Australia’s 1st Online Drama!, again

In stark contrast to the rollicking and genuine experience of the Kevin Smith launch at the State Theatre in Sydney last night, was the club launch of Yahoo!7’s new online interactive drama: PS Trixi. The new property, a multi-platform drama with an Internet pivot point, is officially launched on August 28th but you can see an online teaser right now at The show, which has intelligent cross-platform creators Hoodlum Active behind it is incorrectly described as a first in Australia and the world (at the launch) and as an ‘alternate reality game’ on the Hoodlum website:

PS TRIXI is a world first alternate reality game and interactive drama series created and produced by Hoodlum Active exclusively for Yahoo!7.Over the next 12 weeks you are about to be taken on a ride like no other as Trixi and Hamish invite you to be part of their innercircle. This drama plays out in real time and gives you an opportunity to win a car by playing the game.Over the next 12 weeks you are about to be taken on a ride like no other as Trixi and Hamish invite you to be part of their innercircle. This drama plays out in real time and gives you an opportunity to win a car by playing the game.Over the next 12 weeks you are about to be taken on a ride like no other as Trixi and Hamish invite you to be part of their innercircle. This drama plays out in real time and gives you an opportunity to win a car by playing the game.

How do I know it isn’t an ‘alternate reality game’? They’re doing everything an ARG never does. How do I know that? I play them, I’m on the International Game Developers Association ARG SIG, and I’m a co-writer of the upcoming ARG Whitepaper. So there. I know such claims are to assist in creating media buzz, but what gets me about claims of being the 1st in Australia (and the world?!) is that is it obvious that hype and untruth is more important than anything else. I would be so impressed if someone got up and said:

Building on the trail blazing online interactive dramas developed by Jason Wheatley in 1997 with his Byte-Sized Theatre; Griffith University’s Voyear Motel in 2001 and Hardboiled in 2002; Wheatley, AFTRS, NIDA and Brainwave Interactive’s Love Cuts in 2002; and the highly successful Forget the Rules by Jim Shomos or Kylie Robertson’s more recent Girl Friday; and internationally, one cannot miss the pivotal Online Caroline by XPT in 2003; the well-known soap The Spot that has developed to being multi-platform or the original landmark explorations of the Oz Project; like Jupiter Green which was situated in the CitySearch portal and MSNFound by 42 Entertainment using MSN Search…we now introduce our contribution to this important area of entertainment…[fill in whatever name you want to call it]…it ultilises design techniques from interactive drama, alternate reality games, pervasive gaming…etc

But that won’t happen! The untruths and lack of respect for audiences takes away from what is actually good about the project. PSTrixi will be using all the parts of the Yahoo!7 universe (to sell itself obviously) but hopefully in clever ways. The mystery, to solve what happened to Trixi’s missing sister, is experienced over 12 weeks over a variety of platforms. Players will be using messenger, the search engine, streaming, email, podcasts, webcams, casual games, blogs and even reading Famous Magazine and watching teen soap Home and Away. At the launch they said they will ‘reward those who really want to get involved’, which I thought was an excellent design implementation until I realised the experience will all be a competition to win a car. Toyota are the sole sponsors of the property. It is aimed at a particular demographic obviously.

One of the statements at the launch was that this is ‘not TV replicated online’. True, it is interactive. But I wonder, it seems the content of the show is trying to appeal to a mass audience. This is a TV-centric way of writing. The Internet is the ideal ground for niche content. And niche is, ironically, more popular I think. I was also surprised at the launch. It was a room full of 30+ party goers, not the demographic of the intented audience I don’t think. And, it struck me as silly that more of these launches don’t invite active bloggers to them. Sure, I was there, but I wasn’t invited! (Thanks Gary for passing on the internet invite.) I think that rather than trying to look cool, why not take that scary step DOWN to your audience and also invite people who, like me, will get on the Net or a podcast and spread the word of your work. Directors like Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon and the like really know how to speak directly to their fans. They’re not afriad of them…

Anyway, rant over. I will be ‘playing’ PSTrixi, to study the cross-media design. I wish the PSTrixi team the best of luck with the project and hope you provide wonderful surprises for me! 🙂

6 Replies

  • Whew! feel better now? 🙂 I won’t be playing their game. TV for me now is just a way to get to sleep last thing at night. Online content is my preferred content… a 30+ party goer 🙂

  • Oh and I should add that I think Yahoo7! are really on the ball when it comes to understanding the digital media space. At XMediaLab Rohan Lund spoke about their forthcoming ‘Entertainment Platform’. Instead of being a portal to their own content, they will be a portal to all entertainment on the web. Right on.

  • Good luck to them.

    I’m impressed at how much wrong they were able to fit into the first sentence of that press release. But maybe what they’re saying is that the world has never seen an ARG/Interactive Drama that was created and produced by Hoodlum Active for Yahoo!7?

    Christy, has your extensive research revealed how many ground-breaking interactive dramas involve a missing loved one and a sassy/quirky teen with a webcam?

  • A missing loved one has been done before, in BBCi’s Jamie Kane for instance. A sassy/quirky female teen with a webcam is the norm.

    What I find interesting is that all of these productions choose a particular motivation that is similiar to a linear text: unlock the mystery, find someone, discover the murderer, find out what happens next and so on. Only now you actually do something rather than think about it. I completely understand why we’ve made that assumption about what motivates someone to act. But what I found fascinating is the findings of what is perhaps the most popular cross-media teen soap there is: BeActive’s Sofia’s Diary (a birdie told me they have just sold it to Sony). They found that rather than giving Sofia advice (which is usually the drive people are offered: Help the Protagonist), they found the teens preferred Sofia to give them advice. The motivation is to have their favourite character come to them. It makes complete sense but turns the whole premise of alot of interactive dramas on its head. This point is a major part of my research into what motivates audiences to move across platforms.

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