Author: Celina Beach

Take a Walk on the Wild Side with Six to Start’s “The Walk”

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When Six to Start created Zombies, Run!, players were given the chance to plug in a pair of headphones and lose themselves in a rich narrative, where you’re asked to run to survive. And while Zombies, Run! doesn’t require its players to run, the story and many of its game mechanics are built around promoting running. After receiving feedback from fans of the game who aren’t avid runners, Six to Start and Naomi Alderman partnered with the UK Department of Health and National Health Service to release The Walk for iOS and Android devices earlier today.

Like Zombies, Run!, the primary feature of The Walk is its narrative, designed to provide audio accompaniment to your walking routine. Mere minutes before an apparent terrorist attack on a train station in Inverness, the player is given a package and told that it is of vital importance the package make it to Edinburgh. The attack is initiated by a group called The Burn and contains an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) which takes out all electronics, including all transportation and communication. After escaping from the train station, the package is opened and revealed to be a communication device capable of functioning after the pulse. The person on the other end becomes your guide through the chaos as you make your way on foot to deliver the package to Edinburgh.

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Bringing Cronenberg’s Films to Life with Body Mind Change

Game enthusiasts are all about the games they play being “realistic,” with higher resolution graphics and smarter AIs. One of the more alluring features of alternate reality games is their ability to blur the lines between reality and game to the point where you question where one ended and the other began, exemplified through the “TINAG” (This Is Not A Game) philosophy. Of course, we all knew it was just a game, but hid that knowledge away back in the “suspension of disbelief” part of our brains, and let ourselves believe it was all real. But what if we could experience a game that was so real, you honestly didn’t know what was game and what was real? David Cronenberg would like to offer you an opportunity to do just that, via a personal on-demand biotech recommendation engine (“POD”) designed to enhance your everyday experience.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it draws on the plot of past Cronenberg films like eXistenZ, where players of a game would use gamepods, flesh-like instruments that allowed them to “jack into” and interact with the game on a real-time. Now, Cronenberg has joined forces with Body/Mind/Change Labs to create PODs similar to the ones in the movie, and you are encouraged to sign up for your own.

In Lance Weiler’s Culture Hacker column in Filmmaker Magazine, he states Cronenberg has “quietly licensed the fictional technology and science found within his films Shivers, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome and eXistenZ for a mind-bending eight-figure sum.” Reporting from the BMC Labs building in Venice, CA, he describes the lab as looking like “something out of a sci-fi film” and describes the company’s previous biotech achievements and their goal “to enhance humankind by harnessing biotechnology to make us smarter, faster and more efficient.” Cronenberg himself released a trailer describing the POD and his collaboration with Body/Mind/Change Labs.

Dig a little deeper and the truth becomes evident – Weiler’s article is the opening salvo for a digital extention of the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) David Cronenberg: Evolution exhibit set to debut in November 2013 and run through January 2014, and includes “artifacts, props, documentation and audio-visual interviews, as well as reconstructed set-pieces from Cronenberg’s films”. The Body/Mind/Change experience is co-produced by CFC Media Lab and directed by Lance Weiler (Head Trauma, Pandemic, Reboot Stories), and “features plot lines and game mechanics involving biotechnology start-ups, body enhancements, and emotional learning systems.”

According to the project’s press release, the experience is scheduled to launch on October 25th, but there is plenty to do and see while you’re waiting. Visitors to the BMC Labs website are encouraged to sign up for their own POD. After signing up, registrants are presented with a confirmation page hard-coded with a message congratulating them for being “8,743 of 137,234 in line for a POD implant.” The website’s POD Challene page, which is currently “OFFLINE” displaying a field of static, hints at things to come later this month.

Check out the discussion of Body Mind Change on the Unfiction forums to see how the project evolves, and schedule your trip out to Toronto to see the installation for yourself to get the full experience.

Television and Gaming Merge in Defiance for Transmedia War Zone

Over the years, Rockne S. O’Bannon has transformed more than a few science fiction projects into cult classics: O’Bannon helped shape the futuristic worlds depicted in properties including Alien Nation, SeaQuest DSV, and Farscape. With his newest project, Defiance, O’Bannon explores a future, post-apocalyptic Earth where aliens and humans are forced to cooperate in constantly-warring factions to survive.

While humans and aliens are entering a tentative alliance in the Defiance narrative, television and video games are entering into a novel alliance to tell the story. While a Syfy television show will play out in a refugee camp located in the former city of St Louis, a massively multiplayer online first-person shooter (MMOFPS) developed by Trion Worlds (makers of the popular MMORPG Rift) will follow events in San Francisco, with crossover events from both storylines impacting the developing narrative. The Defiance television show does not debut until April, with the video game version preceding the television premiere by one week. However, the stage is already being set for the launch through a website for Von Bach Industries, a company within the transmedia narrative’s universe.

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A Comic-Con Preview: SHIELD Returns for “Item 47”

Image via Marvel.com

On the Fourth of July, Marvel Entertainment released its “second screen” app for The Avengers DVD, two months prior to the release of the DVD itself. The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience, available for the iPhone and iPad, is designed to provide supplemental content, synced up with the film. The timing of the app’s release is odd, as second screen apps are traditionally released in tandem with their associated DVD. However, this particular app came bundled with the first countdown clock of Comic-Con 2012, leading to a scavenger hunt starting Friday to unlock the latest Marvel One-Shot video, Item 47.

