Author: Jackie Kerr

ARGFest-O-Con 2008 – Ready or Not, Here Comes Awesome

logo-wninjas-trans-lg.pngOnce again, ARGNet is proud to join Unfiction in hosting ARGFest-O-Con. This year’s weekend ARG odyssey sails into Boston, Massachusetts on July 18-20 at the Boston Radisson Hotel and Conference Center. Scheduled events include a Friday night Welcome cocktail party, a full day of conference talks on Saturday, as well as the return of FestQuest – the puzzley adventure that takes you around the highlights of the host city. Registration for the event recently opened on the ARGFest website for the low cost of $25 (the Friday night reception is an additional $15). Booking now guarantees you a seat to the hottest ARG show of the year and a weekend of adventure with fellow ARG enthusiasts. Where else would you be able to rub elbows and fight over the last bits of buffet bacon with some of the biggest names in the genre? Book now!

Rooms at the Radisson are filling up fast, but a few slots remain for those procrastinators among you. Information about booking for the ARGFest rate of $189 a night (plus tax) can be found at the conference website.

ARGFest-O-Con is also actively seeking private and corporate sponsors for the event. Sponsorship opportunities have been outlined and can be viewed on the ARGfest website. This year also tills new soil with the addition of the Order of the Trout, an individual sponsorship tier that promises secret handshakes, troutly designation, and the joy of being referred to as “Fish Face” at the conference. Rarely have I wanted anything oh so badly. Now if only the Order came with a Wii…

If Looks Could Kill… *ZAP!*

ilck.jpgVroom vroom! The sleek champagne Toyota Camry zips around the corner, coming to a screeching halt. Out steps a leggy, ultra-fashionable African-American woman, arriving to hook up with her ultra-fashionable, successful boyfriend. She flips her keys to the valet – a little “blip blip!” sounds from the Camry’s push-button car alarm, like Kit saying “see ya later!” to Knight Rider. Who is this woman? Where did she get such an awesome car with such swanky accoutrements? Where did she find that hunky boyfriend of hers? What does her rolling stone of a father have to do with the dudes who stole her purse? What kind of pie did Nana bake? And where on earth did she find those fantastic shoes?!

The latest in cross-media marketing mayhem produced by Burrell Communications Group and 42 Entertainment for Toyota’s 2009 Camry, entitled “If Looks Could Kill,” takes you inside the world of high fashion and high espionage with Bianca, the fashionista lead character poised to pique the interest of young, hip, African-American women – women, who indeed, need a swanky Toyota Camry. In each weekly episode of this interactive drama, Bianca is pressed to unravel a mystery of intrigue and espionage, all while juggling the stressful duties of her job as a fashion designer, keeping her boyfriend happy and interested, and making sure not to miss coffee and dessert with her Nana. For seven weeks, participants are treated to six movie-styled webisodes of Bianca’s crazy life as she tools around through New York City (without ever running into traffic) in her champagne-colored Camry (with touch navigation and integrated Bluetooth). Within each episode are opportunities for players to help Bianca escape from trouble, as she turns to the camera and asks you to do something for her, such as download photos and find flyers, and email her the information she needs to stay in the game.

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Open Call for Writers – ARGNet Wants YOU!

With all of the news coming out regarding alternate reality games, we are hoping to find a few good men and women to assist us in writing articles and features for our web site.

If you are someone who is dependable, honest, and willing to write an article for ARGNet once a month, we’re looking for you. The submission guidelines are as follows:

  1. Write a 100-150 word blurb-style article on any currently running game. For recent examples, see The Case of the Gumshoe Radio Play and The Trouble With Tropes.
  2. Write a 400-500 word feature article about any of these topics: 1) a game, current or historical; 2) an interesting story or aspect of the ARG community; 3) a topic of interest to the ARGNet readership; 4) being a puppetmaster or behind-the-scenes game creator.

Submissions need to be sent in to [email protected] by 11:59 pm (CST, GMT -6) by this Friday, February 2nd, 2007. Naturally, spelling and grammar count, and a submission does not guarantee an invite to join the ARGNet staff.

We’re also interested in identifying key members of the community who would be willing and able to act as researchers and stringers for currently running ARGs. If you’re an avid player and have time to provide ARGNet staff members with highlight reels of games, but not enough time to dedicate to writing entire articles, we still want you! Send an email to [email protected] and we’ll add you to our growing list of community researchers.

