May 232006

Thanks to Lost Remote’s steer on this one – There has been much discussion that the series ‘Lost’ has borrowed greatly from the gaming world – eg: the plainly titled Is Lost an Interactive Game. The essence of lost, the plethora of treasure hunts combined with RPG combined with tribal warfare combined with myth and so on make it seem like your watching some omnipresent force driving the narrative. So it comes as no surprise that today we hear that Ubisoft are working with the game-mad producers of Lost to create an interactive console/PC version that is very closely aligned to the world of the show. This will probably be the most successful repurposing of a TV show to a game format given the original spirit of the original linear production. From the article Lost and Found at Gamebiz:

‘We are delighted to work with Bryan Burk, one of the biggest producers in Hollywood and with Touchstone Television,” said Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft. “That they have chosen us for the adaptation of the cult series ‘Lost’ is the best homage that a producer can make to the creativity of Ubisoft.’ ‘The creative appeal of ‘Lost’ transcends borders with its character driven stories and addictive mysterious mythology,” said Julia Franz, executive vice president, Touchstone Television. “It’s not enough for fans worldwide to just watch ‘Lost,’ the game is a wonderful opportunity to organically extend this creative phenomenon into an interactive consumer experience.’
‘Many of us on ‘Lost’ have been hardcore gamers for years and the chance to work with Ubisoft, a company behind some of our favourite titles, has excited us to no end,’ said ‘Lost’ producer Bryan Burk. ‘With the ability to tell new interactive stories within the ‘Lost’ universe, we’re giddy to be developing a game that, once completed, will be as engaging and fun to play as it is to create.’

I like the last line. As producer of many interactive services I often get lost myself in the challenge and fun of creation that one loses sight of the experience for the user of it. Glad that Bryan here has the insight to realise this and that in fact to take it one step further, allowing the viewers to create sequences or challenges for each other may be a good way forward.

But this whole new area of ‘experience’ production brings to mind a potential range of other ready-to-go big four (TV, Game, Broadband, Mobile) cross media’s formats. Given the range of ‘hunt/cryptic’ shows coming up on the global TV schedules and a likely further range of Da Vinci Code wannabees (as box office is now taking off) we can imagine a future where the ‘challenge’ given to the protagonists of the linear title will/should become the precise same challenge given to the game player (or rather the ‘experiencee’. This is exactly what producers should be considering now. Rather than pushing a story at viewers, they should consider strongly ‘how’ they can put audiences in the shoes of the protagonists. This could mean putting them inside virtual reality worlds, making them hunt for clues across their life devices or creating services where they must move around their physical world – all designed to give them an ‘experience’ closely aligned to the original intention of the author. In many ‘interactive’ development labs I often start as a mentor in asking that question directly to the producers and we explore the avenues in which the experience can resonate for the viewer. We are probably seeing a divergence split on one side – the immersive world of big screen (eg: IMAX) and on the other a ‘constructed reality’, painted as a tapestry of fragments across smaller screens and other media forms for the audience to move within.

This suggests we are now in a transition zone towards the much maligned ‘holodeck’ paradigm, put the viewer inside the experience and then give them the narrative to experience as first person – but of course that will be seen by traditional storytellers as some kind of sci-fi fantasy. We as producers of content should realise that audiences now have the tools to tell their own linear stories and their authenticity will be preferred to ‘overtly artificially scripted’ creations. One thing that will differentiate producers from this pack will be their ability to author ‘experience’ and not just tell story. I advise that when you create future services at least consider how ‘close’ you can bring the audience into your world – make it as personal to the viewer as possible. OK they don’t have to wear VR helmets, body suits and the like (yet), but get them active, involved and personalize it for them and your authorship will be rewarded by returning audiences.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006