Deadliest Catch Fantasy Game


Fan Interviews • Gameplay Concepts • Social Strategy • Wireframing & Prototyping • User Experience  • Product Iteration

Deadliest Catch is the highest-rated show in the history of the Discovery Channel. The team at Discovery was looking for an innovative way to engage their diehard fans while also attracting some new ones. They came looking for ideas.


After watching a few episodes of the show, I started reviewing the client’s notes. The initial concept that the client was knocking around involved traditional fan engagement: trivia, drag and drop sorting, multiple choice etc. These activities would be wrapped up in a “fishing adventure” theme, and a straightforward narrative would tie everything together. This was a workable strategy but not really exciting for a game.
I kept going back to the source material. I realized that it wasn’t the show that drew people but the characters. Every fan had their favourite character. Weekly spectators rooted for specific crews to succeed over other crews. The relationship was like that between a sports fan and their favourite team. Once this relationship had crystallized in my mind, I realized that implementing a fantasy sports game based on events from each aired episode would be a natural fit. Fans could build their own crews based on their favourite characters. Each week the fans would earn points based on how their “crewmates” performed.
The concept was simple – fantasy football for reality TV. The client “got it” right away and signed on to the idea almost immediately. My vision grew into an online community of tens of thousands in only a couple of months.


The show already had a solid fan base, but the game still needed promotion. The strategy was to adopt a demographic outside of just the dedicated viewers. We didn’t stop at the social sharing of scores and leaderboards; we challenged each user to compete directly against their Facebook friends. This local competition added a whole new level of gameplay, plus it added appeal to people who did not follow the show from week to week.