Launching today, MTV’s Backchannel is a very cool-looking social game synergizing a very silly product— specifically, the network’s “reality” show The Hills. As the title suggests, Backchannel’s a chat interface that runs live online while a Hills episode airs on TV; players quickly post their witty commentary and smacktalk into a shared chat window as the show progresses. (Sounds like playing a multiplayer game of Halo, where the targets are ditzy chicks, and the weapon of choice is snark.)
Of course, a lot of people already group chat about TV shows in standard instant messaging software, but here’s the cool twist:
Players get to rate other’s comments, with the highest-rated lines moving up the screen, while the least favored disappear. Players get points for good ratings, with the quickest wits ascending atop the site’s leaderboard. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the very best Backchannel players become almost as popular as The Hill‘s actual stars.)
A publicist for the network tells me they’ll soon introduce Backchannel to another MTV show, Paris BFF. And while there are no plans to roll it out to other Viacom-affiliated properties, “[A]s always MTV will provide Viacom with feedback on services,” she told me via email. That’s good, because it’s easy to see something like this becoming an important response outlet for more serious television. How about a Backchannel for CBS coverage of the U.S. presidential debates?