Friday, February 15th is a big night for Psych, USA Network’s pineapple-loving homage to ’80s pop culture. Starting at midnight, fans will don their Psych slippers, heat up a pineapple upside-down cake, and settle in for a marathon of 7 fan-selected episodes. And as a surprise addition to the day’s festivities, USA is launching The S#cial Sector, sequel to the show’s Emmy-nominated transmedia experience Hashtag Killer.
The S#cial Sector will exist as an online interactive Psych episode elapsing over the course of eight weeks, much like its predecessor. Directed by Kirsten Nelson (who plays Chief of Police Karen Vick on the show), the narrative follows Shawn and Gus as they investigate a deadly reality television show known as “The S#cial Sector” that takes the elimination process literally. Unbeknownst to the show’s contestants, getting taken out of the competition means getting taken out. It’s up to the show’s fans, interacting with Shawn and Gus on “The Fan Theory Board” as digital assistants, to figure out why the contestants are being killed off, and how to pull the plug on the deadly reality show before it’s curtains for the show’s cast.
As one of Hashtag Killer‘s 452,000 players, I was deeply impressed at the team’s ability to capture the show’s tone, and transfer it to a smaller, more interactive screen. Struggling to keep up with Shawn and Gus’ witty repartee on the SocialSamba platform that drove players’ interactions with the show’s characters reinforced my excitement at hunting down the show’s seemingly endless pop culture references and easter eggs, and working through the meta-puzzles introduced me to the show’s vibrant fan communities as discussion spilled over from the show’s official social platform to more traditional social networks like Twitter and Tumblr.
Tonight, the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards held its annual awards, where the Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Original Interactive Television Programming was awarded to Fourth Wall Studios for their interactive program Dirty Work. The Emmy-winning show is a dark comedy featuring an LA-area clean-up crew as they go about their grisly business, featuring guest appearances from everyone from Metta World Peace to Kid Creole. Dirty Work is built off Fourth Wall Studios’ RIDES platform that integrates telephone calls, text messages, and user input to add a layer of depth to the viewing experience of the episodic web series.
Also nominated for the award was USA Network’s Hashtag Killer, and What’s Trending with Shira Lazar. Hashtag Killer is an online murder mystery built around USA Networks show Psych that allows players to virtually chat along with Shawn Spencer, Burton Guster, and the rest of the cast of the show while hunting down a serial killer who methodically stalked down and killed the top-scoring players in the Hashtag Killer experience. The game was built on the SocialSamba platform and linked to fans’ Club Psych accounts. What’s Trending with Shira Lazar combines online news articles and video broadcasts to provide a direct feed into what’s popular on the internet. The show recently accepted a grant from YouTube’s Next Lab, bringing more live and interactive content to the show.
The Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Fiction category has historically been friendly to alternate reality games, with the Fallen alternate reality game winning in 2007, the Heroes Digital Experience winning in 2008, and The Dharma Initiative winning in 2009. In 2010, Star Wars Uncut was the final winner for the category, before the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories were combined in 2011. This year, the Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media award was split into two new categories: original interactive television programming, and enhancement to a television program or series. Team Coco’s sync app won the program enhancement award.
Congratulations to Fourth Wall Studios for their win, and head on over to RIDES.tv to check out Dirty Work and the other interactive programs the team has developed.