According to The Avengers Initiative app’s description: “Become a SHIELD Agent and participate in the Item 47 Comic-Con experience either remotely or in the field.” So what is this Item 47 Comic-Con experience? Upon downloading and launching the app, the main screen launches with three options; “SHIELD Personnel Files”, “Avenger Initiative Timeline,” and “Item 47.” The Avenger Initiative Timeline is not unlocked yet, and the SHIELD Personnel files contain what you would expect: personal dossiers on all the Avengers. Currently, the only dossiers available for viewing belong to Steve Rogers (Captain America) and Natasha Romanov (Black Widow).

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Tim Kring and AT&T Bring the Truth to Light in “Daybreak 2012”

A van is careening down a winding road, followed in close pursuit by a police car, sirens blaring. The passenger of the van, Ben Wilkins, urgently questioned by the driver (not named in the chapter but later on we find out his name is “Charles”),  swears he doesn’t know why they’re chasing him or what  they want, but mentions “a package” back at his apartment. Charles tells Ben to connect his phone to the laptop in the van, where he’ll give Ben “a Jack app” to buy him time to get back to his place and grab the package, and so that he can contact Ben afterwards. A policeman leans out of the police cruiser’s passenger window and starts to shoot at the van…

Daybreak 2012, a transmedia webseries by Tim Kring (Heroes, Conspiracy for Good), launched on May 31st with the release of the first of 5 weekly chapters of the webseries on Daybreak2012.com. Along with the Daybreak 2012 website, the Jack Boxers app was also released for both the iPhone and Android smartphones, along with an accompanying website, We Are The Jack Boxers. The purpose of both the app and the website is to enlist help for the cause of the Jack Boxers, who are fighting the forces of darkness and bringing the Truth to light.

The Truth, according to the Jack Boxers, is essential to many things – sacred geometry, energy and vibration, the works of Fibonacci and Tesla – but most importantly, the dodecahedron. In the final few episodes of Touch, the dodecahedron (or “doda”) played a major role in the mythology of the show, and that mythology is carried over into Daybreak. However, while both Daybreak and Touch exist in the same “universe”, the doda is the only common thread between the two stories.

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Stepping into Runner 5’s Shoes with “Zombies, Run!”

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to try a new iOS app by Six to Start called Zombies, Run!, a “running game and audio adventure” that transplants its participants into a zombie apocalypse. The story begins: you are Runner #5, a refugee of a supply helicopter crash, with no identification to prove you’re not from one of the other rival camps, trying to earn your keep in Abel Township by running on supply or rescue missions. Along the way, you collect items that will help the camp, and sometimes obtain information that might help explain who you are, how the world got in this state, and maybe even how to save it.

Images courtesy of Six to Start

At its heart Zombies, Run! is designed as a narrative complement to players’ running music playlist. After starting the mission by loading up the app and swiping the “slide to run” control, the first segment of the story will start, interweaving music from the phone’s iTunes library with additional story segments until the mission is over. While running, a computerized voice informs you of items you pick up along the way: USB Keys, bottles of water, batteries, clothes . . . and often CDC records, information about other factions, or even other apps. In one document, a newspaper article describing a suspicious fire at a university contained a live Twitter account.

Zombies, Run! received its initial funding through a Kickstarter initiative, and one of the benefits offered to early backers was the ability to be inserted into the story, either as an individual or a brand. One of the companies to jump at this opportunity was the app development company ChipotleLabs. Various items recovered over the course of the story including the “Kensaido sword” and “Kensaido Manifesto” hint at a secret ninja society that predated the zombie apocalypse, and whose members work to combat the growing incursion. In addition to providing more information about the world beyond Abel Township, the items promote ChipotleLabs’ upcoming app, Kensaido.

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Take A Walk On The Wired Wild Side with “Bear 71”

A bear walks through the Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies and is ensnared in a trap where she is tranquilized, tagged, and collared with a GPS device. She has now become Bear 71, and joins a group of wired wildlife who document the interactions between nature and their increasingly encroaching human neighbors. Bear 71 is a new interactive project produced by the National Film Board of Canada’s digital studio, and includes an interactive web documentary site, a social media microsite, and a live installation piece that launched in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival.

The main part of the project consists of an interactive web documentary created by NFB’s Jeremy Mendes and Leanne Allison, which introduces viewers to Bear 71 and then drops them into an interactive map of the Park, where they encounter other wired creatures that live in Bear 71’s home range: golden eagles, Big Horn sheep, wolves, and deer mice, all similarly tagged and under surveillance. The animals’ movements can be seen as they move about the park, and clicking on their markers reveals a video feed and information about the animal. Viewers can click on their own marker as well, which launches a group of surveillance feeds including their own (the site requests access to the viewer’s webcam and microphone, which can be denied) and any other viewers who happen to be browsing the site at the same time, tagged and tracked like the animals. Landmarks such as the freeway and railroad that run through the park can be seen, cars and trains moving on them as the animal’s markers cross back and forth, highlighting one of the project’s main points: when technology and the wild intersect, it is often to the detriment of the wildlife. There are also video feeds and observation points marked on the map, showing actual pictures and videos from their real-life counterparts in the Park.

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Engage In Some Covert Affairs, Twitter-Style


USA Network is running a “tweetcast” called Mission: Budapest to promote their show, Covert Affairs, where players are recruited as remote CIA operatives and tasked with assisting operatives on the ground in Budapest. Players can follow one or all of four CIA agents as they work the mission in Budapest by viewing photos, files, and videos uncovered by the agents. The lead character, Auggie Anderson, is also a main character on the TV series, and acts as the main conduit between users and the other agents. Auggie poses questions to the players about how the agents on the ground in Budapest should proceed, or poses questions they should ask of suspects or CIA “assets” (usually foreign civilians providing information to the CIA) in order to further the mission.

