American McGee aims for TV

With Alice behind him, and Oz looming up ahead, you'd think American McGee could use some rest. Think again.

American McGee is a tinkerer. From auto mechanic to tech-support techie to level designer to full-on designer, McGee has had his hand in numerous games and numerous projects.

This week, a new venture of his, LinearActive, posted an open call for gamers interested in participating in a LinearActive-produced television program.

The call for gamers went live on October 3. It seeks gamers who "live in a world dominated by multiplayer games" and who "stay up all night trying to get one more frag."

We asked American to describe the new project.

GameSpot: Why the sudden change from games to TV?

American McGee: No sudden change--we're still doing games, toys, books, etc. All of those projects fall under two companies, Carbon6 and Mauretania. Carbon6 is the "old" company which controls everything we're doing with Oz. Mauretania is where all our new projects live. In any case, we felt that our insight into games and gaming culture might be used to create a proper destination for gamers on television. That project is happening under the umbrella of a new company called LinearActive. This separation of projects into different companies is common when it comes to film and television.

GS: What's the new project, really?

AM: It's essentially a way turning head-to-head gaming into a televised sport. We intend to bring gamers from around the country into our studio and let them compete against our in-house experts for prizes. That's the game show element. In addition, we're going to focus on gaming culture through comedy clips, musical guests, and other elements. The hope is that we can put some fun into games on television. My sense is that video game shows to date have felt overproduced and are more what a traditional television producer would envision gamers would want to watch as opposed to what they're really into watching. We hope that we're bringing a fresh perspective to the genre.

GS: What sort of gamer do you want for your show?

AM: We're looking for people who can't stop playing multiplayer games and who wreck anyone stupid enough to challenge them. It's open to anyone with skill. For the pilot we're asking that you be local (in Southern California) and between the ages of 18 and 35. Aside from that there are no restrictions. The casting process is being handled by an agency here in Los Angeles.

GS: What does this mean for the Alice series?

AM: Well, Alice has been "dead" since the day I left Electronic Arts. Because I created it while I was an employee of EA, they own the property: lock, stock, and barrel. Another Alice won't happen unless EA wants it to, and from the sound of it, they have no interest in anything Alice.

If you're wondering about projects like Oz and the other stuff that we're working on, they're all still in development.

GS: Any nibbles for who might be picking up the show?

AM: Not talking about that right now, but we're targeting the major networks first. It feels like people are starting to take games and gamers seriously and that it's time we had our own slot during prime time.

GS: Who is LinearActive? What does the name mean?

AM: LinearActive is made up of a group of television producers, video directors, and game people. At the moment we have about 10 people working full time on this project.

LinearActive is meant to convey the marriage of linear entertainment (television) and interactive entertainment. We're doing several other unannounced projects under that umbrella in addition to this game show. We'll be announcing some of those projects soon.

GS: Does this take you out of the game-design world?

AM: Absolutely not. Believe it or not, we can work on more than one thing at once! At the moment I'm doing consulting work for a major game publisher, managing the Oz project, and overseeing about eight other projects ranging from games to films and toys.

We don't get much sleep, but we're having a lot of fun with everything.

GS: Thanks, American.

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