Steve Peters Gets His Geek On with Geeks On

‘Tis the season to be podcast, fa la la la la, la la go Steve.
Strike the gong and turn on the mic fa la la la la, la la Peters.
GeeksOn Podcast Interviewee fa la la la la la STEVE PETERS.
Talks about some ARGs and Gaming, fa la la la la, la la la la!

Steve Peters of 42 Entertainment sat down with GeeksOn for an extensive podcast interview on his work in Alternate Reality Gaming.

Covered during the nearly hour-long (!) discussion:
· Steve’s experience with 42 Entertainment
· History and general information about ARGs
· I Love Bees
· Last Call Poker
· Art of the Heist
· Technology in ARG production
· The 4th wall
· The process of producing an ARG
· Ninjas
· The future of ARGs, including their potential uses and Second Life

GeeksOn produces wonderful, pithy podcasts and their panel discussions are witty and intelligent. They even speak in alien, sometimes. (Oh geek <3) These guys ask some excellent questions about the genre and the discussion is wildly entertaining. Click to Listen

Elan Lee: Long Time Launderer, First Time Guest

radiotower.jpeg
Spreading the ARG love like butter, listeners in the San Francisco Bay area can tune in this Thursday, October 19th, to KALX radio (90.7 FM) and hear 42Entertainment’s and Edoc Laundry’s Elan Lee as he breakdances slip-slidey around the recording studio for a special broadcast of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s Northgate Magazine.

Ok, so he’ll really be discussing Alternate Reality Gaming. (A girl can dream, right?) Lee will focus his attention on game design, ARGs as a new artform, and the future of independent and marketing-driven ARGs.

The broadcast starts at 9am Pacific on October 19th for those in the area, while streaming audio is available for internet listeners. If you can’t make the date, an mp3 recording of the newshour will be available on the KALX website the following weekend.

Greek Mythology Hits the Small Screen (and Your Manly Chest) With Punch

EDOCStaringBefuddled.jpgNot content with spreading its artistic, mysterious, cottony fingers across your chest to spread its message, EDOC Laundry’s coded T-shirts are taking a starring role on CBS’s CSI:NY on Wednesday, October 11.

EDOC Laundry captured the attention of co-creator and executive producer, Anthony E. Zuiker, who found the concept of clues to a murder mystery captured in the everyday clothing item of a t-shirt a compelling idea. He worked to script an episode of CSI:NY, “Hung Out to Dry,” using the EDOC Laundry theme, collaborating with the fashion line’s designers to create 4 new t-shirts to incorporate into the mythological murder mystery. Watch raptly as Gary Sinise and the other cast members stare inexplicably at the trippy t-shirts left on the victims by a rabid serial murderer who spent entirely too much time with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and his sister’s Barbie dolls as a child. Eat popcorn and giggle as big-time New York crime scene detectives wonder “Who on God’s Green Earth would think putting bizarre dripping bloody lines on a shirt would *mean* something besides, you know, bizarre dripping bloody lines? Who are these criminal master minds of puzzling creativity?! Damn these crafty kids!” ARG fans are guaranteed to enjoy this game to TV show crossover, and, if rumors on the internets can be believed, will be treated to cameo appearances by Elan Lee and Shane Small (the rumor mill mentioned “lab coats”).

EDOCArgus.jpgTo celebrate the collaboration, EDOC Laundry will be selling limited editions of the four shirts created for the episode. Each of the four (Sadly, all men’s styles – Hydra would have looked great on a women’s shirt) shirts is a EDOCHydra.jpggraphical representation of a character from Greek Mythology: Hydra, Hades, Hypnos, and Argus. Furthermore, a fifth shirt inspired by the episode will also be available on the website, depicting the beheaded Hydra. The shirts will be in stock on the EDOC Laundry website beginning on October 11th and should ship in 5 to 10 days.

