10 Future Reality TV Shows Set in Virtual Worlds

June 04 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 9 Hot

The genre known as reality television sprang into existence thanks to a drop in camera costs and increased digital storage, editing and effects capabilities. Now, as we enter the acceleration era, consistently dropping technology costs and new software capabilities will enable a radical transformation in in the sorts of reality shows we see on broadcast television and on YouTube.

One particularly potent reality TV catalyst will be nascent virtual worlds technologies like Second Life, Multiverse and There which will not only make possible high-end machinima (animation via virtual world action capture, which is already taking off), but also totally new, ultimately genre-busting, broadcast worthy physical/digital behavior.

Back when I lived in LA and worked in reality television and at the same time encountered virtual worlds for the first time, I would often image the amazing reality shows that will soon be possible as production technologies and practices evolve. For your enjoyment and as a demonstration of just how crazy television programming is about to get, here’s my current top 10 list of future virtual world enabled reality TV shows that I’d love to see developed:

1. U-BOAT: 25 contestants live aboard a submarine set and engage in the historical experience of a lifetime. They must quickly learn to navigate the craft through a virtual ocean simulation and a string of dramatic WWII battle scenarios. To both the contestants and the viewer at home it looks and feels as if these modern day Americans are actually piloting the submarine and narrowly staving off infamous Nazi U-Boat fleet.

2. THE BOARD ROOM: The new flagship marketing vehicle for Milton Bradley is an augmented reality game show that allows contestants to literally step right onto their favorite all-time board games. To the audience at home, it resembles The Price is Right in game structure, but visually looks like the participants have jumped into a Tron-like world with their favorite games all around them.

3. REQUIEM: Each episode of Requiem features one near-death person (young, old, terminal, famous, interesting, compelling life story) as they leave behind a 3-D “plot” of land for the world. Each individual is given the opportunity to create a 3-D world in which they deposit memories, images and descriptions of loved ones, candid descriptions of historic and historical events, favorite memories, renderings of their dreams, final farewells, and warnings to society. (cont.)

4. VIRTUAL HIGH SCHOOL REUNION: Each episode features a different graduating class of High Schoolers as they reunite virtually in a recreation of their town and school. This is inter-cut with interview and video/photo materials dating back to their High School days.

5. CREATION: Teams of virtual designers compete to raise the slickest new Creation in 3-D virtual world Second Life. Each episode has a different theme, such as The Wonders of the World, The Animal Kingdom, or Coolest Super-Hero Lair. Once the islands are completed, other virtual residents are allowed in to determine, based on popular vote, who has built the most impressive simulation.

6. MASTER PLAN: Teams of architects and developers compete to create the coolest 3-D simulations of what a certain real-estate development or town should look like. The winning design is manifested in reality so that we see the every phase of the process from idea to execution.

7. MIRROR WORLD: Seven people live in a house riddled with secret chambers, hidden passages, and code-protected doors. Computer terminals scattered throughout give them access to a virtual representation of the house in which they locate clues that will help them escape. They scurry back and forth between the virtual house and the real house to solve the Myst-style puzzle at the heart of the show.

8. CELEBRITY DEATH MATCH 3-D: It’s now possible to create a graphically rich Celebrity Death Match that can incorporate more players and be shot in real-time. By using the new Arena Feature in City of Heroes it’s 4-on-4 and that it’s not scripted. However, it’s much cheaper to make (while looking just as good, if not better), quadruples the celebrity star power, encourages teamwork and other interesting group dynamics, and can be played at home. It would be very simple to play this game hundreds of times and take the best takes. And it could all be “shot” in a weekend.

9. WAR: The first broadcast 1st-person shooter. Massive multi-player 3-D spaces are rapidly usurping military training that has classically been accomplished in painstakingly re-created real-life scenarios. Military behavior and strategy can now be meaningfully accomplished in immersive virtual spaces. This also means that the drama from such events can translate into a TV show unlike any other. In “War” two teams of 20 people go head-to-head in a strategic guerilla scenario. Each team has a defined command structure and communicates in real-time via head-sets. The action is compelling and graphic. The contestants range anywhere from reunited teams of SEALS to B-Celebs who quickly find that they need to take the game seriously or perish. Game Engine: America*s Army .

