• Kevin Veale
  • Transformative Works and Cultures, January 2013, Transformative Works and Cultures
  • DOI: 10.3983/twc.2013.0510

How and why "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" works and feels like an Alternate Reality Game.

What is it about?

The internet is bridging different forms of storytelling media and their communities, meaning that to some extent, everything is becoming a transmedia narrative. Alternate Reality Games are kinds of stories that can only be told online, because they're experienced as part of a community seeking to solve puzzles and piece together what is happening alongside secret creators who are responding to what the community does. This article explores how the community of fans surrounding "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" functions and feels like an Alternate Reality Game, because of how the fans engage with the show and how the creators play with them through it.

Why is it important?

Much of my work is grounded in exploring how different forms of media impact the stories that we tell through them. This is a comparison of what seems like very different kinds of media - television and Alternate Reality Games - that shows that the community dynamics are becoming functionally identical between the two, despite their obvious differences. Some of this is cultural change in how communities of fans approach the media, but some of it has always been there and hasn't been recognised for what it was. Plus, if there are similarities between different media in this case, there will be in others as well - which also ties back into themes connecting my different pieces of work, which suggests that seemingly similar kinds of media can be very different, and that what would seem to be worlds apart can overlap in unexpected ways. Analysing different forms of media for the ways that they shape our experiences will show insights into how we have been telling stories for a long time.


Dr Kevin Veale
Massey University

I'm looking back at this with some distance now, but I'm still largely pleased with it: I think it's a good representative example of how communities of fans organise around what they enjoy in the current media landscape, and think it's likely there are even more examples of creators who deliberately play with fans than there were when I first wrote this. (Also working with Transformative Works and Cultures was a very positive experience.) I am a little saddened, looking back at the article, for reasons largely unrelated to it: the fan community surrounding MLP:FIM was never perfect, but in the years since publication I've been seeing more visible reactions against the idea that popular culture should be welcoming to anyone who isn't a young, white, straight, cisgendered man - essentially the same sentiments that drove the Gamergate harassment movement. Given the active marginalisation and erasure of women that is already discussed in the article, this isn't a particularly surprising development - but it is a saddening one.

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