Choose Your Own Ending

On November 23, 2004 by Christy

There is a new ‘mobile soap opera game’ (brace yourself there’s heaps more coming your way, including a ‘mobisode’ version of ’24’) called ‘TxtMsC’. It involves a series delivered on TV, mobile phone, with matchmaking service, the chance to win prizes and is marketed on radio and TV. The creator, Charlie Salem, claims it is ‘designed to be completely cross platform’. I couldn’t see how from the news items but in an interview with Salem (and iTV) the seems alot more compelling:

TxtMsC…presented viewers with a series of four 30-second music video-style comic vignettes–each featuring familiar UK television actors–that ran at the beginning and end of commercial breaks on the European version of E! Entertainment Television…Each vignette dramatized a dilemma, and was accompanied by a rap narrative delivered by a character called “Ms.
Cellulite,” played by Salem’s wife…Viewers were invited to decide what the characters in the vignette should do next: they could either text in a vote for a pre-determined option (“Text E if he should ask for her number”) or text in their own suggestion…Then, using artificial-intelligence and randomizing software that Salem wrote during his career as a video-game creator, a continuation of the narrative that corresponded to their individual votes or suggestions was sent to viewers’ mobiles, either in text or, if they had a 3G phone, in photostrip format.

The part I would baulk at was the dating element:

TxtMsC was also designed to function as a chat/dating/meet-up service: “When viewers
texted in their responses, they were invited to enter in their age, gender and post code,” he explained. “Because we knew where they were texting from, we were able to invite them to be matched up with people of a similar sense of humor, so that they could chat with them or even meet them. So, if you were texting from, say, North London, you could be texted back any time of the day with a message saying ‘There’s someone similar to you in your area: do you want to meet them or chat with them?’ Alternatively, if you need some kind of service or want to find someone in your area to do something with, it could be used to match you up.

Alternate uses to this system can be used in a story. Localised content is definately a device that can help immerse the player in the game, or story. I was fooled in another work (by myself not the designers), Jupiter Green, into thinking that the content was localised to my state. I was really excited about the idea and have been waiting to see something like this since. Though, GPS or localised media, is nothing new.
Another element of the work that was interesting, or at least a tick in the box of already recognised ‘aesthetics of immersive gaming’ (Jane McGonigal) is the notion of the audience having control. 4orty2wo call this ‘search operas’.

The fact that the vignettes generated a significant response was particularly gratifying, Salem added, in light of the fact that they were not promoted in advance: “Viewers actually told us that they were fascinated that these clips were just presented to them without any notice,” he said.

Salem has his sight on an even bigger project now:

“What I hope to target at the US would be a whodunnit version, called ‘MysteryTxT,’ in which television, cinema, Web and DVD audiences would get to work out who is the murderer.”