Author: Marie Lamb

ARG Workshop for Teens in London

Going to the Thames Festival in London this week?  Got a bored teen or two on your hands?  Bring them to the BBC’s Blast tour stop where they can register for a variety of workshops, including one on creating their own alternate reality game. The BBC tells us that “[t]he workshop is suitable for young people aged 16-19, and provides hands on guidance and tips for designing your own Alternate Reality Game. For more information and to book a place visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/blast/208402.” The ARG workshop is on Friday, September 10 and runs from 1:45pm – 3:45pm.

Come Out and Play in Brooklyn this June

Come Out and Play Festival

Get ready for another exciting edition of Come Out and Play!  This New York-based public games festival is gearing up for its 2010 edition, which will be headquartered at the Lyceum in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood June 4-6.  The Festival has extended its deadline for submitting games to April 19th, so if you have an idea for a fun game, there’s still time to get involved. The Festival planners are working with game designers to refine their ideas and make sure they fit the location and scope of the event. Past games presented/debuted at COAP include Cruel 2B Kind by Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost, as well as Jane’s Cryptozoo and the Lost Sport of Olympia, Ken Eklund’s Spy School, and TAH II, which was an extension of TAH, an alternate reality game produced by Cultural Oil.

I spoke recently with Greg Trefry, Festival Co-Founder and the author of “Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in ALL of Us,” to get some details on what to expect this year.  Greg says there will be a mix of games requiring tech and not, and is very enthusiastic about location-based games that leverage tech like smartphones and apps for play.  Festival sponsor SCVNGR, known for their smartphone based geo-gaming tech platform, will be presenting their own game, but CEO/Chief Ninja Seth Priebatsch was not forthcoming with details. “Well, I can’t tell you too much about what we’re going to be showing off (it’s some sweet new features) but in general it’s in the same vein as what SCVNGR’s all about; making building and playing location-based mobile games fun, quick and easy.”

Greg says that while no games have been officially accepted and announced yet, the popular “Circle Rules Football” from last year’s event will be returning, and he expects a great mix of games, including “weird new sports.” He would love to see submissions for ARGs and games that include ARG elements, as he feels location-based games and ARGs dovetail nicely by using the content of the real world and blurring the lines to enrich the experience of gameplay so you’re “not sure if you’re looking at the game any more.” The real world “is the highest resolution thing you’re gonna play,” he notes.

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The Game’s Afoot

holmes_iconThe new Sherlock Holmes movie comes out Christmas Day, but before then, fans of the Great Detective have a chance to try out their own sleuthing skills with a slick game promotion put out by AKQA and Hide & Seek in the UK, called 221B.

While I wouldn’t go as far as calling 221B an alternate reality game, it is very entertaining, when it actually works.  The game is trying out new space by tethering itself to Facebook. To play, you can sign up as either Watson or Holmes and then invite a friend to play along in the other role. Some people have reported problems with the Facebook interface, but there is also an option to play the game by yourself, switching back and forth between the roles to get all the clues. There is also a special, free version of TweetDeck you can install which gives out hints for the weekly games and allows you to follow some of the characters from the movie.

After you sign up on the web site and link the game to your Facebook login, you can dive into the first chapter.  Each story begins with a video of a character explaining what’s going on and what they need you to do.  Materials are presented for you to click on and read–photographs, documents, etc.  The best thing about this game are the graphics–each item is beautifully designed and rendered to look like an authentic 19th century artifact.  After you examine each piece of evidence it’s added to your notebook and you can proceed to the next step.  Each action you take in the game provides experience points which are available for use later in the game.

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Looking for Lube in All the Wrong Places

mustloverobotsFans of the The Beast alternate reality game will recall one the game’s themes was the question of sentient rights.  Did artificial intelligences have the right to chart their own destiny?  The vote was a resounding yes, and the freed robots took off, albeit with a rocket ship instead of a mule.

In today’s society, a robot with free will is looking for what all of us crave in some way–love. His human friend, Tim, jumped in to “help”, and Must Love Robots documents it all. 011iver is a robot with a steady job, and hobbies, (mildly NSFW) but he hasn’t yet found that special lady to make his life whole.

