Why Xbox TV originals won't be like Choose Your Own Adventure

By Steve Watts, Jan 28, 2014 8:30am PST

Microsoft is kicking off its original TV programming on Xbox this year, and plans to take advantage of the interactivity that comes with hosting your shows on a game console. In a recent interview, Xbox Entertainment Studio creative director Elan Lee was fairly vague on just how it will be leveraging that aspect, but he was very clear on how it won't. He has no intention of making branching paths and multiple endings.

"The biggest thing that’s been tried before that I think has no future is this notion of choose-your-own-adventure," Lee told VentureBeat. "When we were kids, we all read those books. We all talked about them. But today, when you think about your favorite TV shows, your favorite characters, they go through this unbelievable conflict and at the end they come out victorious. Or, in the version you watched, I guess they didn’t come out victorious? Suddenly there’s ambiguity about how that story ended.

"For me, personally, that’s a terrible experience. I want to be in the hands of a master storyteller. I want them to tell me the saga of this character that I get to live with across three seasons, who I care about deeply. I want to know the answer to the story. I don’t want one of 10 endings. If every ending is equally valid, suddenly none of them are important. That’s a real problem."

Lee says that by comparison, a video game is uniquely your story, so having multiple endings and discussing them with friends is part of the enjoyment. A TV show with actors is more of an authored experience, and so it's more important to have a definitive plot.

As an example of what they could do, he suggests a Game of Thrones scene in which an archer shoots an arrow and you as the viewer feel it thud as it appears on your phone. That's only an example, as Microsoft doesn't produce the HBO series, but it gives an idea of the types of ideas Lee is brewing.

"That’s an ecosystem of devices, aware of its environment and aware of how to use those systems to make storytelling more immersive," he said. "That’s an arrow that was just shot into your hand. How cool is that? How can we use elements like that for deeper and more engrossing storytelling? I’m not saying we’re going to do exactly that. But being aware of what these things are capable of makes for a whole new generation of stories that the Xbox can tell."

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