The media blitz is, naturally, timed to hype EDOC Laundry’s upcoming Winter season, which goes live in November with an entire season of new t-shirts, puzzles, and new videos. Fans of the game can hope that the blitz doesn’t peter out into a fizzle with the game continuing to draw on its old habits of “buy, solve, watch, repeat.” The audience may have wandered off to other engagements during the off-season downtime, bored with the story delivery, difficulty of finding the clothing items, and (often) questionably edited video scripts that hammer heavy on metaphor. Luckily, the quality and look of the clothing remains satisfying, even if the storytelling burps a stinky once in a while.

Tune in next Wednesday night at 10pm ET/PT to catch EDOC Laundry make its television debut on CSI:NY, grab a limited edition shirt, snag a peek at the new clothing line and make sure to catch the next season of EDOC Laundry when it arrives in November.

Catch a quick look at the upcoming episode of CSI:NY on the CBS webpage. Note: CBS only likes Internet Explorer, or the IE Tab extension for Firefox. Video preview also requires Flash player, and either RealMedia player or Windows Media Player (Seriously. Can CBS be any more obnoxious?) But, the clip does show a girl in bra and panties, as well as painted man-nipples and a 360-degree camera swoop around Gary Sinise pondering, so you know, maybe it’s worth it.

The Hour of Needing a Title for This Article – Cathy’s Book Answers Call, Delivers Hot, Extra-large Pizza Pie of Awesome

cover.jpg.JPGI have a secret that I wasn’t planning on sharing. It’s almost too embarrassing to put into type on a site such as this, but my dedication to the readership is too great for me not to – and so I entrust you with this meaty nugget of shame: when I first read Cathy’s Book, I didn’t look at the evidence packet AT ALL. Even worse? I didn’t even go onto the internet and hunt for websites OR dial the phone numbers. Faced with the chance to read a book while surfing the internet and playing with a metric crap-ton of awesome evidence – a dream of mine, really, as I can barely keep my head together long enough to complete anything linear in one shot – I managed to overcome my attention deficit, which usually compels me to do all three of the above mentioned activities while also watching TV, for 2 hours as I read (and finished) the text of Cathy’s Book.

So there you have it: I am a Bad ARGer. I failed in my mission to hunt, explore, and solve, instead drooling excitedly over only one part of a narrative specifically MADE for hunting, exploring and solving: the static text. Simply because it is That Good. On the second, third and fourth readings, the narrative only gets better with the internet presence and the evidence packet adding fine layers of buttercream frosting onto an already scrumptious, many-tiered cake of delicious prose. Cathy’s Book is an absolute treat to read: narratively and visually striking, the text melds magically with the tactile pleasure of picking up bits of newsprint and old photographs and the intellectual pleasure of seeking new information on the internet and dialing in to someone else’s voicemail, hearing their messages.

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Flakes on a Refrain – Brain Ouchies Courtesy of EDOC Laundry

JEFF!.jpg
If the catchy rhythm of ragtime music, soft-shoeing in your ear, sets your brain humming, the challenge of EDOC Laundry may tune your fork. Since the opening of the company’s online retail store, EDOC Laundry has introduced players to two websites related to the mystery of the band Poor Richard’s demise, and in its wake, a cresting tide of dead bodies. Having worn and faded the few remaining unsolved shirts – two elusive hats still evading purchase by their wallets – players had been intently twiddling their thumbs, pondering a great many things. (Really great things, such as “How much can we really HATE Sally?” and “How many bad PhotoShops of Jeff can be tolerated without inducing projectile vomit?”) Hence, once Sally and Lyn began posting on their respective websites, the players rejoiced quietly, thrilled to finally be getting a little action from the ladies.

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ABC Family Announces Upcoming ARG

Fallen.jpgHot in pursuit of the internet audience, ABC‘s sister network,
ABC Family, has announced their plans for an alternate reality game
based on their upcoming television show, Fallen. Announced today in a
press release found on SciFi Wire,
the game is set to launch following the 2-hour premire on July 23rd.
Spearheading the project is Matt Wolf, designer of games for other media features,
including The Bourne Identity.

The show is based on the young-adult series of books of the same name by Thomas Sniegoski.
The main character of the book series discovers on his 18th birthday that he belongs to a race
of fallen angels on Earth (The Fallen), and of the prophesy that he is the one who might bridge
the gap between The Fallen and Heaven. Beyond the story of the race and his adjustment to his discovery,
he and his family are pursued by a race of killer angels, out to destroy him. The Fallen ARG,
on the heels of the successful Lost Experience for ABC, is expected to be integrated into the telecast,
with clues to the game hidden within, allowing viewers the chance to engage with the show’s story.