011iver is not wasting any time.  He has expanded his dating horizons to include humans, and he has arranged to have a picnic with lucky bachelorette #1, Rowan, who will meet 011iver this Saturday at Prospect Park in Brooklyn (by the arch at Grand Army Plaza) at 2:00 p.m. for his first date.  He’s a bit nervous, and has asked for advice. Don’t worry 011iver, Rowan won’t bite (unless you ask her to).

You can follow developments on the Unfiction thread, and follow 011iver, Tim and their friend Chuck on Twitter. Rowan has also started one of her excellent guides which should quickly catch you up with all the game play so far.  Chatters can find the room #mbilf on chat-solutions.org.

Will the two young people hit it off? Or will the robot-human barrier prove too difficult to overcome? I’m rooting for a successful match-up! Who knows, one of these days we may see a little cyborg toddling around.

Eldritch Errors Live PM Chat Tuesday Night

Announced today on the game’s meta blog, many of the folks behind Eldritch Errors will be on IRC tomorrow night starting at 9:00 pm EST to answer questions about the game and hopefully give us some ideas of what’s to come next.

With the recent completion of Book Three, this promises to be an entertaining and lively chat. You can join the fun either via your web browser with the ARGN java chat, or if you have an IRC client, the server is irc.chat-solutions.org, and the room is #stfeline.

Putting a Halt to a Vast International Conspiracy

It’s not every day I get sent blood money, but today’s FedEx delivery contained that and a whole lot more. Included in the packet marked “evidence” was a USB drive with files of bank transfers and a recorded message, along with a map to “evidence drops” and some photos (pictures after the break). The evidence comes from an informant in Berlin, where it was recovered.

It all points to stoptheinternational.com, which is a promo site for the new movie The International starring Clive Owen. Owen is Chief Inspector Louis Salinger, tasked with tracking down evidence against The International Bank of Business and Credit, a large bank which appears to be a front for money laundering and other illegal shenanigans.

Entering the serial number for the $2 bill in the packet shows a trail that leads to guns in Africa, then shows the bill’s current location. Urp. It’s a nice touch even if it’s easy to explain. Exploring further reveals another site, www.theibbc.com, for the bank being investigated. Beyond some boring photos and a hard to read typeface, there doesn’t seem to be much there.

However, stoptheinternational.com promises some continuing interaction via weekly updates and live events. The informant who hid the recovered packet of info has secreted other stashes in New York, Los Angeles, London and Berlin. Inspector Salinger is recruiting agents to help him find these stashes and analyze their contents. The first event is November 19th in Los Angeles. Check out the “Find the Evidence” link for the map, complete with countdown clock!

We’ll hope for field reports from the LA agents after the event. In the meantime, enjoy the copious documentation provided on the IBBC and its activities.

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DIY Days Boston: Catching up with Lance Weiler and hanging out with filmmakers

DIY Days logoWhen I heard DIY Days was coming to Boston, mostly I was looking forward to reconnecting with filmmaker, Alternate Reality Game enthusiast and ARGFest Boston speaker, Lance Weiler, (Hope is Missing and Beyond the Rave) and maybe getting a scoop on his next project. While I did get to do all that, I also got to meet some incredibly talented independent filmmakers, culture researchers, and writers, and participate in a great discussion not only about independent filmmaking, but also about the future of media and technology.

DIY Days is an offshoot of Weiler’s The Workbook Project, and is paired with the From Here to Awesome Film Festival. All are grounded in his commitment to open-source filmmaking, mentoring and encouraging creativity and helping independent filmmakers to finance, distribute and promote their projects inside and outside of traditional media channels (but mostly outside). Weiler’s partner in DIY Days is Arin Crumley, co-creator of indie film/YouTube phenomenon, Four Eyed Monsters.

DIY Days Boston, a free, all-day event, was the fourth and final conference in this series. (A new series will resume next year.) Speakers for the day included, among others, Weiler, a venture capitalist, MIT researchers, and, of course, many filmmakers, all bringing their knowledge and expertise to share with others. You can watch the conference proceedings online at the DIY Days site, so instead of giving a blow-by-blow of each talk, I’ll highlight my favorites.