The tweetcast is not an entirely new idea: ABC’s Castle has run a “summer mystery” tweetcast during the hiatuses between seasons 1 and 2 through the @WriteRCastle twitter account . . . due to the “tragic events” in the Castle season 3 finale, there will be no Castle summer mystery tweetcast during the current hiatus. While players are more spectator than participant in these experiences, the content is entertaining and there is just enough interaction to give the players that warm fuzzy feeling when their suggestion or information is used and called out on Auggie’s twitter account.

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Transmedia Experts Tell the Story to NABShow Attendees

For the second year in a row, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show hosted a panel of transmedia luminaries to discuss the state of the industry. This year’s panel, Transmedia: Telling the Story through Narrative Content, Games and Real-World Adventures was hosted by Henry Jenkins (Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California, and author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide) and included Jeff Gomez (President and CEO, Starlight Runner Entertainment), Kim Moses (Executive Producer/Director, Sander/Moses Productions and Slam Internet), Gale Anne Hurd (Executive Producer, The Walking Dead; President, Valhalla Motion Pictures), Danny Bilson (Executive Vice President of Core Games, THQ, Inc.), and Tim Kring (Transmedia Storyteller, Conspiracy for Good, Heroes).

Jenkins started the panel with a definition of transmedia from his book as a starting point for discussion amongst the panelists:

Transmedia Storytelling represents a process by which narrative information is systematically dispersed across multiple media channels for the purposes of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.

Jenkins asserted that the difference between transmedia and other methods is “that each element adds something vital to the mix as a whole” and “expand[s] the canvas on which storytellers work within the entertainment industry.”

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You Thought It Was Cold Now? Get Ready for The Big Chill

As yet another entry in the serious gaming genre, Ready For The Big Chill asks a “chilling” question: would you be ready in the event of a catastrophic event such as the eruption of a super-volcano or an asteroid impact that blocked the sun, throwing the world into a new Ice Age?

Several ARG and Unfiction community members received a dark and cryptic envelope with the words “Nobody Knows It Yet” stamped on the outside. Inside, an equally cryptic card adds, “…But It Has Already Started” one one side, printed on top of what appears to be a block of ice. On the other side, the silhouette of a screaming figure frames the url for a Facebook page, Facebook.com/ReadyforTheBigChill. The game’s Facebook page then leads to The Big Chill’s main site.

The presently unnamed group behind The Big Chill have formed an “idea-community” to generate survival ideas from the players through the help of an eclectic group of characters including vulcanologists, geologists, a video director, and a certified conspiracy theorist, who are all monitoring and reporting on world geologic events that could lead to such a catastrophe. Many of the characters have Twitter feeds, Facebook accounts, blogs, YouTube channels, and other avenues of communication with players.

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A Glimpse Behind The Curtain with Cisco’s Game “The Hunt”

In mid-August, I had the opportunity to work with No Mimes Media, one of the major players in the ARG/Transmedia-creation world, co-founded by ARGNet founder Steve Peters.  My role: to “scrub” the websites and puzzles for an alternate reality game (commonly known as an ARG) – what I call “QA” in my day job, consisting of assorted tasks like verifying website content against design documents, and playtesting puzzles to make sure they can be solved as designed.  However, it also afforded me the opportunity to see how ARGs are designed and run – a glimpse behind the curtain, and into the inner workings of a development team (often referred to in the alternate reality gaming space as “Puppetmasters” or “PMs”).

Background

The Hunt is the second game by Juxt Interactive and No Mimes Media created for the Cisco Global Sales Experience (GSX), Cisco’s annual sales meeting.  For the second year in a row, Cisco has conducted this meeting virtually, using their own products such as Telepresence and WebEx to virtually gather their sales force together for training and information sharing. Including an alternate reality game enhanced the experience while providing education and experience using Cisco’s products by putting the sales force in the center of the action, using Cisco tools to help solve the mystery.  An important game mechanic involved players discovering “Key Asset Codes” which are entered into the game’s Hub for points, where the player with the most points at the end of the game is declared the winner.

This year’s experience centered around Isabel Travada, a Cisco System Engineer on a leave of absence to do volunteer work with the Red Cross. Upon returning home one day, she discovered that her apartment has been ransacked, and her father’s journal stolen.  Isabel’s father, Ferdinand, traveled the world as a cartographer before his death, and kept a journal of his adventures which he shared with Isabel when she was a child.  She was recently featured holding the book on the cover of a magazine that covered her father’s work on an important communications project in Africa, and someone who saw the article broke into her house to take it.  Curious about why anyone would want such a private journal, she went through his papers and realized there was more to his writings and drawings than she had noticed as a child.  Being very familiar with the book, she is able to recreate some of it from memory, but some portions like the pictures from the places Ferdinand visited are beyond her ability to recall.  However, as she pieces her memories together, she realizes the journal is filled with puzzles and clues, and calls upon her friends in the worldwide Cisco sales force to help her solve the puzzles, follow the clues, and send pictures to replace the ones lost.  As the players solved the puzzles and figured out the clues, Isabel found herself traveling the world with her father’s former colleague Keith, retracing her father’s steps and coming closer and closer to solving the mystery of the journal, and the man who stole it – and why.
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Comic-Con Recap: ComiTRON

In 2008, Disney came to Comic-Con with some early conceptual footage for a movie that, at that time, was called TR2N. It received such strong support and generated so much excitement from the Comic-Con crowd, Disney greenlighted the project. Flash forward to the 2009 Comic-Con, where Disney presented additional footage for the now-titled TRON: Legacy. Fans were also led on a merry chase through San Diego leading to a recreation of Flynn’s Arcade, where further information about the disappearance of Kevin Flynn was revealed.

