For those who haven't heard, tonight is the launch of a particularly compelling transmedia experience, the first time a major television franchise has driven its viewers into a virtual world to fill in the gap of a cliffhanger mystery that will not be resolved until next February.
CSI:NY, the New York version of the Anthony E. Zuiker television franchise, will feature an episode tonight in which a murder mystery takes the crime scene investigation team deep into Linden Lab's Second Life, with the mystery not being resolved until the concluding episode next year. The activities that take place in SL will build off what happens on the show and are planned to give fans the opportunity to get acquainted with a virtual world and also to have a new place to interact with and around the television franchise.
A variety of activities are planned, one of which will provide users a chance to continue investigating aspects of the narrative for the main show. As the Electric Sheep producers of this experience emphasize in the interview that follows, the virtual world experience has been designed to build upon and further the experience from the show, but it's not yet clear whether what happens in the virtual world will feed back into the conclusion of the mystery on the television show next February, as that will happen on the CSI:NY end. From a transmedia standpoint, one can only hope that something from this experience feeds back into the main show, even if in the form of inside jokes or references for those who participate in the virtual world experience.
For those who want to catch up on this collaboration, check out Duncan Riley's piece on TechCrunch detailing the collaboration, which also includes an embedded YouTube trailer about tonight's show. He summarizes, "The episode will see Mac Taylor (Gary Sinise) entering Second Life to pursue a killer who has killed a Second Life user in a case of virtual stalking gone too far. CSI:NY fans will be encouraged to join Second Life and investigate the case by following a link on the CBS website."
Coinciding with this collaboration is the launch of OnRez, a viewer for Second Life that seeks to simplify entering the virtual world for new members of the Linden Lab universe. The viewer is commercially licensed by Linden and will be the window through which CSI:NY fans sign up for Second Life through CBS.com. Those signing up for the CSI:NY crossover will get a customized toolbar to "follow a mystery killer on the show through a series of interactive experiences in Second Life."
Electric Sheep CEO Sibley Verbeck is quoted in the press release as saying, "Our goal is to make virtual worlds easy and fun to use for the mass-market consumer. By launching a more intuitive consumer interface, we're allowing brands to maximize the appeal of their virtual world initiatives. The upcoming CSI: NY Virtual Experience is an innovative example of the opportunities for OnRez."
What follows in the next three posts is an interview with two of the producers of this project for Electric Sheep, Damon Taylor and and Daniel Krueger, who worked with Anthony E. Zuiker and others to help launch this project. Considering that the project launches tonight, I thought a little detail about the background and the hopes of its creators might be of interest for those of you who, like me, are quite interested to see how much of CSI:NY's audience is interested in virtual worlds, and conversely how many Second Lifers might get interested in CSI:NY through this transmedia extension.