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Left Fielder Media has signed a deal with Web3 game studio Neon, which is making the highly anticipated shooter game Shrapnel.
The idea is to bring the characters of the ambitious Unreal Engine 5 multiplayer game to life and give fans a reason to get engaged with the storytelling and lore behind a fresh set of characters in Shrapnel.
LFM is the creation of Dom Cole and Stephen Philms, two friends who grew up in Atlanta and now specialize in developing and producing story lore for gaming universes that can also be used in a variety of creative media, including film, comic books, and digital collectibles. Their company just got started in 2020, and they see the Shrapnel project as something that can bring a lot of attention their way.
Cole and Philms want to see more diversity in stories about future technology and science fiction, and they wan those characters to be dynamic and authentic. So they create lore, or the back stories for characters who appear in the video games like Shrapnel, and they’re excited about the opportunities for their kind of storytelling to cross into different media as fans gobble up engaging stories about their favorite characters across different media — something that modern creators prefer to call crossmedia rather than the tired word transmedia that was associated with Hollywood failures in the past.
“We like to call Left Fielder Media a media tech studio,” said Cole in an interview with GamesBeat. “Gaming is becoming such a big industry, they need so many characters and contributions. I think we’ll see more of these type of overall deals that you’re seeing.”
The idea is to help video games and other sci-fi media reach audiences that have been overlooked in the past and to bring authenticity at the highest level that showcases their cultural perspectives, said Cole.
“We understand that people — beyond just watching content — want to experience it. So we’re understanding that the intersection is happening,” Philms said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We’re not just creating lore for a game. It’s going to show up outside the game as well.”
As an example, they work with NASA engineer Sabrina Thompson to make sure that all their space and technical language is accurate. Part of their interest is in inspiring diverse people to take an interest in future technologies.
Philms said, “We appreciate that opportunity to create authentically because then you’re basically bringing an audience. You’re baking them into the ingredients of the lore and their content. People are just excited about participating.”
Shrapnel is a major blockchain game in the works at Neon, which was founded by video game veteran Mark Long as an ambitious multiplayer shooter game. The game is coming soon on the Avalanche blockchain with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and comics.
Since the title doesn’t have a single-player story, Neon enlisted Left Fielder Media to create the Hassan Calloway story in Shrapnel.
LFM focused on developing the character that reflects strength, aptitude and swagger as well as telling a successful family legacy story. The lore looks into generations of family unity for the Calloways and Hassan’s character was inspired by a sense of family honor.
They created the comic art and story behind Hassan’s non-fungible tokens for Shrapnel and the NFTs sold out.
“We created the Callaway family in the faction, and then their entire backstory. They have a whole section of the game that has to do with what we created,” Philms said.
Cole and Philms started Left Fielder Media to extend their reach into industries such as the metaverse, blockchain, gaming, film/tv, fashion, exhibitions, immersive and live event experiences.
Cole has been in entertainment for a decade and he has experience as an entrepreneur, music supervisor, creative developer, and writer/producer. In 2017, his film won the Gentleman Jack Real to Reel competition with Jack Daniel’s at the ABFF (American Black Film Festival). His work has been featured at SXSW, internationally distributed in Southeast Asia and streamed on Amazon Prime and Apple TV Plus.
Philms is an award-winning creative director. He started in 2011 as a film and tech creative director working with the startup Mobilefilmworks, a pre-Netflix mobile video streaming service designed to provide movies to international audiences. He produced in-house content while assisting on global projects in Rio de Janeiro Brazil with the Rio Film Commission.
His work has appeared on platforms such as Comcast On Demand, the Bronx Museum of Arts, and more. He has worked in photography, fashion, and art direction.
“I got my start just understanding global marketing and storytelling and what type of stories were were basically desired across global markets and I learned a lot from that experience,” Philms said.
Cole and Philms collaborated so much they decided to create their own startup. And that’s how Left Fielder Media was born. They considered raising money, but they felt like their creative vision was strong and didn’t want to have that diluted.
“We’ve learned over time it’s good to slowly erupt and build that credibility and we’re seeing the results of that since the last few years,” Cole said.
Lately, Left Fielder Media has found there is a lot of demand for the kind of lore they can create, as there are plentiful writing projects coming to them.
They have teamed up with the Equity Space Alliance in a partnership aimed at advocating for equitable ownership and inclusiveness in the space industry. They’re also fans of Web3 technology for games, as the assets they create can be used to help monetize in-game assets and raise immersion and engagement among fans. Those fans will likely take what Left Fielder Media creates and run with it.
Long has been like a mentor for Cole and Philms for years, and they liked working with him as he had strong opinions about the story and lore.
“It’s been great working alongside him and learning from him,” Cole said.
“We were looking into how the industry was changing and the rise of gaming and we made the connection with Neon to do writing and developing with them. We’re going into Web3 and we’re super excited about that,” Philms said.
The company has multiple projects under way, including its own original work as well. Its primary mission is to work on titles with other artists on a project basis. They’re working on a space tourism immersive project dubbed Member 16, which will have comics, short-form content as well as a feature film, Philms said.
Philms was on a panel at Comic-Con last year about storytelling in comics and how it makes games stronger.
“We were just basically sharing our experiences with with an audience about what that process is like, and how important it is for us to make sure we’re creating authentic, long-lasting characters that are going to evolve in worlds where people are going to be addicted to experience,” Philms said. “So we put a lot of effort and thought for this multilayered story that can translate over into gaming, and then become a film.”
Cole said he would like to see more Black people creating in the field and contributing to the narrative so they can be viewed as part of the future and part of the worlds of science fiction.
“It’s not just about including a character from a different background,” Philms said. “We emphasize authenticity. We are very detailed about how our character dressed, the clothes fit certain ways, and to think about how a particular style could evolve naturally, organically, in the future.”
Philms said the company will keep doing what it’s doing, regardless of what the buzzword of the day is — from transmedia to metaverse.
“We want to work on the right project versus many projects,” Cole said. “We think we’ll survive if we keep focusing on the right things.”