Since the rumor of Ocular Effect‘s
link to Disney and ABC, it was hypothesized that it might be an ARG for The Fallen. With this new information,
the possibility remains, though the links might now be more fragile – for instance, the countdown clock on Ocular Effect
runs out on July 17th, almost a week before the expected July 23rd launch of the game tied to Fallen. Will that week be
a moment for the ARG audience to dabble in the Fallen universe, or is Ocular Effect something different entirely?

Zoom In On Ocular Effect

OcularEffect.jpg The ARGN Tipline lightbulb flashed this morning, alerting us to a new message arriving at the ARGcave. Our intrepid hero reporters donned their shiny gold catsuits and red swirlie over-the-suit panties, flipped their capes over their shoulders and flew into the internet wild to gather information, like the Thunderbirds but with better marionettes.

They came back with a mysterious website, Ocular Effect. The rather barren site displays a flash movie entitled “spiroclock” – but wait! Is that what we think it is?! IT’S A COUNTDOWN! We hooked Brains up to his new fangled math program and he chugged out an answer – Monday! The countdown clock runs to this upcoming Monday, July 17th! Holy good mathing, Brains!

We then sent Virgil Tracy out to whois the domain. He was amazingly successful and Lady Penelope was most enthused. Virgil gathered intriguing information that leads the ARGNbirds to believe that the magical world of Disney is behind this project. Gordon, not wanting to be out-performed by that pantywaist Virgil, noticed in his investigation that Ocular Effects redirects to 00112358.net, which isn’t registered to Disney, oddly enough.

What may happen on Monday has yet to be discovered — it’s unclear what Disney project is being promoted, and equally hazy what the strange, spinning wheel with the ooglie-booglie, danger music represents, but rest assured, the ARGNbirds are ready, prepped, and pantied to keep you informed of every surprise.

I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours: EDOC Laundry Dresses for Success

Edoc4.jpg“Psssst! Hey, you. Look at this!” Your head turns at the sound, only to find your eyes landing on some punk lifting up his shirt. Repulsed, you start to turn away and return to your daily machinations, hoping to some how erase the image of pasty tummy skin poking out at you, but something makes you look again. Is it your love for a human train-wreck, or your fascination with anyone willing to flash a complete stranger on the street? If you’re seeing the same thing I am, it’s neither of the above, but the inner-shirt code on a piece of EDOC Laundry.

Anticipated for months, the EDOC Laundry game rushed to the stage to belt out its ARG rock this week with a preview of the next season of clothing, two new websites, and more mystery swirling around its characters. Also new to EDOC Laundry is the unveiling of their eStore, where customers can purchase clothing online directly from EDOC. (Note: The stock is currently low, but a new shipment is expected in about 2 weeks. Backorders will be available on items expected to arrive soon. Check back often for updates. Also, despite earlier reports of tiny tiny fetally-sized shirts, the EDOC items have been resized to be more generous.) The shirts are beautifully made, the caution to detail in each print showing through with quality, and the designs are unique, striking and, speaking of the women’s articles I have, flattering. The preview of the Fall/Winter catalog appears to improve upon an already distinct brand, adding more depth to their offerings (zip hoodies, jackets, and sweaters for both sexes) and designs that are even more rich in detail. Rumors swirl around the future clothing offerings by EDOC, suggesting experiments with glowing dyes and messages that reveal themselves only after the shirt has spent a few turns in the laundry machine. Maybe if I’m lucky, my wish for flip-flop sandals that mark a coded footprint in the sand won’t be too far away from realization.

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D.C. Goes Kra-Z For LCP

lcp_dc.jpgThis past weekend, Last Call Poker hit Washington D.C. with a live game of Tombstone Hold ‘Em. A crowd of 25 took part at the event, which included a poker tournament and a small favor for Lucky Brown, creator of Last Call Poker.

