CBS wants to go back to the Twilight Zone and this time around they’re giving viewers more ways to get here. The network is reviving the classic show as a series and game hybrid that the creators say will allow the audience to “step in and become part of the story.”
The project comes from Interlude, a digital media company that focuses on interactive development. Though technically still a start-up, in December the company received $18 million from MGM during a round of investment funding. They’re working on developing technology that can detect and respond appropriately to a person’s emotions and reactions. The two are also working on an interactive digital short based on WarGames (MGM, 1983), which feels like a fitting way to introduce the public to their experiments with A.I. At least we know they’ve heard the warnings.
BioShock creator Ken Levine will write and direct the new Twilight Zone pilot.Wired spoke to the legendary gamemaker:
Playing my games, you can probably tell Twilight Zone is something I grew up with. They speak to a larger truth. They’re morality plays, fables, and often they’re about a character who is going through an experience that’s central to their life but also speaks to a larger part of the human condition. I don’t think [Rod] Serling, at the beginning, set out to be a science-fiction writer. But he found that this is a great medium to do metaphor.
In a statement Interlude said this incarnation will honor the original series but allow the viewer to “change and adapt the story based on what he or she feels. As with all other Interlude videos, viewers can return repeatedly and have a different viewing experience each time.”
In the past Interlude has created interactive projects for singers like CeeLo, Carly Rae Jepsen, and this fun thing for Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. You can view a clip below, but to play the interactive part you have to go to Bob Dylan’s website):
They also produce interactive commercials, including a Scream promo for MTV that let fan chose their own murder, and are working with companies like Samsung to widen the immersive experience of virtual reality.
Game/show hybrids have been done before. After 5 years and $100 million in development, Trion and Syfy launched Defiance the MMO game in April 2013 just prior to the series cable debut. Aside from being set on the same planet the stories had minimal crossover however, and when the TV series ended last fall the game continued.
Remedy Entertainment’s Quantum Break released this month as a game that comes packaged with four fully-produced half-hour TV episodes starring names like Dominic Monaghan (Lost, Lord of the Rings) and Lance Reddick (Fringe, The Wire). The episodes are designed as a new, less intrusive but more fulfilling way to tell the game’s story, typically done though narrative cutscenes which briefly stop gameplay to provide information.
And last year Lionsgate invested in Telltale Games, creators of The Walking Dead game, on what they’re calling a Super Show. Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner described the concept to Entertainment Weekly: “A ‘Super Show’ episode combines one part of interactive playable content with one part of scripted television style content. Both pieces, when combined together, are what make an actual Super Show “episode.”
That doesn’t sound terribly different than what’s already been tried, but they may simply be protecting trade secrets by withholding details. All these models are designed to bring viewers and players closer across platforms, so they share the narrative. Based on Interlude’s portfolio they may be looking for a way to bring users closer to the story, and let them come together the way we bond over anything now – we make it go viral.
However CBS and Interlude are planning to do it, The Twilight Zone is a great property to use to introduce a new way to tell stories. It was revolutionary when it first aired between 1959 and 1964, giving fans of sci-fi, horror, and good old-fashioned mystery their own space on TV. Rod Serling sold the rights to CBS and the network has relaunched the show twice – in 1985 and 2002.
In a statement about their work on the WarGames project Interlude’s CEO summed up their efforts thus: “Though video has always been a very powerful storytelling medium, it has not, to date, been able to adjust and adapt from viewer to viewer. But we are aiming to allow filmmakers and content to form a unique connection with each viewer. This has the potential to change the relationship between film and individual audience members.”