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ARGFest 2010: Hotlanta Recap

Near, far, wherever you are – ARGFest 2010 in Atlanta, GA was a blast. Whether at ARGFest or its virtual Twitter counterpart #PretendARGFest, the annual conference dedicated to alternate reality games was filled with informative panels and discussions, hands on gaming, mysteries, and social and professional networking opportunities.  While the player community in attendance was less this year and creative minds and industry folk were in relative abundance, all aspects of the ARG/Transmedia genre and community seemed well represented.

To usher in ARGFest 2010, Brian Clark welcomed everyone and introduced the newly appointed “Grand Inquisitor“, Steve Peters. The first session was presented by Andrea Phillips of Deus Ex Machinatio. Andrea set the pace for the fest by presenting Beyond the Brunette – an analytical look at stereotypical gender roles in gaming and storytelling. By providing a look at numerous common character cliches, attendees couldn’t help but notice throughout the remainder of the conference how common they actually are. As one of her session’s focal points, Andrea posed the challenge to be unique and break away from using standard, typical archetypes.

Other panels and sessions this year covered a host of informative topics, including:


Above: Artifact Creation workshop

Workshops were also available for more practical, creative group sessions, including Writing for Transmedia, and Artifact Creation, as well as a Mini-Game Jam for game creation. Some notable hands-on experiences included Studio Cypher‘s experimental tabletop game No Talent Required (pics), Socks Inc‘s New Employee Orientation puppet creation workshop (pics), Brooke Thompson’s Scrabble-inspired experimental variant Scramble, and a quickly made game-jam workshop game Unobtrusive Measures taking players around nearby historic Atlanta landmarks. We also saw the birth of an off-the-cuff community born Fluxx game variant now nearing play-test phase, ARG Fluxx.

Another new element presented at this year’s fest was the “Dotmocracy.”  Using a passive process for collecting opinions and comments on hot topics via poll sheets posted around the conference, the results would be gathered and presented in two sessions for group discussion. Points presented included “There will never be a mainstream ARG,” “All media will become transmedia,” “story trumps puzzles,” and more.

ARGFest also played host to the official announcement of the Transmedia Artists Guild, or T.A.G. (also on Twitter: @TransmediaGuild).  More news about this startup is forthcoming, so stay tuned.

The ARGFest conference came to an official close with the traditional Keynote dinner. This year no holds were barred from the intense, provocative speech given by No Mimes Media‘s Maureen McHugh, complete with a menacing lightning backdrop. In brief:

ARGs are dead. But Transmedia is lightning in a jar.

ARGs have failed to break into mass media, because the interaction is in the wrong place. Right now, the interaction is finding the story. When someone doesn’t know what to do next, it’s easy to stop, and every time we ask someone to change platforms, we lose audience. But the experience of transmedia is powerful, immersive and emotional. We have to find new ways to tell stories across multiple platforms using interactivity.

It’s evolve or die.

Thanks to Remix Fiction, a number of videos are available from ARGFest panels and events. Ineffabelle also streamed live video from conference sessions and events, and many photos were also uploaded to Flickr for perusal.

Above: ARG Museum

The ARG Museum was once again on display, cataloging artifacts and swag created for numerous transmedia and ARG projects over the years.  The posh hotel served splendid food and drink, provided grand accommodations, and offered a wonderful view of the Atlanta skyline.

“Hotlanta” was a great backdrop for this year’s conference, especially with the now famous Trader Vic’s tiki bar providing entertainment to attendees one evening. This unforgettable night provided a plethora of live music, and entertainment of Titanic proportions, while many socialized and chatted up a storm on the transmedia front.

In the end, ARGFest once again pulled out the punches and provided a wonderful, inspiring conference for both creators and players, with opportunities for faces to be put to names, for social mingling, intellectual stimulating, creative inspiring, eccentric fashionizing, and unforgettable drinkering.  Every year ARGFest evolves, and as with every evolving platform there are growing pains. Not everything goes as expected, and anything from finances to resources to scheduling can present trials and difficulties. However, as an event with community at its roots, created by and for the community – including players and creators – if ARGFest is where the heart is, then the heart will go on.

Thanks to ARGFest 2010’s major sponsors: No Mimes Media, Nonchalance, Remix Fiction, GMD Studios, Dog Tale Media, and Stitch Media. A special thanks to the ARGFest planning committee, especially Brooke Thompson, for pushing through to the end.

To view more discussion about this year’s ARGFest and to weigh in with your thoughts or opinions, visit Unfiction or leave a response to this post.

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