Flash forward again to 2010, where the Flynn Lives alternate reality game ramped up through the release of online mini-games leading to live drops, movie screenings, digital badges, and real-life TRON artifacts. Meanwhile, buzz for the movie increased as Comic-Con approached and TRON banners and signs appeared around San Diego. The news media started referring to Comic-Con as ComiTRON, which generated even more excitement and anticipation from the ARG community following the Flynn Lives campaign as they started to wonder: would Flynn’s Arcade return?

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UPDATE: Dexter Game On More Than Just A SCVNGR Hunt

When it was first announced, Dexter Game On appeared to be nothing more than a fun adventure through the streets of San Diego during Comic-Con, hopefully leading to either Dexter swag or DVDs. However, once players reached the last SCVNGR location, a “kill room” was found containing what appeared to be evidence of torture and murder . . . and several cleverly hidden clues written on the room’s mirrors that lead to the Sleep Superbly site. Upon first entering the room, visitors were shown an introduction video by Dee Pratt, an FBI agent who also goes by the name Serial Huntress, explaining her unique method of crowdsourcing to catch serial killers – the latest one being the “Infinity Killer.” Pratt suspects the Infinity Killer is responsible for the kill room and the murder that apparently occurred within, as the room bears his hallmark, the infinity symbol, on one of the mirrors.

Since then, a lot of activity has occurred, including weekly updates from Serial Huntress on her website; information on the Infinity Killer on the SleepSuberbly site; and even more sites and Twitter feeds . . . and a number of puzzles to solve. To get involved in the hunt, check out the game thread on Unfiction. For a quick summary of the game so far, refer to this excellent post.

Comic-Con Buzz: Dexter and SCVNGR Challenge You to “Game On” at Comic-Con or at Home

Launching viral campaigns at San Diego Comic-Con is no longer a surprise, and has become almost expected. Some campaigns have even managed to incorporate participation from those not at Comic-Con, allowing players at home to provide assistance to those on the ground. Showtime, however, has upped the ante with its viral campaign for the hit series Dexter by giving non-Con goers the ability to participate in their own towns. There is a caveat, however. Your town must be one of five major metropolitan areas chosen to participate: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta.

Whether or not you will be attending Comic-Con, participation requires downloading the SCVNGR application, available for iPhone and Android, in order to view the Dexter-themed Treks challenge. The purpose of the game is to record “kills” by completing the challenges located both at the Convention Center and at nearby locations, and earning limited edition SCVNGR badges that can be redeemed for Dexter merchandise. For players in the other five participating cities, the same game-play applies but with SCVNGR Treks designed for their area.

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Encom to Hold Press Conference, Flynn Lives to Infiltrate

EncomLogoThis Friday at 8PM in San Francisco, Encom’s Executive Consultant Alan Bradley will address invited press and employees regarding a brand new Encom product. Little does he (and hopefully the Encom security) know that his audience will also include many intrepid members of the Flynn Lives organization posing as Encom employees.

Several weeks ago, the enigmatic Zack challenged the group to a little game called ArcadeAid – a site filled with pictures of clever (and sometimes groan-worthy) puns representing several generations of video games, from Pong to Asteroids, Space Ace to… well even Discs of Tron. As players named video games, they were awarded badges at certain levels. Naming all 56 earned them the opportunity to acquire their very own Encom security badge, and as we were to find out later, the ability to attend an exclusive press conference hosted by Alan Bradley himself (played by Bruce Boxleitner).

So if you’re one of the intrepid numbers who completed the ArcadeAid challenge and received an Encom badge, the place to be is the Justin Herman Plaza in the Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA at 8PM, April 2 2010. No word yet on whether non-badge holders will be able to find other ways to attend, or if the event will be aired online either live or after the fact. However, Wondercon will be occuring this weekend, and Disney does have a panel there: so if you are going to Wondercon, take it from an old San Diego Comic-Con pro and keep an eye out for opportunities to attend, either at the Disney booth (if present) or at the panel. You can also follow along on the Unfiction forums thread .

Good luck to all FlynnLives Infiltrators!

UPDATE: Zack from FlynnLives is asking all participants to meet at the Hyatt Regency (across the street from the press conference venue) from 6:15-7:45PM. t-shirts and posters will be handed out to participants, and the group will march to the press conference site en masse in order to get a good location in front of the stage.

It has also announced been announced that while there is going to be a VIP area for Encom employees (hence the infiltrators having Encom badges), the press conference itself is open to the public. So if you’re in the area, get down there and check it out!

