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Open invitation to Arte: Type:Rider, the history of typography as a mobile game

On next October 10th, Arte launches Type:Rider on paying download on the App Store and Google Play store. First gaming experience started by a TV channel, Type:Rider offers to his user to trace the history of typography. A subject that calls to mind regarding the support that has been chosen to hold it. But Type:Rider falls within the will of the French-German channel to shake up the models of formats and diffusion on the web. Explanations with Alexander Knetig, head for the interactive programs for Arte France.

Type Rider is a project diffused via the platform Arte Creative, which pretends to be “a platform dedicated to visual and creative arts”. What is the intent of the channel Arte Creative? 

It’s a platform dedicated to new cultures and more globally to creativity on the web that was launched two years ago at the European scale. Young or less young creators can create a space and publish their works there. They have everyday the possibility to present their work on the Labo and Arte Creative selects some of the works and promotes them on the magazine section of the site in the form of more or less long videos. There are also video games, as it is the case here with Type Rider. The idea is to present all those new cultures that are not yet diffused on the antenna. Of course, the video game is treated by a lot of medias, but most of them talk about the release of GTA V and a bit less of the Type Rider slot. The internet is full of different communities, not mass audiences as can be those of the TV channels but that are interest in these subjects. With this platform, Arte wants to create a network of creators at the European level.

Let’s come to Type Rider. Can you explain us the purpose of the game, its subject and its narrative outline?

The game recounts the history of typography. The idea, in a visual and sound typographic universe is to start from a preliminary level where we evolve between the “writings” of the caves of Lascaux, Rome to China. Then, we evolve over 10 levels in which you collect ampersands. These ampersands flow into a notebook that tells the story of Gothic, of Garamond, Helvetica and Pixel. Each level is a font. The bonus level is the one of Comic Sans Ms, that must be end as soon as possible with tasteless Mexican music and being chased by a LOLcat.

The game will be sold on the App Store and Google Play. The mission of Arte is the one of a public service, we have an obligation of a free offer. But, we also want to try to find the economic model. With this in mind, we worked with Bulky Pix, one of the leading publisher of mobile videogames. They are co-editors of this game with us and together we set this game “premium casual”, it will be sold 2.69€ on the App Store and Google Play.

Type Rider is the first videogame project of Arte ?

Absolutely. This is the first time that Arte joins the production of a videogame. We are not co-producers, but majority funders. In the video game, the co-production as it is known in the audiovisual field almost does not exist.  It is the first time that a French and European public channel is involved in the production of a videogame of that kind. Of course, France Télévision has the videogames Fort Boyard or Questions pour un Champion on tablets, but they are itemizations of already existing programs. We thought long and hard about the best way to get involved in the video game. Starting from the principle that Arte is a European cultural channel, it is our duty and pleasure to report everything that culture is in Europe today and in the future. We have found that the video game was pretty ill-treated even if it is a main cultural and audiovisual work of the last thirty years.

Finding this project, we thought that instead of seeking the best way to talk about video game, we could do some. This projects meets our criteria, we are far from derivative videogames of television programs or from anything that could be a mainstream game at Ubisoft. This project falls in the field of the indygame, games originally distributed via the platform Steam and then increasingly mobile. Arte has the legitimacy to produce a specific video game on a cultural topic.

With what kind of ambitions do we get into the video game market, when we are neither a big studio as Konami, nor an alternative start-up, but a cultural TV channel?

As a cultural TV channel, we must open ourselves to the hybridization of genres, both in terms of programs and ways to produce alternative programs such as a video game. Our goal with this project is threefold: in the structure of production, an editorial point of view and in our intention to re-orient ourselves as a publisher on the web.

Concerning the production, the project is supported not by a studio but an historic producer of the channel, Agat-ex nihilo, and its head of new medias who found the author, Cosmo Graphic. Graduated of a printing HND and of a diploma in videogames from the Gobelins, he has decided to mix the two and create a video game on typography. This team hybridizes genres, mixing people who do not make video games with people who do not make television. These genres have anyway less and less sense today: radio stations produce videos, video game studios are getting into the cinema, etc.

The second aim is editorial: we are now in a specific genre, the artist videogame.

Lastly, our goal is to be broadcaster. On the internet today, we must review our copy. Only a website is required to be a broadcaster. Coca-Cola is a broadcaster, your Facebook page too. What we can still bring is the editorial prescription, so we decided to play this card in depth.

Let’s go back to the project from its editorial point of view. To treat a subject such as the history of typography with a videogame, was it your original intent? Why the videogame and not the documentary? 

We have on one hand an author who brings the subject and that wishes to express himself in this way, and we, as an institution, consider that he is the one to decide. On the other hand, the potential in terms of audience seemed to us more interesting in this form. This game must exist through its gameplay and graphics more than its documentary content which is not the first argument put forward in the communities we target.

Who are those communities? 

Gamers who are into everything, we do not target those who have a game console at home but only buy a FIFA game once year. We aim players able to look at an alternative gameplay. Within this, we target the indy gamers that we find a little left behind in Europe.

But we also target the gamers called “casual”, people that the tablets and smartphones drive to the videogames. It is now the largest community, casual gamers are millions in France. We have thus developed a social media itemization for this game. You can edit your own levels on Facebook and challenge your friends.

Lastly, we also target a community interested in the new storytelling formats, which is rather composed of French and Canadians. These are people interested in the webdocumentary or webfiction.

Will the game get an IRL (In Real Life) itemization with an installation?

Yes, we have designed a physical version of this game. It will be presented in an exhibition on the video game at the Cité des Sciences in late October and in some international festivals, in Canada and maybe Amsterdam where we have been selected by a documentary festival. Here is the hybridization that we liked in this projects and that we want to promote because the means to produce this kind of formats are still lacking.



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