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.
On Thursday, June 14th, USA Network’s legal drama Suits comes back for its second season. For some fans, however, the season started early with an application for an unpaid internship at Pearson Hardman, one of Manhattan’s most elite law firms and the setting for Suits. Over the next five weeks, interns will work as paralegals and interns supporting the cast of Suits on a pending lawsuit in Suits Recruits, an interactive story-game running in parallel with the television show. Two interns will even receive a $50,000 bonus after the successful completion of their time at Pearson Hardman, embracing a compensation plan that’s quixotic even for “big law.”
The experience starts with your job interview at Pearson Hardman, where Donna (Sarah Rafferty) asks if you want to join up as an assistant or paralegal. Assistants are exposed more to office gossip and politics, while paralegals may find themselves parsing through the details of the lawsuit. Most of the game’s action is conducted over the company’s intranet, with characters from the show periodically asking questions to seek advice, gauge how well you’ve been paying attention, or even test your pop culture knowledge. Players are then assigned their first case, a lawsuit ripped from the headlines, with a former intern suing his former employer for unpaid wages a month before the company’s stock goes public. Your goal is to assist the Pearson Hardman team in representing the company…and while getting questions wrong won’t derail the investigation, missing too many questions might result in losing your chance at the $50,000 bonus.
Jesse Redniss, SVP of Digital at USA Networks, explains that Suits Recruits is designed to “bring the intrigue and excitement of working at a law firm to life . . . [and to] simulate that team experience you get when working in a law office.” Accordingly, in order to rise to the top of the internship pool, paralegals will need to share information with their assistant counterparts either by enlisting a friend to join the fun, or at the Water Cooler. As 30 Ninjas’s Julina Tatlock explains, “the two different roles work as a narrative fugue.”
USA Network has partnered with Campfire Media to produce an extended reality promotion for the hit television show, The 4400. Fans of the show can join in the debate over the use of Promicin, a neurotransmitter found in each of the 4400. When injected into someone who is not one of the 4400, it does one of two things: it either kills them instantly or gives them an amazing supernatural ability. Not surprisingly, the government wants to stop the use of Promicin, but many, like Jordan Collier, think the public deserves the right to choose for themselves.
While the promotion appears to be an extended reality rather than a full-fledged ARG, it’s still definitely worth a look. According to the official press release, the campaign will use seven websites, 70+ videos, mobile phone network participation and several live events across the United States. The three sites found through the rabbithole are already chock-full of well done and entertaining videos, blogs and other fun goodies.
Join the discussion at the UnFiction forums.