The games took place at Historic Congressional Cemetery near RFK Stadium in D.C. where participants were greeted by a pointy, fuzzy-headed girl acting as the liaison for Lucky and drizzly rain. There, they were given chips for the tournament, instructions for tournament play, and the opportunity to peruse the historical section of the cemetery to be used during the game. Players met at the chapel in the center and were introduced to the cemetery and its history by the Chairman of the Board. Among the more flavorful members of the cemetery are John Phillip Sousa, J. Edgar Hoover, and some early members of Congress. Following the introduction, the tournament began and “tables” of 4 to 5 pairings were sent off to duke it out in Hold ‘Em. Winners of the tournament include UnFiction members LouMac, Cortana, and Rowan.

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The Laramie Project – Charity ARG Event

clockredbg.jpgStarting August 6th, gamers will have the chance to participate in a 24-hour ARG in conjunction with Blogathon 2005.

The ARG is based around Gillian Laramie, leader of the Interred Technology Council, who recently escaped from prison where she was serving time for murder. Last seen in the York area, this places her, perhaps coincidently, where many of her former lieutenants relocated. Players, together with her former employees, will go for a crazy 24-hour spree to hunt down and stop Gillian from attacking again.

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The Traveler – It’s A Series?

travelerThere it was – its silvery pinstriped cover, twinkling oddly in the fluorescent lighting, resting atop the black lacquer display shelves before me as I stumbled in the front door. I paused, catching my breath – I could almost see her winking at me from behind the glistening blue sunglass lens, “I’m here, waiting.”

Stepping forward, momentarily detained by the security guard that seemed desirous of wishing me a good evening, I snatched a copy off of the shelves. It was in my possession – that “rumored for months” novel, written by the elusive John Twelve Hawks, with the delectable story-based game companion websites – The Traveler.

I rushed over to the counter, whipped out my Barnes and Noble membership card (really, it’s made me spend more money than it’s saved me. Tricky corporate entities!), saved myself 10% off the cover price, and rushed out of the store, once again being wished a good evening by the kindly guard. It was to be a good night for at last, I had The Traveler in my possession.

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The Daughters of Freya are Gonna Get Ya

freya.jpgEvery once in a while, the staff of ARGN are approached by people wanting to share their talents and ideas with the ARG community. When Michael Betcherman, a co-creator of emailmystery.com approached us with an opportunity to experience the mystery of The Daughters of Freya, I jumped upon the chance to try something a little out of the ordinary.

ARGers, when not in the midst of a game, usually spend their time honing their puzzling skills by creating or playing puzzle trails and dunking their pens into the ink well of the internet to find some similar puzzle game. Rarely do they find the chance to indulge themselves in the “other side” of ARGs, the more literary, story and character driven half. Michael and his co-creator, David Diamond, have tapped the proverbial beer keg of immersive story greatness that allows even the most hardcore, plot-driven ARGers the opportunity to flex their brainpower on something other than vigenere or the latest Dan Brown novel.

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More Cowbell, Please: A Memoir

moofront.jpgIt was a sunny day – the kind of day that springs forth from the drudgery of winter to blind you with its brilliant sunshine and pleasant breezes, imprinting itself onto your memory. The air was filled with the smells of cherry and tulip blossoms and the slight overtone of a diesel-fueled truck, while the thumping of nearby construction pounded out the rhythm of a downtown rave party, minus the fancy lights, drugs and half-naked dancing people thrumming against your leg.

I had decided to leave the lab early. The spring day called out to me, “Jackie! Leave the window-less torture of a lab you’re sitting in! Drop the data analysis and run and frolic in my splendor!” Not being one to ignore calls of nature in the off chance that I might end up with wet pants, I grabbed my things and snuck out. My sandaled feet skipped along the sidewalk, my toes happy to be wriggling in the air of spring and reveling in the vitamin D of the sun. As I waited to cross the street outside of the University of Maryland Medical Center, I felt someone sneak up behind me.

“Moooooo.”

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Location33 – A Trip Through Time and Space

location33.jpgFor anyone wishing to explore their city through their ears and the voice of the future, Will Carver, a student with the Interactive Media Division at the University of Southern California, has created a “location-based sci-fi folk album” that unravels as the player pieces together musical clues streaming from locations in Culver City, California. By connecting to the game network in Culver City via cell phone or PDA, the player is able to unlock a musical story while moving between the 20 nodes as they walk the path of the composition from day to day, turning Carver’s location33 into a week-long, interactive aural experience for the player.

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