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Syfy's 'Defiance' gets innovative with video game tie-in

Syfy’s new series Defiance may be a muddled mess, but its tie-in to Trion Worlds’ MMO set in the same universe is novel.

Syfy photo

Syfy’s new series Defiance may be a muddled mess, but its tie-in to Trion Worlds’ MMO set in the same universe is novel.

Syfy Original Series aren't exactly known for their narrative achievements. Or lavish budgets. Or good acting. Or success. But give Defiance credit for one thing: innovation.

The latest effort by the basic cable network — about a post-terraformed future Earth in which humans and aliens eke out a hardscrabble existence shoulder to shoulder — isn't what you'd call good television, but it is trying a novel way to target its core audience by tying it to an MMO counterpart. And that business model paired with Trion Worlds' effort on consoles and PCs is about to get very interesting.

Try as it might, Defiance is a lackluster show. It features one-dimensional sci-fi tropes in a revised St. Louis, dealing with the usual cliches: Drugs, crime, military threats, distrust in the government, racism, cataclysm and otherworldly powers, to name a few. So far, the MMO version, set in a parallel timeline in San Francisco, has had the same problem — it's a generic shooter that neuters genre staples like classes and item drops. Yet both have managed to be just good enough to foster devotion among potential fans, despite their mediocrity. Hey, I'm still watching it, right?

Now is when things get intriguing.

Spoilers: In this week's episode, Rynn the Irathient managed to slip away from Nolan's control while being transported to prison for her penchant of using nasty CGI creepy-crawlies to kill people. As part of its promised DLC, Trion Worlds is adding her to the video game, sending her to the mythology in San Francisco, where online gamers will get to interact with her during an event called "Hellbug Season" and augment her storyline until she returns to the town of Defiance on the Syfy show.

Considering Syfy already has announced the series has been renewed for a second season, we can logically expect to see Rynn (and perhaps other characters) go back and forth at least a few times. That's pretty neat.

This is the first time in my memory that any licensed interactive experience has played an active part in the development of both the game and the show on which it is based. There have been boatloads of adaptations, continuations and prequels in video games based on shows and movies, but to actually play events that will likely be referred to in a show, in a game that updates with series-scripted mythology, is something entirely new.

It's also nearing proof that despite the middling quality of the source material, Trion Worlds just may make this experiment of concurrent interactivity work. At least as long the show lasts.

There seems to be a natural confluence in narrative continuity in development. If you can use characters from a show in a game, and the game ostensibly creates things that will be referred to on the show, it's only a matter of time before we can practically play our favorite television shows instead of watching them.

How would that work? I have no idea. Considering the height of Syfy's bonus content once was limited to efforts like webisodes for Battlestar Galactica (still Syfy's best-ever effort; sorry, Doctor Who fans) and PC games for Farscape, this is leaps and bounds ahead of where such confluence was even a decade ago.

Now, if only I didn't have to pore over the Defiance wiki to have any clue what's going on ...

— Joshua Gillin writes about video games and entertainment news for tbt*. Feel free to challenge his opinions at jgillin@tampabay.com.

Syfy's 'Defiance' gets innovative with video game tie-in 05/16/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 1:44pm]

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