Flynn Lives Welcomes You To The Pit Cell

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As we reported earlier, ZeroHour reached the end of its countdown at 11AM EST (4PM GMT) and had players all over the globe sitting by their computers, compulsively pounding their F5 keys to see when their city’s listing would go live and a drop location would be revealed.  Chicago, Orlando, and Paris were the first to update, and it was quickly discovered the drop points were located, fittingly, at arcades.  Upon arriving, players looked for their contacts in Flynn Lives t-shirts.  The first one to reach the contact gave a pass phrase (such as “Downloadable Content” or “Power Slide”) and was rewarded with a phone, but no further instructions.  Once players figured out there was a number in the phone’s contact list labeled “Call Me”, they called and talked to a live person who gave them instructions to find the rest of their package – an 80’s style vinyl velcro “TRON” wallet containing 3 Tron trading cards with codes to be input into the ZeroHour website, a few Flynn’s Arcade tokens, and newspaper clippings about ENCOM.  A PM helper shadowed the players and, once the package was found, the ZeroHour website was updated with a check mark to note the drop had been successfully picked up.  The players then logged into the ZeroHour site to enter the codes, which unlocked the cards on the site.

As the day went on, more cities went live and more drops were collected.  Except for a glitch or two (the Toronto package was taken before the player could reach it, and the Madrid drop was never recovered) the drop collections were rapidly collected and the codes were entered.  Finally, when Las Vegas and Sydney were the only locations left, the “No” Bit under the card icons changed to a “Yes” Bit.  Clicking on the Bit led to a new site, The Pit Cell.

The Pit Cell contains information on an “exclusive limited event” to be held this Saturday in 4 different IMAX theater locations – New York, Los Angeles, London, Toronto; and a fifth on Sunday in Sydney.  Ticket distribution starts today at 4PM EST (9PM GMT), on a first-come, first-served basis.

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UPDATE: Flynn Lives ZeroHour is Live

flynnlives1As previously covered, the fine folks at Flynn Lives, ever vigilant in their quest to find the lost Kevin Flynn, released a countdown 8 days ago.  Yesterday, an email was sent to players who had previously signed up on the Flynn Lives site reminding them of the quest and a request for “operatives” in 25 cities, with a link to the countdown.  The countdown expired today, and players clicked on the binary countdown flash which lead them to a new page on the Flynn Lives site, and contains a list of the previously revealed 25 cities, a grid with numbers into which codes can be entered (apparently similar to last July’s Comic-Con event), and a blank list for 66 “Operatives.”  Currently, 3 cities are live: Chicago, Orlando, and Paris: directions have players heading to what are possibly arcades.

Players can now manage their profile information to provide contact information to “[g]et information, assignments and important artifacts through regular post/mail” and “[g]et quick updates via phone and text for important coordinated activities on the ground.”  These profiles can then be linked to players’ Facebook accounts to post Badges and Honors. 

Stay tuned throughout the day as events unfold!

UPDATE: Flynn Lives Gradually Revealing a List of City Names

flynnlivescitiesShortly after the countdown began at FlynnLives.com/zerohour, players noticed that what appeared to be a picture was slowly forming, pixel by pixel, beneath the binary countdown.  That image, although not complete, has started to reveal a list of city names, a good portion of which can be deduced.  Washington DC, Atlanta, Orlando, Raleigh, San Diego, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Phoenix are fairly legible, with more becoming so as the countdown approaches the zero hour on February 24th.  Stay tuned in the coming days to see if YOUR city appears on the list!

Saving the World, One EVOKE at a Time

evokeWouldn’t it be great if, during times of crisis, there was a way to access a network of experts ready and able to help avert the crisis? Starting March 3rd, the Evoke Network goes live and available for all your crisis-averting needs!

EVOKE was developed by the World Bank Institute, the educational branch of the World Bank Group, and directed by Jane McGonigal, the creative mind behind Superstruct and World Without Oil (among many others) and most recently an invited speaker at TED2010. The alternate reality game’s mission is to help the world help itself, by empowering young people to tackle the world’s toughest problems. In the first episode, the year is 2020 and Japan is facing a nation-wide famine. The Governor of Tokyo sends an “EVOKE” to the mysterious Alchemy, who then activates the Evoke Network by contacting individuals with the necessary skills and ideas needed to help Tokyo avert her food crisis, and teach her people how to avoid it in the future.

During the 10 week course of the game, players will be presented with 10 different challenges involving topics like hunger, poverty, and education – one challenge per week. Players who participate in all 10 challenges will be honored as a “Certified World Bank Institute Social Innovator – Class of 2010.” On top of that, the top 10 Social Innovators will also have the opportunity to be mentored by noted social innovators and business leaders, along with scholarships to the EVOKE Summit in Washington, DC to share their innovative ideas with the world.

The goal of the game? Fun of course! But the main goal is to teach the young people of the world skills such as networking, resourcefulness, creativity, and vision; empowering them to start solving the world’s problems. Teach the people, save the world!

EVOKE launches on March 3rd and is accepting membership reservations now, and discussion is brewing over in Unfiction. Also, the first graphic novel episode can be read in its entirety on the EVOKE homepage, including links to articles for additional information on the topics discussed in the episode and a video trailer with clues about the nature of the EVOKE Network.

The Mosaic Collective: What Did You See?

mosaiccollectiveFor 2 minutes and 17 seconds, the world was plunged into unconsciousness – and awakened with a vision from 6 months in the future. What did you see? The Mosaic Collective would like to know… but why? The Collective states that it wants to piece together everyone’s visions, or FlashForwards, to try and piece together “a mosaic of tomorrow”, and possibly determine who – or what – is behind the “Global Blackout” (GBO). And why do they seem to be singling out certain FlashForwards as “more valuable” than others? Oscar Obregon, a “Pulitzer prize winning journalist and author” and proprietor of TruthHack.com has that same question… and an anonymous source has possibly provided him with those answers, via a set of encrypted puzzles – but he needs your help.