10. PORTAL SHOWS: As America’s favorite bands play live shows, their fans get a chance to appear on the projected display behind them via Second Life. Fun games and a constantly shifting POV allow for the real-time creation of a dynamic new backdrop that increases the visual quality of these shows. A win-win for concert-goers and producers alike.

What sorts of future virtual world enabled reality TV shows would you like to watch over the course of the next decade?

Which of the above shows would you most like to see produced?

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Comment Thread (6 Responses)

  1. Nice job with this Alvis. The show I’d most be interested in seeing would be some very large teams playing a high-stakes version of Bucky Fuller’s WorldGame, a board-based simulation game where the players represent global economic and political interests in response to global problems, many of our own making.

    Here’s 150 college students playing one version of the game: http://www.umcrookston.edu/newsevents/notices00-01/WorldGame2001.htm

    The rules of the simulation should be based on a panel of experts, and redrawn every year to take new data into account. As corporations make much more money than governments these days, and have captured the governments of most countries, they need to be majorly represented. Most WGs are more government centric and democracy centric than reality, and the WG should start with the reality on the ground, and most change should be hard, just as it is in the world. Accelerating the timeline (playing over 100 years in 10 weeks) and raising the stakes for marginal improvements or declines can keep the drama high.

    With the appropriate philanthropic sponsors, there could be real money and cred available for top players such as scholarships to top colleges for the outstanding HS players.

    Such games, when done well, wake the players (and the viewers) up to the major imbalances of the world today, the many existing and looming problems, and the technological, economic, political and social solutions we can bring to the table. They empower us to be Global Citizens and they encourage Global Foresight Culture.

    VR will greatly enhance the playability and value of the game, and the Reality TV addition would be a great way to participate in everyone’s learning over a Semester or two of playtime. HS, College, and Postcollege versions of the game are needed. I look forward to innovation in this space!

    Posted by: JohnSmart   June 04, 2008
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  2. When I think of new technologies, such as virtual worlds and portals, I am left pondering how they will interact with existing entertainment formats. I think for the most part, we will see these technologies used minimally, as applications to specific categories or time frames of a show already on tv. For shows like American Idol, we already have access to its simulation with the playstation or xbox game, American Idol. I would love to see American Idol, the show, start using these technologies to include those watching, perhaps an live interactive studio simulation of the American Idol studio in Second Life, live interviews with avatars and Ryan Seacrest. Perhaps, using a portal, a viewer can actually step in for a moment and speak in place of Simon or Paula.

    There are other technologies that I have not seen fully used to their potential in the world of sports. Imagine watching a golf match that literally give you any view you wish of the game. How? Using tiny cameras and sensors embedded on the course, in the course and above the course. These items will not only transfer video of the match, but will also recreate the entire environment digitally. This technology would also be able to show the viewer features like a slope gradient on each shot, displaying the slope and depth of the next putting shot. Wouldn’t everyone want to know how high and how fast a ball is traveling for future and past reference? Take this idea and multiply it for every sport. Why use a line judge or whatever you call it for tennis when you can embed sensors in the paint of the line?

    I see many many new worlds emerging. When will they actualize? When someone says so.

    Posted by: Peltaire   June 04, 2008
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  3. Your WorldGame example reminds me of Model UN simulations I did in college – it would’ve been great to conduct practice rounds in a virtual space in preparation for the larger conferences and enable students from all over the world to participate.

    Posted by: Marisa Vitols   June 04, 2008
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  4. @ John – I totally dig the world game idea.

    For those who aren’t familiar w/ Fuller’s world game here’s an excerpt from the link John provided:

    The event involved an extremely large floor map of the world and a limited number of props representing various world resources such as food, technology, natural resources, and money. With participants randomly assigned to different areas of the map, they are given the resources based on current world data. It is then up to them to solve world problems by interacting and trading with those assigned to other regions.

    Fist off, allowing people to essentially step onto or into a virtual earth opens many game, show, game-show, planning, educational doors. I expect that we’ll see a TON of these by 2015 as the resolution on Google Earth and its competitors increases, new applications for them are developed, and the virtual Earth wars (gimme users) get serious.

