play style 4: The pathfinder


Exploration draws in the creative and curious. Fans of the Pathfinder Play Style go into the world seeking to understand how it works and what it means. Rather than get hung up on the minutiae, they look within and underneath it for hints about the bigger picture. They are all about seeing the forest for the trees and experiencing the hidden meaning behind everything.

Through their interactions with the world, Pathfinders discover things that most are blind to. They experiment in ways that others would never think to try. The patterns they find – in time, in space, in thought – often end up being the very things that change the world in unexpected ways.

Feature Title: Westworld

HBO’s breakout TV show Westworld offers a lot to explore, both through its full range of settings and its philosophical quandaries.

“I think that it's important to have shows such as Westworld in order to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare us for if something like that were to happen.”

Brady, 23, MD


For Pathfinders, the Internet and social web introduce new opportunities to become immersed in a story's world. Fan communities are now connected to discover and pick apart a game universe. They further research and discuss theories that are posed by movies or television shows. And they share surprising observations.

pattern 1.0

Thought Exercises

Movies, video games, and TV shows that introduce new ideas, theories, or underlying narratives are like catnip for Pathfinders. Driven by their innate desire to seek out novel ways of thinking, Pathfinders turn to online forums to discuss and expand their understanding of events in a story world. Sometimes they even work together to form mental models for what is going on. Once they do, it's onto the next discovery.

pattern 2.0

Sensory Immersion

When a story world is well-crafted, it results in a satisfying gestalt – an organized whole that is more than the sum of its parts. Pathfinders want to immerse themselves in their favorite narratives, in ways that extend past the initial or traditional experience. They often achieve this by creating and sharing visually stunning content online. Examples include environmental fan art, screenshot stills from in-game adventures, and ambient audio.


Meaningful Details

Pathfinders are interested in expansive worlds and narratives, but small details such as a set-design choice or a character quirk are what make these worlds come to life. Meticulous details give viewers a window into a world's more profound meaning and provide an opportunity to understand that world better. This possibility often energizes Pathfinders to go to extreme lengths to discover these details and then share them with friends.

brand initiatives

Experiences that lean into imagination and discovery are compelling to Pathfinders. They are an invitation to dive in and become immersed in the narrative world even further. Here, fans can appreciate details that provide more profound meaning and experiment in ways to expand their understanding.

Isle of Dogs: Instagram Content

Director Wes Anderson is known for his attention to detail, and the stop-motion animated film Isle of Dogs was no exception. To tease the fictional universe, Isle of Dogs launched an Instagram profile that showcased a series of stunningly detailed imagery. The graphics were presented across a variety of formats and dimensions, appealing to curious Pathfinders and making it impossible for them not to get sucked in.

Courtesy of FOX Searchlight Pictures

Rick & Morty: FedConnect

Between seasons two and three of Rick & Morty, fans were hungry for more ways to explore the universe. To feed this craving, the show created FedConnect, an in-world platform full of click-bait-like content from the perspective of the Gromflomites. Fans would sign up for their Federation Rewards card and, unknowingly, hack into the Galactic Federation's Slack-like chat server. The channel featured an alien's POV on earth through content verticals like food, travel, and news - in familiar formats like essays, listicles, and animated shorts.

Courtesy of Cartoon Network

Alien Franchise: Offworld Colony Simulator

This year's #AlienDay celebration delighted Pathfinders, as 20th Century Fox decided to do something special for its audience. The Offworld Colony Simulator, an Amazon Alexa experience, invited fans to explore the randomly generated sectors of an offworld space colony where they would discover items, easter eggs, and even the introduction to a subplot within the Alien Universe. All of this while attempting to survive the impending Xenomorph threat.

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Westworld: SXSW Experience

Westworld could be considered the ultimate case study for Pathfinders. Online, it boasts an incredible digital content strategy, encouraging fans to go deeper. But this year, HBO decided to bring the show offline. It invited people to experience the town of Sweetwater IRL at Austin's annual SXSW festival. The 90-minute event featured 60 actors to interact with, all of whom were driven by a script that was more than 440 pages long.


Recreate the story’s world in physical form and allow fans to explore it using their five senses
Celebrate the details that make an environment believable through complementary content
Develop interactive experiences that facilitate experimentation and reveal the underlying rules of the world
Invite co-creation of world development through community contests, activities, and events
Provide forums for fans to discuss their theories about the world and what is happening within it
table of contents
table of contents