The Mosaic Collective is a promotion for the new ABC television show, “FlashForward”, premiering September 24th. The “pre-game” launched in late April with some minor viral images and interaction, but started in earnest with a booth at Comic-Con where attendees could record their “FlashForwards”, with some lucky folks being pulled aside by Mosaic Collective spokesperson Marcie Turoff. If you look closely, you may see the FlashForward of someone you know.

The cracking of Oscar’s encrypted file is proceeding apace in the Unfiction thread , so come join in the cracking! And don’t forget to submit *your* FlashForward to the Mosaic Collective – who knows, maybe you’ll get interviewed by Marcie! You can also follow Oscar on Twitter and Facebook .

ComicCon Wrapup Part 2 – The IHC

IHCAs reported earlier, The Institute for Human Continuity (or IHC), a promotion for the movie “2012”, went live in November of last year, and visitors to their website were offered the ability to enter a Global Survival Lottery for a spot in one of their “initiatives” to save at least a portion of humanity from the global cataclysm occurring December 21, 2012. Here is a brief run-down of game activity leading up to the event at ComicCon:

– December 21, 2009: lottery ticket holders were sent an email from Dr. Sorën Ulfert, PhD, the Communications Director for the IHC, announcing the launch of the full IHC website in a few weeks and an upcoming discussion with Dr. Ulfert in February. Questions for this discussion could be submitted through Dr. Ulfert’s Twitter or email. Also launched was a wiki page for The IHC.

– January 2009: The full IHC site launched and contained a lot more information – disaster scenarios, news and press info, and details regarding the IHC’s “initiatives” to help preserve mankind after the 12/21/2012 disaster. Also around this time, a new site was discovered – This Is The End, a rebuttal site to the IHC’s, written by a character named Charlie Frost (portrayed by actor Woody Harrelson). Charlie’s opinion is that NO ONE is going to survive The End, and that the IHC, while mostly harmless, are just fooling people. Along with amusing blog posts are very funny videos explaining the nature of the disaster and why no one will survive. Charlie also hosts a “radio show” from his Winnebego where he takes phone calls and answers questions.

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ComicCon Wrap Up Part 1: Flynn’s Arcade

FlynnLivesIt’s been a while since the end of the ARGFest-O-ComicCon Hardcore Summer Tour, and I think I’m finally recovered enough to start recapping some of the crazy events that occurred! For this, the first in a series of Comic-Con 2009 recaps, here is the recap of the live event for the Disney movie, Tron: Legacy – otherwise known as “Flynn Lives!”.

It all started July 21 when players noticed an article on ComingSoon.net that featured an article on Flynn’s Arcade – apparently they had received arcade tokens and a nondescript flash drive with an animated .gif (labeled “Tron3.gif”) loaded on it. Other sites received similar coins and flash drives with other .gifs on them – 5 in total. The .gifs contained scrolling HTML-like code that, when decoded and compiled, displayed a matrix that were then combined with the numbers at the bottom of the .gifs, leading players to www.flynnlives.com. The arcade tokens also had “Home Of Tron” on them, which led to another site: www.homeoftron.com.

A quick background: Kevin Flynn was the main character in the original Tron movie, a visionary who designed a game called Space Paranoids, was fired by ENCOM after a dispute with CEO Ed Dillinger, and was then sucked into the game in order to battle Dillinger’s “program”, the Master Control Program (MCP) alongside fellow programer Alan Bradley’s “program”, Tron. Together they defeat the MCP and Kevin is released back into the “real world”.

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“Stop The International” Returns With A Bang – And Lots Of Cash

IBBC.JPGStop The International, the promotional ARG for the Clive Owen movie The International, first debuted in November 2008 when live events were held in several locations around the world, including Berlin, Los Angeles, New York City, and London. During these events, players were given clues to “evidence caches” containing money and documents which could be used to prove The International Bank of Business and Credit’s shady dealings. The game lasted four weeks… and then seemingly went dead.

On January 14th, the site went live again – and in a big way! In the four weeks since the first part of the game concluded, the main character, Inspector Salinger (Clive Owen) was dismissed from Scotland Yard after his main informant was killed in a suspicious car crash. However, he is continuing his pursuit of the International as an Agent with Interpol and with the help of a Manhattan prosecutor named Eleanor Whitman, along with the help of a new informant from within The International – and YOU! Salinger’s new informant is stashing more evidence caches around the United States and Europe in over 60 different dead-drop sites over the course of the next three weeks, and he needs our help in retrieving all the evidence caches so they can be submitted as evidence to Interpol, and bring down The International once and for all!

The first drop sites in the list went live on January 15th in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Houston, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego. As each city’s countdown expired, a clue to the location of the cache, a number code, and GPS coordinates were revealed. Players in each of the cities rushed to the sites, and upon arriving, discovered a lockbox with a combination lock which could be opened using the provided number code. Packed inside the lockbox compartments was money of many different countries — US, Australian, and Hong Kong dollars, Mexican pesos, Russian rubles — and the money was REAL. The map page displaying the dead-drop sites then updated, indicating that the cache was successfully picked up and evidence forwarded to Interpol. As an added bonus, players could enter the serial numbers of the retrieved money and see the trail the money had followed – crime lords, criminal organizations, money launderers (however, apparently *any* serial number from any form of currency will work as well). All drop sites that went live yesterday were successfully found, with the sole exception of the first in New York City, more than likely due to players not realizing what exactly they were looking for.

