Imagine attempting to make your way across the United States with the entirety of America and the Internet on the lookout for you. Now imagine there are a million dollars at stake: a half-million for the Chase Teams after you and almost a half-million for you if you can evade capture. These are the stakes for "The Runner," an original series available on go90 and AOL.com and perhaps the most innovate audience-participation reality competition ever devised.
The rules of the game seem complex, but in practice, they're really very simple. One chosen Runner will attempt to cross the U.S. in thirty days, trying to go unnoticed through predetermined checkpoints by any means necessary. Meanwhile, five two-person teams of "chasers" will receive clues on mobile devices in an effort to track the Runner before the next checkpoint can be reached.
Kaj Larsen is just one of the hosts. He checks in on the progress of the Runner and the Chase Teams' locations. His co-host, Mat "MatPat" Patrick, a YouTube star and self-proclaimed "Information Addict," will ensure everyone understands how "The Runner" is played and what is currently happening in the game.
CNN correspondent Kaj Larsen films a documentary segment in front of the sail of the attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) after the submarine surfaced through the ice in the Arctic Ocean during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ed Early)
"I'm really the boots on the ground guy," says Larsen. "My role is to help the audience understand exactly what's happening with the game of cat and mouse going on between the chasers and the runner. I'll be watching the Chase Teams working towards their challenges. I'm the tactical, kinetic element."
"The Runner" uses a proprietary technology that allows the Chase Teams to geotag The Runner within five feet. This is how they "capture" the Runner. Their reward starts at $15,000 and goes up every second of every day of game play, up to a half million dollars. The more the Runner evades the Chase Teams, the more money he gets. The chase teams are given a new challenge every day, a challenge both cerebral and physical which will give them clue to the Runner's movements.
"We cast a really wide net in trying to find people who had interesting, diverse skill sets that could be applicable to hunting the Runner," says Larsen. "For example, two guys known as Brother Nature, they're a group of surfer kids from Hawaii with a large social following."
That social media following actually matters in this game because their built-in audience will help them crowdsource the answers to these clues. "The Runner" is a more than a game for just the Runner and the Chase Teams. It's a live game for everyone on the internet. Viewers on social networks will have the opportunity to help interpret the clues for the Chase Teams and get their own cash prize. $15,000 is awarded to viewers every day with a $20,000 bonus to the most socially active viewer.
"The stakes are really high," Larsen says. "But it's a really fun game and Verizon is the perfect platform, given how exciting it is to play on mobile. The more people who play, the more exciting it is and the more money can be won."
The show is the result of a decade and a half of collaboration and development between Executive Producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. It really is groundbreaking – From the core concept to the technology used to track the competitors to the inclusion of the nationwide audience, what we can expect is something truly unique.
"The truth is when Matt and Ben conceived it, the idea was so innovative that the technology didn't really exist to make it work," says Larsen. "That's changed over the last decade. The ability to crowd-source, to use social media to unlock the clues, and to play the gamification side of the game, that's all here and ready for prime time."
"It's exciting and different," Larsen says. "We're getting into new, super-competitive territory. I love competition in any form, but for me, it's an easy day. I can't wait to watch these teams compete."
Learn more about The Runner at therunner.go90.com