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A second shot at Real Life
by: May 10, 2010 Print

Imagine having the power to bring an eliminated character back to your favorite reality TV series for another shot at the top prize. It's an ability Toronto-based digital creation company The Secret Location is turning into a, well, reality for YTV's In Real Life.

The tween-targeted Amazing Race-esque series is produced by Montreal's Apartment 11 Productions, and is entering its second season on the kidcaster this fall. Secret Location has partnered with the prodco in order to create a game component that will tap into YTV's robust online community and build on the overall viewer experience.

Secret Location executive producer James Milward and his crew are developing a side-scrolling 3D game (LittleBigPlanet-style) in which players "team up" with one of the characters from the on-air show, helping them collect points during game play. Enough points could win them a return to the show.

"How they play the online game will actually affect the on-air player's ability to come back for a fan-favorite final episode of the show exclusively for online," explains Milward. "Let's say Brian is the favorite character and he gets voted off. All his fans can go on the site, play the game and hopefully get Brian enough points to come back and get a second chance at winning the whole thing."

And the game levels will actually be created by the viewers themselves using Secret Location's level builder (complete with platforms, trampolines and water hazards). The harder the level, the more points achieved when completed. Players rack up points the more levels they pass, which are then transferred to the on-air player.

"What's cool about the episode is that we're going to use elements straight from the level builder," adds Milward. "When kids see that, they're going to say, 'Hey, that looks like my level!'"

Interestingly, Milward feels there's a major advantage to creating the large-scale online component for the second season rather than the first because of the show's proven success. Secret Location tapped into YTV forums and gleaned valuable information on what to include.

"We tailored the interactive to what kids wanted, as opposed to guessing what we thought they wanted," says Milward. "Hopefully it allows the second season to be more successful. And it's designed to continue on for multiple seasons, since the framework is already in place."

It seems that Secret Location may have also hit on a way to monetize its online work - also thanks to that existing data, which allows them to sell sponsorship within the site.

"We can create objects that kids can build levels with that are brand-centric. So instead of pulling the platform into the level, you pull the Nerf gun into the level and you can fire yourself across the river that's maybe made of Jell-O," says Milward. "That's one of the things the broadcaster is really excited about, because we can integrate this stuff in a seamless way."

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