?), but experiences like this cross into reality.
Admittedly, Pottermore is nothing more than the online equivalent of my extended versions of the Lord of the Rings box set, which is currently just collecting dust. But, like every good marketing campaign, big backers need to endorse the product before others start to buy into it. We have Steve Jobs to thank for the iPad and the subsequently stunning versions of popular magazines which incorporate extra content, video and sound, as if these extras are integral to the digital magazine experience. All those extras are more than just fluff. With Rowling’s backing of her literary version of an immersive experience, the future of entertainment is moving beyond just books, movies and TV shows — it’s starting to hybridize those modes into more than just passive activities.
Pottermore is just starting to get the ball rolling into a world where entertainment’s sole job is to immerse me in it, blending and bending my sense of reality. I (like you) can’t wait for Las Vegas to include a Hogwarts Adventure/Mystery to their list. I wonder what house I’ll be sorted into? Better still, I wonder if when Daniel Radcliffe’s career fizzles out he’ll be hired to play Harry? ♦ ♦ ♦
Merrill Simpson is a senior at BYU studying journalism. He is the editor of the Student Review, an off-campus alternative newspaper in Provo, UT. You can follow on Twitter at @M_dawgg05.