January 08, 2007

ShapeShifter TV

The Guardian reports today on a Finnish TV show, Accidental Lovers, that uses NM2's ShapeShifter TV system which provides an SMS interface to an interactive TV drama. It's interesting to see that "repeat showing" is touted as a key benefit in much the same way as BDE's proposition for animated interactive drama worked, or rather didn't work, in the mid-90s. Are NM2 re-inventing the flat-tyre or are audiences genuinely interested in this stuff? Time will tell.

Looking forward to experience this new attempt at combining non-linear narratives with TV but I suspect that this format may, once again, prove to be more fun for the creators than the intended audience. It is incredibly stimulating to design an interactive storytelling system around a particular narrative. Those like me who have been beavering away at this for years do it for a reason. But without the hands-on creative experience, do you care? It remains to be seen whether limited control is any better than no control when it comes to drama.

My hunch is that such a system lives or dies on how successfully it woos the audience into believing it is in control. There's an art to that, well understood by game studios, and less so by linear programme-makers. At the same time, my money is on giving audiences REAL control over a narrative. They have it anyhow.

The idea of creating extra content up front to increase the appeal of a show really does seem to be a flawed assumption. Once you unleash audience expectations that they can have real input into a fictional drama, any set of pre-fab options lives up to the hype. Hence the appeal of YouTube and Big Brother - for all the rules, they aren't closed systems... if Ken Russell wants to pick up and leave the show to escape from Jade Goody he can... and that's paradigm-shifting!

Want to see a happy ending? Just text while you watch | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited

Posted by .M. at January 8, 2007 10:32 AM | TrackBack
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