Interactive online sci-fi series?

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This week MSN launched their own sci-fi series called Kirill. Normally that wouldn’t be really special for Johnny, except that it claims to be the next generation in online TV. It wants to create an interactive experience between the series and the people who watch it.

The story is about an environmental disaster caused by the particle accelerator at CERN (Switzerland). Since then strange things are happening… researchers being arrested, people in hiding and special forces showing up. As a viewer you can watch the episodes, which last three minutes each. There you get information as the director intended it. But it’s barely enough to understand the story and exactly enough to feed your need for more information. And there the interactivity starts.

Besides the episodes a lot of information can be found on other places. The storyline is intertwined with different interactive tools from MSN. For example a few journalists are blogging on Spaces about strange incidents in town, showing video footage and photos of researchers being kidnapped. And you shouldn’t be surprised when you’re suddenly contacted via your instant messenger. You decide which information you want to see or read, and create your own conclusion. And it works: while I was watching one video on a blog I was so intriged that I started watching related movies, constantly getting more curious about the events that occured.

It’s good to see a new online television concepts showing up, experimenting by giving me a lot of freedom to dive into the story. I think it’s too early to tell if it will be a success… One thing that is difficult to accomplish is giving people a sense of freedom and influence, but on the other hand managing to keep the story on track and manageable. I see is a big relationship with story-based computer games, which try to give you the feeling that you are actually creating the story around you. A lot of these games failed at this, so I hope the creators of Kirill used those learnings. The first perfect example of a story-based game has to be Half-Life.

I hope this online tv concept will succeed and pave the way to more interactivity in storylines. And I have to admit that it is a great marketing action to promote Microsoft services and products, such as MSN and Silverlight.

Watch the first episode:

Jeroen van Geel

Jeroen van Geel is founder/chief kahuna of Johnny Holland and the interaction director at Fabrique [brands, design & interaction], a Dutch multidisciplinary design agency. You can follow him on Twitter via @jeroenvangeel.

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