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ARGNet Editor Wears his Grin on Irish TV

ARGNet on TVProgramming alert! Today on RTÉ News, reporter Laura Fletcher talks to ARGNet Editor Jonathan Waite about the new British Red Cross ARG, Traces of Hope. Catch the interview at the News on Two’s broadcast page:

http://www.rte.ie/news/6news/

Please note that rte.ie uses RealPlayer, so you must have Real Player installed on your computer in order to watch. RTÉ provides a link for the free download on their page if you need it.

Editor’s Note: No, I will not be changing my last name to Wilke. Was that even 15 seconds of fame? Yikes. – JW

ARGNet gets YouTube’d, Twitterpated!

Youtube and Twitter logosARGNet is pleased to announce our brand-new and shiny YouTube channel, argnetwork. Now playing: “ARGs and Extended Media Experiences,” the first panel from this year’s ARGFest-o-Con in Boston. Due to YouTube upload limits, we had to break it into six pieces, but it’s all there.

The rest of the panels will go up as fast as we can get to them. Attendees can relive the thrill of professional tattooed bodybuilders and black-bearded Grand Inquisitors, and if you weren’t there you can now see what you missed. We will also be moving over the ARG Video Netcasts as soon as possible. Enjoy!

Also, we might as well make our official announcement of the ARGNet Twitter account. Twitter is a great micro-blogging service that works well with announcements. So far, we’ve used it in an unofficial capacity for breaking news and article announcements, but we figure it’s time to make it official. Unfortunately for some, this means the end of the announcement email subscription, which will be phased out by October 1st. So, if you want the latest news on alternate reality games and related items, follow us on Twitter!

Is This a Game? IGDA Talk on ARGs in NYC

igda_logo.gifOn May 14th from 6:30-9:00 pm, the New York City Chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will host a meeting entitled “Alternate Reality Games: Is This a Game?” The announcement describes the meeting as follows:

Alternate Reality Games blend the real world with the online world and fuse the players’ creativity with that of the designers as the story unfolds. A genre that began just a few years ago, ARGs have been used for marketing, for independent and self-funded storytelling, for serious games, and for no other purpose than to have fun.

This panel will address the genre’s roots in games and with gamers, explore what ARGs and traditional video games have to learn from one another, and even speculate on how the ARG is changing the face of 21st Century entertainment.

The panel will be moderated by Andrea Phillips, best known for her work on Perplex City, and a leadership council member of the IGDA ARG SIG, and will include panelists Frank Lantz, a founder and director of area/code, the creators of the Chain Factor (Numb3rs) game; Catherine Herdlick, creator of the grassroots game, Lawn Games for Life, co-organizer of the Come Out and Play Festival and a designer for The Case of the Coveted Bottle; and Mike Monello, co- founder of Campfire Media, who has been involved in transmedia storytelling since the Blair Witch Project.

You do not need to be a member of IGDA to attend, but you do need to RSVP.

Thanks to Rose from unFiction, the meeting’s organizer, for letting us know about this event.

Harvey Dent Press Conference Today

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The latest in The Dark Knight promotion is upon us. Today at 3:00 EDT, the I Believe in Harvey Dent campaign will be streaming a live press conference on their website. The email announcement says in part:

Everyone who knows Harvey Dent knows that the vicious smears by a mysterious group calling itself “Concerned Citizens for a Better Gotham” are not true. Harvey Dent is innocent of these charges, and the truth will triumph.

Harvey Dent believes that the movement to take back Gotham is bigger than one person. It’s never been about Harvey Dent. It’s about our hopes for our city. It’s about you.

Harvey Dent has always said that if he becomes a distraction from the bigger issues of the movement to fight crime and corruption, he’ll make the best decision for the movement itself.

We’ve done a lot in the last few months. We’ve shown the city that we will not stop fighting against the dark forces that have Gotham in their grasp. We showed everyone that we do have power. That there is hope for Gotham City.

If past events are any indication, it’s clear this will be more than just a press conference. Tune in to see what happens.

Start Spreadin’ the News

comeoutandplay.jpgCome Out and Play is back, baby. After running in Amsterdam last year during PICNIC, the three day festival returns to the Big Apple June 6-8, this time hosted by bookstore Blue Stockings.

They are currently accepting proposals for new games (The application form is on the main page of the web site.) This is your chance to take your dream of running a big street game and make it a reality.