    As far as Fuller’s game itself, that would be fascinating to see. It would serve as a great tool for high-schoolers and planners, especially when considering that people will be soon be able to enter these worlds from a distance. Considering new multiplayer online games like Call of Duty 4 and GTA 4 that can support up to 18 users in a super-rich environment (far more graphical than Second Life, which can support 70+ on a server, and Forterra, which specializes in Earth sims), I don’t see why an World Game MMOG couldn’t be readied for release in 2010 or thereabouts. Combine that game with cameras on the players and interviews and boom, you’ve got at least a cable quality reality/game show. The initial revenue could come from educators and parents who want their kids to interact w/ a digital Earth, then it seems a show such as the World Game would be a natural next step.

    @ Peltaire – If you haven’t already seen it, check out ESheep’s use of Second Life for CSI NY which made for an interesting hybrid episode as well as a virtual CSI world that’s still up and chugging. This is reminiscent of the American Idol example you present.

    As far as sensors, I think the one sport that’s most ont he cutting edge with that stuff is NFL football, which has used extensive camera rigs for super bowl games that allow 360 wrap-around instant replays. I’ve also seen them place their TV hosts into game situations via green screen. I’d imagine that they’ll soon be able to take this data and generate 3D/VW versions of those games that you predict. I’ll be eager to see what sports look like when pervasive sensors you reference become possible.

    @ Marisa – From what I understand about Model UN, the World Game would be a perfect fit. Such an MMOG could make possible Model UN from a distance.

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   June 05, 2008
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  5. Alvis, outstanding post. Personally, I’d be interested in seeing some kind of updated version of “Fantastic Voyage” whereby people could reduce themselves to the nanoscale and tool around inside the human body. Perhaps you could mix it with elements of “Lost” and contestants would have to hide from cancers cells.

    Posted by: juldrich   June 05, 2008
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  6. @ Jack – I like the concept of Fantastic Voyage or Inner Space. It certainly would make for a great doctor’s training vehicle as you mention here.

    Are you saying that cancer would be equivalent to the Others in LOST? :)

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   June 05, 2008
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Trackbacks (1 Response)

  1. _Alvis Brigis is a former reality television producer and story editor whose credits include Motormouth (VH1), The Simple Life 2 (FOX), Making the Band 3 (MTV), and House of Boateng (Sundance). This is Part 2 of a series envisioning the future of the genre._ As I discussed in my last post on "future tv programming that incorporates virtual worlds":http://memebox.com/futureblogger/show/581-10-future-reality-tv-shows-set-in-virtual-worlds, reality TV is one of the many art forms due to experience incredible change as we enter the acceleration era. The genre is particularly well-suited to respond to new technology because it that was recently enabled by dropping technology costs and responds quickly to market forces. !http://s3.amazonaws.com:/memebox/uploads/1008/crowd_300.jpg! That being the case, I'd like to explore just how BIG reality programming can get considering the proliferation of high-quality digital recording devices like the "iPhone":http://memebox.com/futureblogger/show/96-100-million-development-ifund-launched-iphone-s-future-looking-massive (the new better 3G version will start at just $199), the rise of social media media structures (YouTube, Digg, MemeBox), the advent of online participatory editing, the near-term potential of 3G and "WiMax":http://memebox.com/futureblogger/show/255-google-once-again-lobbying-for-national-wi-fi communication webs, new camera POV possibilities such as "aerial micro-drones":http://memebox.com/futureblogger/show/510-microdrones-will-transform-low-cost-videography, and the steady progress we are making in digital storage and battery life/weight. Ultimately, these are the same technologies that will enable widespread life-logging, surveillance and an emerging "participatory panopticon":http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/002651.html. But along the way they will make for some kick-ass, ground-breaking reality television. Here’s my Top 10 list of future MASSIVE reality TV shows that I’d love to kill some precious time watching: <b>1. THE PROTEST:</b> The world's largest and most dramatic political protests are examined inside-out as real-time footage captured on handhelds and by aerial drones is crowd-sourced and quickly edited online. As viewers watch the most popular cuts they can click on a frame to directly access the live feeds of their favorite broadcasters. <b>2. MANHUNT:</b> 10 professional soldiers, law enforcement agents, and reformed criminals stage a fictional prison break then attempt to elude a public manhunt on 10,000 acres in rural Montana. Watch from afar or come test your tracking skills for a shot at $1,000,000. <b>3. THE REAL WAR:</b> A reality show that actually makes a difference in the lives of the persecuted masses, The Real War brings transprency and accountability conflict situations in unstable regions. Sponsored by the UN and private donors, the program is edited by a panel of international observers. (cont.)

    Posted by: http://memebox.com    June 10, 2008