Jul 13, 2022 - Technology

New Walking Dead project challenges how video games work

Video game screenshot showing human survivors fending off zombies with knives. Icons indicate multiple players are controlling the action

Screenshot: GenVid/Axios

A new Walking Dead project debuting on Facebook this week will unfurl a months-long story that is shaped by the decisions of thousands or even millions of people playing a connected video game.

Why it matters: Its creators at GenVid call it a MILE, or massively interactive live event, and pitch it as part of the future of entertainment.

Details: As of yesterday, The Walking Dead: Last Mile is perpetually accessible on Facebook as a clickable game that depicts the state of two groups of human survivors in zombie-plagued Alaska.

  • Users create a human survivor to survey the region, then select points of interest to trigger simple games involving shooting zombies, fixing power generators and more.
  • Performing well in those games earns players points that can be used to vote for narrative decisions about the fate of the survivors.

One twist is that time proceeds inexorably, each real-life day moving the in-game timeframe along.

  • The other: Everyone is playing and influencing the game collectively, changing it for all players.
  • “Whatever the audience decides, that is the canon,” Shawn Kittelsen, vice president of creative development at Walking Dead franchise owner Skybound, said during a demo of the experience last week.

Between the lines: While all things Walking Dead come from Skybound and Last Mile was commissioned by Facebook, the MILE concept comes from this project’s lead producers at GenVid.

  • Company brass traces the concept back to 2014 livestreaming phenomenon Twitch Plays Pokémon, in which a classic Pokémon game was modded to enable 100,000 people to collectively input commands and control the game.
  • That was a lightbulb moment for former Square Enix exec Jacob Navok, who has now built a company around the concept.
  • GenVid has raised $166 million in three main rounds of funding since 2016, releasing commissioned work since then. They say a Pac-Man-related project drew 7 million users in six months.
  • The Walking Dead project mixes GenVid’s idea of collective gaming with a weekly interactive celebrity-hosted livestream that will focus on choices made by players and will be showcased by Meta as priority programming on its Facebook Watch video offering.

What they’re saying: “We want you to feel like you're part of a community,” Navok told Axios of GenVid's general intent.

  • “The idea of playing with community and participating with community is what we think is right.”

What’s next: The Walking Dead: Last Mile currently constitutes a prologue, which will run through early August.

  • The game will get a proper narrative launch later that month.
  • GenVid is also producing its own MILEs and plans to announce the first later this year, with planned launches in 2023 and 2024 across multiple platforms.

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