Watching tonight's episode of G4's X-Play--got to love that free preview on Dish Network--showed me an interesting concept tonight; Defiance. While a game generally isn't defined as an "interesting concept", it's the supporting marketing behind this one that's got my hackles up.
While Defiance looks like an impressive enough MMORPG--Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game for those who aren't well-acquainted with the acronyms--featuring a variety of different character classes with different weapons and playing styles taking on a race of gigantic alien horrors that have turned the planet into a partially smoking hellscape par excellence, that's not the really interesting part of the whole thing.
See, Defiance is getting its own television show on the SyFy Channel, which is said to at least somewhat parallel the events of the game. While this isn't the first time that a video game has received a television show equivalent--most gamers remember the Super Mario Brothers Super Show, among others--this may well be one of the first times that a television show based on a game has actually been in close coordination with the events of the game. It would almost be as though an episode of World of Warcraft had a season finale involving taking on the Lich King.
As a marketing move, it's a reasonably clever idea, but only reasonably, and a lot of the problem is the network that's showing the show. Think of the idea like a Venn diagram--you know, one of those big diagrams involving pairs of circles that overlap in sections of various sizes?--where one circle is labeled "People who watch the SyFy Channel" and the other is "People who play MMORPGs". It's a safe bet that those two have a whole lot of area in common. So the people who are watching the network are probably already playing the game, and vice versa. While the game might pull some viewers into the show, the effect of the show on the game is likely to be much, much slimmer overall. If Defiance were coming to, say, Spike or Fox, then I could see a better possibility. There's more chance that people watching those networks aren't playing the game.
But still, I can see a definite possibility of game-based television, and considering the current crop of television out there, it certainly has plenty of room to improve. Some storylines in games are absolutely awesome--Alan Wake, Fallout: New Vegas, Skyrim just for starters--so seeing that kind of writing caliber translated to television is a thrilling prospect.
Just where it goes from here will bear watching, but being hopeful here would not be a bad idea.