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SuperStruct: It’s The End Of The World As We Know It… And We Feel Fine!

superstruct.gifThe year is 2019, and the world is caught in the grips of several SuperThreats, fighting for it’s very survival – but the citizen/players of this world aren’t taking it lying down. They’re creating survival plans, researching the SuperThreats, searching for allies, and making SuperStructures – plans and organizations created to survive, and combat, the SuperThreats – and in the end, helping to save the world!

Such is the premise of Superstruct , the new “massively multiplayer forecasting game” by the Institute for the Future (IftF), an “independent, nonprofit research group with over 40 years of forecasting experience”. The game’s Director of Game Research & Development is a familiar name to the ARG-Faithful: Jane McGonigal, fresh off her “Find The Lost Ring” success. With SuperStruct, the IftF gives players a possible scenario of what life is like in the year 2019, and players tell them how they’re coping, surviving, or even thriving, in that world.

So far, the players are doing just that – via blogs, wikis, discussions, they are creating their future personas and shaping the world of 2019. There are a lot of players participating in the shaping – 127 “Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals” (or SEHIs) in the first hour, and almost 1000 in the first 24 hours after launch. The site experienced a brief outage, which was restored in a matter of hours, and more than 1900 players had signed up by Day 2. At last count, 4481 players have registered.

Surviving in IftF’s 2019 isn’t easy. The 5 SuperThreats are daunting – Quarantine (of people infected with a contagious respiratory disease), Ravenous (hunger caused by widespread food shortages), Outlaw Planet (hackers and criminals causing major disruption in vital networks and the political process), Generation Exile (natural disasters forcing people to migrate seeking refuge), and Power Struggle (conflicts between the oil-rich countries against alternative energy sources). It is the task of the SEHIs to form Superstructures in order to combat and survive the global threats. So far, the SEHI’s *are* surviving, and apparently very successfully. In the 10 days since Superstruct launched, players have added 5 years to our survival horizon.

There is a mild competitive aspect to the game as well – players can earn “badges” by completing tasks and missions in relation to the Threats. Winning badges and other recognitions can lead to several honors, which will be selected and awarded by an A-list of celebrities, such as Tim Kring (Heroes), Warren Ellis (comic and Science Fiction author), and Ze Frank (Internet comedian).

What’s it all for? Besides being plain good fun, at the end of its six-week run, the IftF will release the official “Superstruct Report,” detailing insights gained and best tactics discovered for surviving future threats and creating superstructures. The report is expected to be released in April 2009 and will be emailed to all registered players. Even after the official game is over, the Superstruct site will remain live and open in archival form, for players to share their accomplishments with friends and family.

So, think you have what it takes to survive in the harsh world of 2019? Think the future needs what you have to offer? You have about 4 weeks to prove it, so get going! Superstruct is scheduled to end its run on November 17, so get in there and save the world!

Holomove Post-Game Chat Announced

Holomove logoSpring is over, but the “little birds” are still whispering – this time regarding the long-awaited Holomove Post-Game PM Chat! Members of the team behind the game will be gathering in Boston on Friday, July 18th at 4PM ET to chat with players, mere hours before ARGFest officially kicks off. Fear not, for non-ARGFesters will still be able to participate via live audio chat (details to follow).

Stay tuned to the Unforum thread or ARGNet for more details as they are made available.

Editor’s note: We had originally announced the wrong date, but we have it correct now. Sorry for the confusion!

Dharma Needs A Few Gullible Men (and Women)

octagon.jpgIt should be no surprise to anyone who has been following the show LOST that there would be something special during the season finale. Fans were not disappointed. Close to the end of the episode, a mysterious commercial branded with “Paid for by ABC” aired, advertising a recruiting event for a company called Octagon Global Recruiting. They are looking for A LOT of “volunteers to assist in a range of unpaid positions” – a scrolling list displays diverse opportunities and skills ranging from Physicists, Mathematicians, and Botanical Researchers, to Drivers, Janitors, and Ex-Military. This recruiting event will be taking place in San Diego, July 24-27… wait, what’s that, you say? Those dates seem familiar? They should – they’re the same dates as the San Diego Comic Con.

The website for Octagon Global Recruiting doesn’t currently display much other than a streaming version of the aforementioned commercial. However, there is one other nugget of information to be found, tying Octagon Global to the Dharma Initiative. The two organizations are collaborating and recruiting volunteers willing to “contribute to an important new research project.” Interested? Just enter your email to register. So far, no reports have surfaced regarding contact from Octagon, but stay tuned.

Discussion has already started at Unfiction andThe Fuselage

An Emergen-C at Holomove

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It was a busy Wednesday morning for UPS drivers – several UPS Next Day Air packages went out for urgent delivery to unsuspecting ARGers. Despite the UPS Tracking numbers being scratched off, more than likely in an attempt to disguise the package’s place of origin, UPS staff had replaced them, and the secret was revealed – the packages had originated from San Francisco. Upon opening, mysterious contents were revealed: an opened and empty packet of Emergen-C (a powdered Vitamin C energy drink) with a picture of 3 multicolored balls joined by white bars on the back resembling a chemical model of… something, and a letter on Department of Energy letterhead, dated January 30, 1985, with sentences redacted in an attempt to protect the innocent (or the guilty) and calling for the resignation of an as-yet-unnamed person. Each letter had different lines blacked out, requiring players to piece together the letter’s contents.

