Thank You For Playing is a show about video games -- but it's also a kind of game in itself. A new way of covering a subject dear to our hearts, the magic of the Internet lets it use the visual and structural grammar of video games, with worlds to explore and unlockable extras. It's a brilliant concept, and the first episode has just appeared online.
I've embedded it below -- it works best in fullscreen (click the button in the bottom right). Have a look around -- you have to watch the Enter video to unlock the rest, and I thoroughly recommend Escort Service, the top left video, as it has some excellent machinima. If you sign up with your email address, it will save your progress, but you can play it without doing that. Go ahead, I'm more than happy to wait.
Thank You For Playing is the creation of Explosive Alan Productions, a tiny new London-based company with huge ambitions. You might recognise presenter Dan Maher from Microsoft's now defunct Inside Xbox show. Producers Ashley Denton and Gareth Wild also worked on the show, and when Microsoft decided it would rather feature content producers (such as our sister site GameSpot) than make its own shows, they struck out on their own.
With the grand concept of TYFP just a twinkle in their lusty eyes, they asked their fans to help them. Raising a hugely impressive $34,400 on Kickstarter-like crowdfunding site Indiegogo, and putting in a good deal of their own cash, they set to work.
As they excitedly came up with more and more ideas, their original plan of just making a pilot show ballooned. The end result was a whole new player that could host not just their video but unlockable photos and text too. It's called Arbiter, and they founded a company called Cinesurety with developer Allix Harrison D'Arcy to license it -- a really smart move that could conceivably pay off far more than just making videos ever could.
I spoke to Ash to find out more.
How did you come up with the idea of making a show into a game?
"The three of us have been making video content for many years now and it's always bugged us that it's such a passive experience. Being big gamers ourselves, we've seen that industry mature so fast while the world of Internet video has kind of dwindled in terms of original delivery methods. Having the ability to explore and interact with our entertainment is something that excites us, so we thought we'd bring our passion for games and experience with video together and see if we could create something unique."
What were your reference points and inspirations?
"Interactive documentaries like Bear 71 and Collapsuswere a big influence on how to tackle non-fiction material, and Lance Weiler's Pandemic was something that got our creative juices flowing because it had the combination of video and community interactivity. Plus it looked like a lot of fun. We've been making linear video content for years and it was very exciting to think of turning our gaming content into something people can explore and play with."
What was the creative process of coming up with each segment and their accompanying unlocks?
"Every episode is named after, and themed around, a word. The pilot is called 'Together' because we wanted to involve our community from the start. In fact they chose the topics that ended up in the pilot. Each segment must relate to the theme of the episode in some way, be it talking about playing multiplayer games together on the couch or discussing how crowdfunding has taken off in recent years.
"The unlocks then developed from each segment, topics will come up or games get mentioned as the video progresses, and this gave us the opportunity to deliver more bite-sized bits that delve deeper into that topic. On other sites, while the content might be very engaging, a video plays and it's a passive experience. We wanted to keep delivering additional content as you watch, giving you the option to explore further, save it for later or just keep on watching."
What role does each of you play in that process?
"Dan handles the editorial side of things, like copy, scripting and hosting. I guide the creative side of things, such as design, video editing, post-production and visual effects. Gareth takes care of the production logistics as well as video editing and VFX work. Allix is our developer -- he built the site, but he likes to remain in the shadows.
"We all work together when coming up with the worlds, segment ideas, UX design and the features of the Arbiter Engine. We've also had a lot of help from all sorts of people to make this thing happen. We're very lucky to have so many smart collaborators."
Can you explain the relationship between Explosive Alan and Cinesurety?
"Explosive Alan is me, Dan and Gareth. Cinesurety is our sister company, owned by us three and Allix. Cinesurety owns the Arbiter engine, but Explosive Alan gets to use it to make TYFP and any future projects."
How close are you to securing funding for episode 2? Would you go back to Indiegogo?
"We'd prefer not to go back to crowdfunding -- our community has already given us so much and we'd hate to abuse them any further. They've got us this far and it's for us to take the next step and keep the show going for them. We've got plans to get TYFP sponsored and the Arbiter engine gives us unique ways in which to do that. Our user engagement is much higher than most video shows because of the unlock system and the unique way we can layout content. It's just one of the many ways we hope to attract investors."
What do you think of the show? What subjects would like the guys to cover? How do you think they should fund it in future? Thank You For Commenting.
Disclaimer: I worked with Ash and Gareth several years ago, and backed their project on Indiegogo. I'm covering the finished product on CNET not merely out of loyalty to my friends, but because I'm genuinely impressed with it and think you should see it. I have no financial stake in its success.