Magazine article Variety

YouTube Borrows Hits to Get Its Interactive Game On

Magazine article Variety

YouTube Borrows Hits to Get Its Interactive Game On

Article excerpt

In a new viral video, "Mad Men V Betty Draper is shown wielding a shotgun outside the offices of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce. But there's a twist: You get to decide - should she shoot the birds ... or her ex, Don?

The scene isn't from the Emmy-winning AMC drama; it's part of a stylized, interactive videogame found on YouTube. "Mad Men: The Game" debuted in late March and quickly racked up more than 1 million hits. But just how does a viral video become a game?

Credit the developers at YouTube, who devised the so-called "annotation add-on" in 2008. With annotations, content creators can superimpose text on their videos, linking to a website, an image or another video. In a growing number of cases, the latter choice leads to a modern-day choose-your-own-adventure series, game or learning tool.

"Mad Men: The Game" was created by production team the Fine Brothers (Benny and Rafi Fine), who have spun similar Internet content for "Saved by the Bell" and "American Idol" - all independent of the TV shows. The Fines say they are covered by the fair use doctrine, which protects parody; Lionsgate TV, NBC and reps for "Idol" had no comment.

Original content for the Web is hard to make stick, but there's something compelling and unusual about these story-videos. "People are growing up with an engaged way of interacting with their media," says Benny Fine.

The Fines aren't alone in creating this type of content (indeed, they collaborate with Levi Buffum who generated the animation and music for the videos). Australian comic John Robertson, for instance, features "The Dark Room," a surreal narrative led by a sinister floating head who berates participants' every decision.

"You find out what it's about as you play it," Robertson say. "You have to go into it with a sense that you're going to get abused and I'm going to hurt you slightly. I call it the game you deserve. …

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