Author: Kris Nordgren

Six to Start and BBC Bring Codebreaking Back to Bletchley Park

Image courtesy of the BBC

On September 10, 2011, Pete Ryland cracked The Code and took home the coveted prize, a unique bronze and silver mathematical sculpture by Bathsheba Grossman. The lead-up to the tense finale was a collaborative transmedia treasure hunt centred around the three-part BBC2 show The Code, presented by Marcus du Sautoy. The game was designed by Six to Start, working with the BBC from the beginning to integrate clues and puzzles seamlessly within the broadcasts.

Before the first airing of The Code on July 27, about 700 postcards were sent out with an image and a code. Collaborating on Facebook, participants in this first stage soon discovered that each postcard image was a thin horizontal slice of a three-dimensional Platonic solid. Several of these “perfect” shapes then had to be combined and arranged into three concentric spherical shells – revealing the complicated nested sculpture that would be the grand prize.

Now the hunt could begin in earnest. The main stage of the game was intricately connected with the three episodes of the show: Numbers, Shapes, and Prediction. For each episode, participants discovered three clues: one by watching the program, one clue by playing related Flash games on the website, and one clue by solving a puzzle described on the blog. They also had to complete the Prime Number Challenge as a group, which involved uploading photos of all 305 prime numbers from 2 to 2011 to collectively receive the sixth clue for each episode. The six clues were then entered into a codebreaker to reveal three passwords, which granted access to the next stage of the game: The Ultimate Challenge.

Continue reading

Six to Start Gets You in Shape for Zombie Apocalypse with “Zombies, Run!”

Six to Start have recently introduced their latest independent game, Zombies, Run!, and it has taken only days to reach the desired amount of pledges on Kickstarter to develop it by the first quarter of 2012. It is easy to see what has gotten gamers, runners and zombie aficionados so excited.

Zombies, Run! is a running game and interactive audio adventure which takes place during a zombie apocalypse. The game mechanics are fairly simple. The player assumes the role of the zombie survivalist known as “Runner 5” by going for a run with their smartphone and a pair of headphones. As players run, they collect items that are vital for the survival of their community.  Their base grows thanks to the player allocating resources where they are needed most. And as it grows, more content will be unlocked. The running missions are an integral part of a transmedia storyline which unfolds through the orders and voice recordings heard while running, and also through puzzles, websites and documents that players can uncover online once they have safely returned home. As an exercise aid, the game also keeps track of more traditional running metrics such as distance covered and calories burned.

Continue reading

Six to Start and BBC Team Up for “The Code Challenge”

Six to Start and the BBC have teamed up to create a transmedia experience tied in with BBC Two documentary The Code, expected to air at the end of July. The Code is presented by Professor of Mathematics Marcus du Sautoy (Horizon on BBC2, The Beauty of Diagrams on BBC4) and explores how the world around us conforms to and can be explained by mathematical codes. Six to Start are next-generation storytellers with plenty of experience creating storytelling projects for different clients, often in the form of alternate reality games or treasure hunts. They’ve worked with the BBC before on projects like Spooks: Code 9 and Seven Ages Quest. As a first for the BBC and possibly a world first, an interactive experience called The Code Challenge has been seamlessly integrated in the writing and filming of The Code since inception. Viewers can participate in an engaging treasure hunt which will take place before, during, and after the series that will extend their understanding of basic mathematical principles.

The Code Challenge begins well before the airing of the actual show. Soon, 1000 people in the UK will receive a secret message with one of the first puzzles of the challenge. For a chance to be one of those 1000, keep an eye on Twitter @bbccode and apply via Twitter or e-mail. A few weeks before the show airs, several Flash games containing clues, puzzles, and more information about the Code will also appear online.  The series itself is expected to air at the end of July and will be split into three 60-minute episodes: Magic Numbers, Nature’s Building Blocks and Predicting the Future. Six clues are connected to each episode. Three will be hidden in the programme itself, which can be watched live on BBC Two or on BBC iPlayer. One community clue can only be solved by working together with a group of players. Two further clues will be revealed on the blog and through a Flash game. Players can then enter the six answers they found for each episode into the ‘codebreaker’ to receive three passwords with which they can unlock the ultimate challenge.

Continue reading

Socks Inc. Introduces Players to a World of Sockcraft

Prepare to work your socks off at Socks Inc., the factory that makes Believe. Socks Inc. is the largest employer of sock puppets in the world and if you play your cards right, you too could be hired, starting today. To complete your employment application, create a sock puppet, go the Socks Inc. website, and register to join the fun. Socks Inc. is the second alternate reality game to come from Awkward Hug, following up on their romantic comedy Must Love Robots. Over the coming months, Socks Inc., lovingly referred to as “World of Sockcraft” by Awkward Hug’s lead game designer Jim Babb, plans on sending you and your sock puppet on countless storytelling missions that will keep you on your toes.

The main storyline of Socks Inc. is explored in Mr. Barnsworth’s office, the boss at Socks, Inc. Other themes, stories and missions  are available in the company’s other departments: so far, these include Athletics, Groundskeeping, Politics, Waste Management, and Research & Development. The webpage has a few empty slots left for future departments and added content. Socks Inc. employees are sent out into a world of storytelling adventures, which are usually introduced by one of the many colourful characters running the different departments. Once you have accepted a mission, you and your sock puppet avatar need to go into the real world to complete it, and this is where the potential for creativity kicks in.

Given the task of recording your sock puppet rapping, you could just download the beat and rap a few lines. Or, you could spend days building a set and directing a full-blown music video. Whatever you come up with, the next step is to upload your picture or video onto the Socks Inc. site, where it becomes visible on your profile page and can get responses from other players. If you happen to have made a particularly embarrassing attempt, there is also an option to make your video private so only you can view it. As you complete each mission, you unlock more adventures, stories, and badges. Progress is measured on a gauge and a progress bar on your profile page. Co-developer Julie Coniglio confirmed that the game is scalable, with new online content being planned as well as future live events.

Continue reading

Discover History at NYPL and Find the Future

According to Jane McGonigal, gamers tend to read books more than they watch TV. Books give us big ideas and inform our imaginations, create new worlds and take us on amazing adventures. Oddly enough, the place where books are kept and made available, the library, does not usually fill us with the same sense of wonder. The New York Public Library wants to change that perception. The library’s goal is to “inspire people around the world to see libraries as a place where they can achieve their dreams and invent their own future” and “show off NYPL as a space for active creation and social collaboration.” To do this, the library has developed Find the Future, an interactive experience that guides visitors through the many artifacts housed at the New York Public Library. The game is directed by Jane McGonigal and her husband Kiyash Monsef, and designed and developed by Playmatics and Natron Baxter Applied Gaming.

Find the Future will initially be played by 500 participants who will be locked into the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building overnight on May 20, 2011. Once inside, players will go on real-world missions by following virtual clues on laptops and smartphones, collaborating online to discover 100 amazing and unique items from the collections of the New York Public Library, like Charles Dickens’ letter opener or a draft version of the Declaration of Independence. After finding each object, they will write a short piece based on the experience, inspiring the future with their personal contribution, which will later be bundled and published in a book. As McGonigal explained to, “it really becomes clear that for every moment in history there was a person who set that moment in action — and you could be that person.”

Continue reading