ctw_comic.jpgOne month ago, we were happy to send out a Game Alert about Catching The Wish, the sequel to the 2003 alternate reality game Chasing The Wish. In the weeks since that announcement, the game has exploded onto computer screens everywhere with multiple websites, a rich and engrossing storyline, and interactivity that has added layer upon layer of immersive game play for the players following the story of Dale Sprague and his life-changing wish. The ARG is also tied in with Chasing The Wish: Book One, the first in a series of four comic books based on the storyline originally created by Dave Szulborski, who designed the first CTW and has since worked on projects like Art of the Heist and Who Is Benjamin Stove.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of the comic book last month, and even though I am not necessarily a fan of comics, the writing and artistic design were enough to keep me turning pages. With a script written by Jason Stackhouse, art by P. Emerson Williams and Jessica Kaos, and an overall creative vision by James Curcio, the comic is visually entertaining while delivering a concise and thrilling story. Book One is available through online venues, such as Indyplanet and New Fiction Publishing.

The story in Book One of the comic weaves the reader through a complicated tale involving the apparent dreams of Dale Sprague. However, as soon as the cover is turned in the comic book, the connection to the ARG is made, as an advertisement for Ash Grove Park fills the inside of the page. Taking the bait, I jumped through the rabbit hole to the site, one of many carry-overs from the original Chasing The Wish. As I explored the various sites that were featured in CTW1, I was overwhelmed by the efforts made by the creative team to incorporate the events of a game that took place three years ago into the sequel. This is one of the best features of the game, by far — you do not have to be familiar with the story of CTW1, but those that played the first game are treated to a new story for the well-known characters of the original. For example, in this version, central character Dale Sprague still has a daughter named Meaghan, but in this new storyline, she is three years older and goes through different experiences. There are many websites out there to explore, and they are not only aesthetically pleasing, but functional in allowing the players to discover new connections to the complex story environment.

Interaction always plays an important part of any ARG experience, and so far, CTW2 has featured a variety of ways for players to get information and be involved. Late last week, players were able to become part of a conference call for members of the Agluara City Council, which allowed select players to speak in a real-time environment with characters of the game. Emails from characters are commonplace, as was the case in CTW1, and in-game phone numbers have been revealed through various means. In fact, some players were spooked when they called a cell phone number showcased on an in-game site, expecting a voice-mail message. Instead, a very much live Dale Sprague answered the phone. The team behind CTW2 has really gone out of their way to make this an enjoyable interactive experience.

Another aspect of this game that the community seems to be enjoying is the way in which content delivery and puzzles are being handled. Too often, the common complaint about puzzles in alternate reality gaming is that there is no sensible context for the puzzle to exist in. In CTW2, not only do the puzzles have common sense connections to the plot line, but it seems that like its predecessor, information that appears to be unrelated on the surface will end up becoming connected and very important in the later stages of the game. Videos are also becoming an important source of information for players keeping tabs on the game, as a character has been uploading videos to YouTube as a means of leading people to previously-undiscovered websites. We also hear a rumor that there may be items sent through the mail from characters to players, adding yet another immersive layer to the game.

All in all, the people pulling the strings behind the curtain really do know their stuff, and are creating an ARG that is earning the respect and admiration of people around the world. The game is currently transitioning into an interlude of sorts, as players are preparing for what will come with Book Two of the comic series. We hope that many of you are able to get yourselves caught up with the game as it approaches its second month of play, and “wish” you luck in unravelling the mysteries surrounding Dale and his unique reality.

:: Discussion at Unforums
:: CTW2 Wiki
:: Chat in #ctw at irc.chat-solutions.org

Thanks to konamouse for her contributions to this article.