GO FORTH, O PIONEERS! A Reflection on Levi’s Go Forth Campaign
“You have built a community in Grayson’s name and created cameraderie in his image. That this continues to be his legacy so many years after his vanishing is all he ever hoped for.” After digging a hole 27 paces away from a rock in Zion National Park (located at N 27’10.043″ W 113’10.650″), Laura Hall unearthed a letter bearing those words, along with a check for $100,000. This marked the conclusion of Levi Strauss’ cross-country treasure hunt that spanned the American countryside over six weeks.
It all began with a package asking the question “Who was Grayson Ozias IV and where is his fortune?” Over the next few weeks, players learned about the mysterious Grayson Ozias through a series of recordings left on wax cylinders. The messages allowed players to retrace Grayson Ozias’ journey to thirteen destinations across the country. At each location, they picked up artifacts from Grayson’s travels and met with a variety of challenges, including puzzlesolving in a county jail, strumming on a washboard while singing “When the Saints Go Marching In”, and telling tales by a campfire. After retracing Grayson’s steps, the first 100 players to correctly complete a quiz received the final clue to $100,000 in buried treasure. As the first to unravel the clue, Laura Hall received the honors of digging up Grayson Ozias IV’s fortune.
The true strength of the Go Forth experience was the dedicated community that formed around the game. Quickly noticing that a man with a hat appeared at many of the locations, fans created Where Is the Man With the Hat to document the experiences. The Man With the Hat was quite elusive, and for most of the game players had to rely on witness descriptions and shots of the man from a distance. The game inspired a musical homage, a 90-minute digital mixtape of the cylinder messages paired with thematic music, and even convinced one fan to get a Go Forth tattoo. Inspired by the experience, Laura Hall has created the blog Go Forth and Beyond to document her experience playing the game, along with her plans of traveling the country with the prize money. And thanks to over 3,000 votes from players, Levi Strauss agreed to donate an additional $100,000 to charity: water, a non-profit dedicated to bringing clean, safe drinking water to developing nations.
Jan Libby notes that “Levis, W & K and I had hoped to design a treasure hunt experience that was a wonderful journey across America, rather than a mad dash for money…I was incredibly happy to see how the GO IV community bonded and maintained that bond right through until end game.” When alternate reality games and interactive experiences such as Levi’s Go Forth campaign take root, they have the potential to create lasting bonds that survive well beyond the scope of the game. Some veterans of popular alternate reality games identify themselves based on their involvement in games, as is the case with the Cloudmakers (the Beast) and the Beekeepers (I Love Bees). It’s still too early to tell whether Levi’s has forged a persistent community through Go Forth. However, the competition cements a lesson learned in previous games with competitive elements such as Perplex City and Vanishing Point – even in the face of substantial cash prizes, players are capable of collaborating and forming close bonds.