As everyone in the USA have undoubtedly noticed, the next television revolution is happening all the time in the Internet. Webisodes, web extras, web puzzles, ARGs, diegetic MySpace pages, pervasive games and other added value goodies are moving from novelties to mainstream. Imagine a new series on SciFi Channel with no web component, doesn’t feel very convincing does it?
That’s all very nice; we get cool stuff like for example Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy, Dollplay, Eagle Eye: Free Fall and The Lost Experience. And the creative people at fine companies such as 42 Entertainment, Fourth Wall Studios, Six to Start, The Company P et cetera get to try to reinvent interactive media in an environment where novel can — for once — occasionally beat safe.
Except that here in the ROW we don’t. If you don’t have an US phone number, you can’t play Eagle Eye: Free Fall, if you don’t follow Lost on US schedule you risk series-killing spoilers and if you don’t have a US internet access you must scrounge your Galactica webisodes from strangest places.
This is not just about a geek missing out good stuff. The question is: If* the interactive and collective real-time crossmedia content revolutionizes television, do we want to miss that revolution? If* the collective networking experiments of The Beast and I Love Bees teach people how to play for societal change in World Without Oil and Superstruct, do we want to miss that literacy edutainment? If* interactive media fosters user creativity and teaches people to take a more active stance in their daily lives, can we afford to skip those effects, just sticking to being passive spectators of the media revolution?
In many cases, the easiest way to join the collective experience is to take an internet time warp and just start following the television in the US pace. While The Lost Experience increases my appreciation of the show, it is also one more reason to appreciate Pirate Bay as well.
National distributors (TV channels, movie theaters) must take an active stance towards crossmedia content. They have to demand that their audiences get a full and immediate access to all internet content. Even though translating a full ARG may not make sense, they must ensure the access to all webisodes, telephone content etc. in at least the original language (I don’t know if the web content of Cathy’s Book is translated to any other language?)
In order for this to work, regional distribution must become even faster. If it takes only a few days to see Finnish subtitles in the Internet, the two-month delay of getting Lost shown in Finland is not acceptable: Anyone browsing English internet for crossmedia additions will get half a dozen episodes spoiled right away.
Journalists are facing a conundrum as well, by the way. What’s the point of waiting for bad quality screeners in a world where BitTorrent provides you a DVD-quality file straight away (with subtitles instead of copyright warnings)? In a world where that also makes it possible to write stories on web content as well?
* I don’t blindly believe in these ifs, but a lot of smart people are investigating them further.
PS. Interested in Eagle Eye: Free Fall but unable to access it? A wonderfully narrated video shows what you are missing.