You could be playing with the band: Jerry Garcia, left, with Grateful Dead bandmates Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Brent Midland (seated), Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart in the mid-1980s. Garcia died in August 1995.

The Grateful Dead is truckin’ its way into virtual reality.
An online world based on the music and culture of the seminal San Francisco band of the ’70s and ’80s is being developed by Curious Sense, publishers of a game devoted to the rock band REO Speedwagon.

A launch is planned for August, with the developers “mining the music for themes and words and characters and settings that would adapt well to games, and then looking at the best types of games out here and utilizing them,” says Curious Sense founder Adam Blumenthal. “The experience will exist online as its primary destination, but we’re also building a mobile version of it.”

Even though the gamemakers have access to names and likenesses of all the Grateful Dead band members as well as its vault of audio recordings, video, photos and artwork, don’t expect a music game like Guitar Hero: Metallica or Green Day: Rock Band.

“I know that I want to create the ability for players to feel like they are playing in the band, that they are sort of jamming with them, but in a way that is different,” Blumenthal says.

The world will be built around the band and its music, he says. “If you know their music well, you know the themes that are prevalent are the Old West and trains and rivers and space and biblical themes. So I think we will have a world that is designed with different regions that look and feel like these themes, and players will sort of zoom into them.”

As players click through the environment, they might be zapped “through a rabbit hole into a world that will look completely different from the larger world,” Blumenthal says. “It could be Terrapin Station or it could be Dark Star, and they will be taken into a game specific to a song. … Even Angry Birds, this new blockbuster game, that model could be adapted for a game based on the song Samson and Delilah in which the chorus is, ‘If I had my way, I would tear this old building down.’ ”

Another possibility is a pinball game based on the introductory animation sequence in The Grateful Dead Movie from 1977.

Even before the Internet went mainstream, Dead fans created online lyrics databases and concert-tape trading communities; the band created an early website to keep followers informed. One of the band’s lyricists, John Perry Barlow, founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Dead “has always looked for ways to embrace new technology,” the band’s legacy manager, David Lemieux, said in a statement. “We’ve found a great partner in Curious Sense. They are lifelong Dead Heads who have some brilliant plans to take our fans on a very cool journey.”

The band’s record label is on board as well. “Curious Sense is the perfect partner to translate the Grateful Dead experience into the video game world,” Rhino Entertainment’s Mark Pinkus said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with their team to develop an exciting game that will be loved by longtime Dead Heads and new fans alike.”