Imagine a TV show created especially for you. Actors, sets and props would be completely customized depending on factors like your age, sex and location. Even the product placement would be tailor-made to suit you.
Online video game developer Kuma Games, in conjunction with the American Film Institute's Digital Content Lab, have developed such a storytelling device that merges instantaneous personalization with computer-generated filmmaking.
"With TV, this is simply impossible," says Kuma Games CEO Keith Halper. "You can't change things inside video. You can't change them the way that we do in video games and on Web sites. You can't measure their performance in real time. We're taking that stuff from video games and bringing it to TV, which is a huge and important market."
At last month's AFI DigiFest 2007 in Los Angeles, Kuma Games, best known for their military reenactment online games, unveiled PG and R-rated versions of "Leaving the Game," an animated short film about a sultry former assassin named Amber who attempts to land a more mundane job to pay the bills.
Unlike typical machinima — short films created with preexisting video game engines — "Leaving the Game" utilizes Kuma Games' own rendering engine, allowing the company to use special camera angles and dynamically swap out content like digital billboards, cars, cell phones and chunks of dialogue.
"Amber could be drinking a Coke in one scene," says Halper, "which could easily be changed to Pepsi or a beer later."
Halper hopes that "Leaving the Game" will be available for download in the near future and believes this type of ever-changing form of media could become yet another form of episodic entertainment.
"We created something that's very practical. We created a pilot for a television show," says Halper. "We hope it will get picked up and run on things that feel like traditional TV, but we could also see this coming down on your Xbox 360 on Xbox Live, for instance, as a television show that would play differently every time that you watch it."