PBS Kids Gamification Play: The Electric Company’s Prankster Planet


Jessica and Marcus need your help to turn off Manny’s Wordsuckeruppernator gadget before it sucks up all the words on earth, as seen in the above video.

In a modern rendering of Tinkerbell’s clap-if-you-believe in fairies, the Electric Company’s math-literacy Prankster Planet just went transmedia, thanks to Atlanta-based Primal Screen, which created a digital animated world based on the Electric Company brand and characters that span online, broadcast and print. 

Each Prankster Planet television segment on PBS Kids signs-off with a call-out for the website where gameification rules with 12 multilevel quests, 60 minigames, an avatar-creator, a magazine and a rewards system to encourage repeat play.[more]

The seminal challenge was to develop a platform where kids feel they are part of the show across multiple media landscapes.

“Our goal for the campaign was to create a truly immersive experience and we took great pains to ensure this was an engaging experience versus a passive one. We developed a system where the animated show leads viewers to the online game which directs kids back to the show and the print magazine supports both experiences; basically a very dynamic feedback loop of engagement for the audience,” said Doug Grimmett, Primal Screen’s chief creative officer. 

According to the site, the early numbers are prime: “The analytics over the first few days after the site’s launch are staggering. The average time on the site is 19 minutes, a 371% rise over the two to three minutes kids spent there before our site launched. The number of visits rose from 20,000 to 120,000. Visitors who found the site through a banner ad (!) registered 13 minutes of engagement.”

While gamification is the big buzzword these days, the jury is still out on transmedia’s future. As Fast Company reports:

“Many stories are told perfectly well within a single medium, and the audience leaves satisfied, ready for something else. Transmedia represents a strategy for telling stories where there is a particularly diverse set of characters, where the world is richly realized, and where there is a strong back-story or mythology that can extend beyond the specific episodes being depicted in the film or television series. Transmedia represents a creative opportunity, but it should never be a mandate for all entertainment.” 

If Prankster Planet realizes its mythological roots, transmedia moves one step closer to game-play that knows no traditional media boundaries.