The Dallas-based filmmaker — who runs his production house, Mediajuice, near downtown — has been working on Unlocked for the past couple of years. Each episode explores a different topic from the viewpoint of a celebrity. In one, Sean Astin visits art schools specializing in video games. In another, Michael Rooker explores the world of motion capture, and in yet another, Zelda Williams sees how video games are used in children's hospitals.
William Shatner, Tony Hawk, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes are also involved in the series, which has the support of gaming companies including Nintendo, Capcom and Gearbox. Some of the industry's pioneers — such as Shigeru Miyamoto, who created Donkey Kong, Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, and Nolan Bushnell, co-creator of Atari — are interviewed. And modern tech superstars make appearances, too, including Palmer Luckey, who invented the Oculus, and Vince Zampella, who created Titanfall.
The GameStop chain is the series' title sponsor and The Nerdist podcast network exclusively debuted the trailer. "So we're hoping all that moves the needle on Dec. 15 and after. [We're] trying to drive up sales and recoup our investment," Snead says. "That's kind of the new model."
Snead finished production on the series last summer and was initially hopeful that a network would pick it up, although that didn't end up happening. "Ultimately, no one wants to put their foot in the water first," Snead says. "Whether it's a broadcast network or a cable network or a streaming network, they all see gaming, virtual reality and all the emerging trends and they're interested in it and want to dabble in it. Some of them already are."
Undeterred, Snead decided to release the series directly to streaming services. He hopes the show will be successful enough to allow for a wider release on outlets like Netflix, as well as a packaged Blu-ray/DVD release, down the line.
"It's very much a nontraditional release," Snead says. "I think it's going to become more traditional as content creators like myself, independent productions that are powered to produce, make it on a lower budget and still get top talent. The barriers to entry are so low now to where you can go out and shoot and produce a full show and you can be on every major video on demand and subscription video on demand platform on day one, if that's what you want to do. Then it falls to the marketing of it."
Snead also hopes the interest will be great enough to make more episodes of Unlocked. "There are innumerable topics that we haven't explored and we'll see what the appetite is," he says.
But trying to make a good product about emerging trends is like trying to eat ice cream in a hot room. By the time the video reaches its audience, its subject may be past its prime. For example, the insanely popular Pokémon Go game came out while Snead was making Unlocked, but few people would be interested in watching an episode about it now.
Still, Snead is confident that the show he has created has wide appeal, with many different entry points. "Anyone that's alive understands gaming at some level," he says. "Content-wise, the leading networks, traditional and nontraditional, just don't quite get it yet. I hope that changes. I hope [Unlocked] changes that narrative."
Unlocked: The World of Games, Revealed will be released Thursday, Dec. 15, on iTunes, Steam, Google Play and Amazon. For more info, visit unlockedtvshow.com.