Also included was a paper origami crane. As many of you are aware, our good friend and PuzzleMaster, Dave Szulborski, has been seriously ill, and an effort to fold 1000 paper cranes for him is underway, so the appearance of the paper cranes in the packages caused much speculation. Happily, a tip came ARGN’s way to let us know it was an homage to Dave, and a way to send their best wishes to him from behind the curtain.

Also receiving a package was Daniel Terdiman at C|Net, who seemed distressed by the open Emergen-C packet, and proceeded to scold the PMs for scaring him. “Does anyone really think sending unmarked packages with cut-open powder packets is a good idea these days?” Granted, this is not the first time the media has freaked out over anthrax scares from trailhead packages.

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Having a Ball with the Joker

The Dark KnightOn March 26th, a new chapter in the Dark Knight alternate reality game began, as the cell phones that some had received inside a tasty, Joker-commissioned treat — phones that some figured may never ring again — sprang to life. A text message read: “Hey clown! Long time, no crime spree! Well, put on your floppy shoes and answer this question: are you ready to get to work?”  For those brave enough to text back, answering in the affirmative, the reward was a second text: “Glad to see you’re still alive and kicking. I’ll be in touch before Poisson D’Avril”

A quick Google reveals “Poisson D’Avril” to be, literally, “April Fish” in French. Poisson D’Avril is also the French equivalent of April Fools.  This gave the indication that something Jokerish was about to occur, prior to April Fools!

The phones went active again on March 30th, but this time, with a call from an actual person instead of a text message.  The recipients were informed that they were one of 17 “clowns” remaining, and each were given a letter to remember and report to the rest of the “clowns” (for example, “‘E’ as in Elephant”).  Sixteen other letters were given to the remaining clowns, which led to a new web site being discovered — Clown Travel Agency.  The site was simple in design, with only a suitcase adorned with stickers from several worldwide destinations, and an envelope which stated “Departure Date: 4-01”.

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Why So Serious?

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Hey everyone! I have BREAKING NEWS here from Comic-Com!

Purchasing some overpriced “Stargate Atlantis Collector Edition” bottled water, I received a VERY unusual dollar bill in change.

George’s face has been obscured and replaced with a… can it be… somewhat JOKER-like face, and the caption below reads “WHYSOSERIOUS”.

This, of course, leads us to www.whysoserious.com – could the Joker be looking for recruits?

Join the puzzly goodness at http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/ or online IRC in #unfiction!

Puzzles Across America: Ravenchase Strikes Again

great-america.jpgWhen we last checked in with Ravenchase Adventures, our lovely and talented Jessica Price had attended an event in Chicago, amid chilly weather conditions. As was reported back in January, the company is set to start the Great America Race, a cross-country puzzle trail and treasure hunt. The race begins tomorrow (July 14th) in Washington DC and, over the course of seven days, visits a number of cities across the continental United States, including Richmond (Virginia), Charlotte (North Carolina), Nashville (Tennessee), Atlanta and Savannah (Georgia) and Panama City (Florida). Things are scheduled to wrap up in New Orleans (Louisiana) on July 21. Participants will be using cars, trains, motorcycles, buses, or boats as necessary to travel between different clues and different cities.

While it may be too late to join the Great America Race, be sure to keep an eye on the site, as they’ll have updates from the race along the way. If you live in one of those cities, maybe you’ll actually see the participants as they race through your town, looking for clues! Even if you’re *not* in one of those towns, Ravenchase Adventures organizes many other public hunts throughout the year. In fact, in September they’re having one in Sunny Sandy Eggo and I totally plan on attending! Anyone want to join me (heaven’s knows I need the help!)?

Other noteworthy events in the upcoming months include “The Great New Amsterdam Subway Chase” on July 29 in New York City and the “Quest for the Lost Golden Garden Gnome” on July 15th in Princeton, New Jersey. The starting time for both of these events is 5 am, so grab a strong coffee and get involved!

It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… No! It’s Project Osprey!

overwatch.jpgA voicemail was received on ARGNet’s voicemail (which has now also surfaced on YouTube) from a gentleman who seems to be very disturbed by the recent acts of his company – a project called Osprey that is about to “step way over the line”. It appears to be a “sting operation” of some kind and being use to test “new tech”. Luckily, he manages to direct us to a Tradecraft journal web site before the voicemail is cut short as someone appears to arrive during his call…

Thus begins OVERWATCH, a new interactive fiction project by Djinn Productions, who are also the team behind the on-going project “Autumn Country”. According to David Valley (Djinn Productions’ contact for this project), OVERWATCH is still first and foremost a story. Although they will be adding more ARG-like elements than were in Autumn Country, it is not primarily a game – but participants who don’t enjoy or immerse themselves into the ARG element “will only ‘get’ about 50% of the story.” By the time it’s over, the PMs expect the story to be told over many types of media, and will be using puzzles and hidden paths to tell not only the story but to expand the character’s backgrounds and various subplots.

Currently, OVERWATCH is in the “Prelude” stage, laying the groundwork form the first story arc. The interactive elements will start to emerge during this first story arc, and hopefully motivate the players into finding out “how” the story is being told. Players can expect episodic updates every five to seven days throughout the Prelude stage, and moving to 10-14 days once the first story arc begins. This first phase is expected to run through August 2007.

For more information, check out the Unfiction thread. To hear the voicemail for yourself, steer your browser to YouTube.
While not a “traditional” ARG, new forms of games and storytelling are always exciting to watch and see what happens and how they unfold – and since this one has just started, it’s easy to get started and get involved!