If you're tired of venting spleen over the misadventures of The Hills' Lauren Conrad and company into empty chat rooms and vacant message boards, it's time to celebrate. MTV and designers area/code have developed Backchannel, a social game where players earn points and status with quick wits and scattershot snark.
"It's as much fun to talk about The Hills as it is to watch The Hills," Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV networks music channels said yesterday over video link from Los Angeles to a conference room in Viacom's New York headquarters. "We're calling [Backchannel]...a party game for the 21st century." The network provided press an opportunity to preview the game, which launches on Monday September 15 with a new episode of The Hills.
While players watch the pseudo-reality series (on TV), they can interact with each other online, live, in what the network terms "competitive chat." Players score points by serving up the wittiest remarks when their turn comes up, as deemed by clicks from the rest of the game players. So, as you watch the show on the tube, you vie for attention in the Backchannel space online by launching barbs about the show that you hope will be clicked and voted up by other players.
While waiting for your turn as a "tagger," you score points by trying to predict which of other players' comments will attract the most clicks from the fellow gamers.
When you see a comment you think will be popular and click it early, you get extra points as it gets higher and higher ranked, and becomes larger on your screen. When comments with extra popularity reach a supernova of popularity, the points get even bigger.
Heavy activity, clicking on other players' comments, is rewarded with the opportunity to tag more often. In addition to a leader board and points tracking, the ability to set custom groups of friends is in the works.