Linkin Park

Linkin Park

James Minchin

It's a music video. It's a game. It's Linkin Park's latest play on technology -- a six-minute video game debuting on Tuesday that's based on the band's latest single, "Guilty All the Same," featuring Rakim.

Band members Joe Hahn and Mike Shinoda say they want their fans to literally play with their music. Fans can take it apart and remix both the song and the game any way they want, using the tools provided in "Project Spark," a free software platform created by Microsoft Corp. that lets players make their own video games on Xbox One and Windows 8 computers.

In Linkin Park's version of the game, the protagonist is a character haunted by guilt. The player navigates the character through a dark, slightly sinister environment that threatens to devour him as he tries to flee from the forces of his own guilt. The level resembles a mashup between the racing mechanic of "Temple Run" and the noir art style of "Badland." The better the player performs, the richer the soundtrack for the song.

"Since I was a kid, I wanted to make games," Shinoda said in an interview with Billboard.

The idea for the project came last year, when Hahn attended E3, the annual video game convention that took place in June.

"I saw this cool demo for 'Project Spark,' and it just blew my mind," Hahn said. "For me, the next step was to see if we could showcase our next song as a game instead of a video."

"Project Spark," developed by a 70-person team in Redmond, Wash., that's headed by Saxs Persson, went live as a beta software in December. It lets players put together their own games, using simple, modular plug-and-play tools similar in concept to Lego blocks, but for building games. Entire game worlds can be drawn in a couple of minutes using tools that allow players to "paint" environments and textures, as well as drop in objects. Players can share their games with other people who can take it apart to make their own versions.

"The goal is to give people the power to create their own interactive experiences and for everything to be remixable," said Persson, who once ran Shiny Entertainment, the developer of "Enter the Matrix."

Though "Project Spark" is still in beta (meaning that the game isn't in its final version), about 500,000 players are already posting more than 1,300 games a day on the platform. Some have even created movies using just the software's art and animation tools.

For some bands, the idea of letting fans pick apart their music would be sacrilege. No Doubt, for example, sued game publisher Activision in 2009 for allowing players of "Guitar Hero" to show their game avatars playing another band's songs.

Linkin Park's Shinoda and Hahn take a different stance.

"Mike and I met at art school, and we understand that once you make a piece of art and put it out there, people will interpret it their own way, and even re-interpret it as something else," Hahn said. 

It's not the band's first, or even second, stab at letting fans interact with their music. Linkin Park's "Lost in the Echo" let viewers project their own personal photos into the music video via Facebook Connect. Last year, their single "A Light That Never Comes" debuted alongside a free 3D strategy game on Facebook.

Shinoda said he looked forward to seeing what people will create from the band's new video/game, which is available for free on "Project Spark," along with stems of the music recording of "Guilty All the Same."

"I see this as turn-based," Shinoda said. "We've taken our turn, and now it's up to the fans. Even if it's silly, as long as it makes me laugh, I don't mind what people do with it."