'CSI' creator targets children with new tablet 'gamified narrative'

Active engagement, rather than passive watching, sought in online content such as music videos and shows

CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker is mixing gaming into his new animated online video series, hoping that’ll help keep a grip on children’s short attention spans.

Zuiker calls his approach “The gamified narrative.”

Launched Monday on Fuhu tablets’ new subscription service, the “Mysterypolis” series requires viewers to play mini-games a handful of times during a seven- to nine-minute episode: hunting for a time capsule, for instance, or unlocking a keypad. The story itself revolves around Jordy, 13, who with the help of his friends, pet dog Kloo and a tablet, tries to save his hometown from “a major threat.”

Many video games have an underlying narrative, but Zuiker sees his approach as story first, game second.

“I like to do things fashion forward, things that feel new,” he said. “I wanted a twist of interactive in there because my kids are always multitasking, playing games and watching TV.”

Fanlala, a children’s digital media company in Santa Monica, assisted in producing the seven-episode series. Alan Anderson, Fanlala’s chief executive, said the company’s experience shows kids interact well with quizzes and games. The plan is to eventually distribute the game beyond the Fuhu subscription service Nabi Pass.

“We believe in our story,” Anderson said.

The switch from passive watching to active engagement could attract advertisers into backing other similar series. And the interest spans across industries.

On Monday, Warner Music Group announced a partnership with technology company Interlude on a new venture called Interlude Music that will develop interactive music videos, interviews and live streams. Among the first videos is Wiz Khalifa’s “Stayin Out All Night." Several times during playback, viewers have the option of choosing between two different scenes to watch next as music continues to play. Warner's backing is expected to help Interlude sign sponsors and high-end advertisers.

"Music is just the beginning," Interlude CEO Yoni Bloch said in a statement. "As artists and creators increasingly recognize the power of interactive video, the public and advertisers will surely follow.”

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