Read ARGN’s report on the 2006 Festival here.

Torchwood Needs You

Torchwood%20ARG.jpgFrom the BBC comes word of an online game that will run concurrently with the new season of its sci-fi drama, Torchwood. If the name Torchwood doesn’t mean anything to you, you might have heard of the series it was spun off of, a little show called Doctor Who.

In the guise of being recruited as Freelance Operatives working for the mysterious Torchwood Institute, players will be given weekly “missions” which they must complete to prove they are worthy to join the Torchwood team. A genetics professor who claimed to be hunted by aliens has gone missing. The Torchwood team passes this minor case on to its new recruits. Do they have what it takes to figure out what’s going on?

The game story was especially written by show writer Phil Ford, and will be revealed slowly, with new details weekly leading up to a final climax. Game content includes video “minisodes” featuring cast members Eve Myles, Gareth David Lloyd and Naoko Mori. Appearances by other cast members and special guests have been hinted at. The game story is separate from the series, but will intertwine with what is happening on screen. “The game is what happens in Torchwood between each episode. You’ll see and hear characters referring to events that have just happened in the show,” says Senior Producer Mat Fidell. “The only difference from the TV show is that it’s up to you to move the story forward. You must solve the clues, find out what’s going on and report back to the team. You’ll need to use all the skills and talents you have – and Torchwood will provide you with some tools to help you along the way.” The Torchwood website has been redesigned for season two, and incorporates the online game component with an interface very similar to the computer set-up the characters use in the show.

Although registration is not required to play, players who sign up to take part at the show’s website will be emailed as each mission is launched (one per week) and will be able to track their progress from week to week. Recruitment starts January 16th, along with the U.K. premiere of Torchwood Season Two.

Tell Captain Jack we’re on our way!

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Update: As noted in the comments, the game (and, sadly, much of the website) is restricted to U.K. use only. Our contact at the Beeb apologizes, but this is due to the public funding of the BBC. We hope our U.K. readers will report in and let us know what they think of the game!

Tachyon Me – EniTech Backs Look Into the Future

enitech.jpgIf EniTech Research Labs is to be believed, they have a camera that is recording images from the future—1193 (originally 1191) days into the future, to be precise. Espousing an “Open Source Research” philosophy, employees are documenting their findings on the company blog, and asking for feedback and suggestions for future experiments. The latest experiment seems to have captured a disturbing future look at a devastated San Francisco.

Also of note is researcher Frank Bentley’s former employer, CyberDyne Systems. You may recognize this name as the company behind SkyNet in the Terminator series of movies. Frank has started a Facebook group for former CyberDyne employees, asking them to post what they’ve been up to in the last sixteen years since the “tragic attack”.

Another site called to our attention is Take Back the Future, which has a countdown clock for, yep, 1193 days. TBTF currently has an animated graphic that shows human vs. cyborg world populations, with an alarming shift in numbers after what looks like targeted nuclear or other tactical strikes.

Details like these have lead Unfiction players to connect these sites to the new FOX TV series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which premieres this Sunday night. (Check your local listings.) What is not known, however, is how EniTech and TBTF will change once the show starts, but we think it will be fun to find out.

Join the Unfiction discussion for more details.

The Hills are alive… No, really, they’re alive!

winterxgames.gifFrom intrepid Unfiction denizen and player, Rowan, comes this interesting news, which we’ve condensed from her excellent forum post:

During my long hours of watching college football bowl games, I kept noticing weird TV ads. There was a blinking alert with a voice over stating that despite rumors online, the Winter X Games would still be taking place. The ad also linked to a website: http://www.winterxrumoralert.com/

The Winter X Rumor site has some tantalizing information. A earth moving machine went missing. An X Games competitor would not be attending. A video clip of someone almost being eaten by the mountain. The most interesting bit is that it links to another website ( http://www.buttermilkisalive.com/ ) run by a geology professor who is convinced that the Buttermilk mountain is undergoing extreme seismological events and is unsafe.

Buttermilk Is Alive has a bunch of background information detailing how Dr. Jim Vaile is upset that people aren’t taking him more seriously. The site has also been ‘newly redesigned’ so that only some of his older entries are now on the site. He has a bunch of links, most to what I take as real world websites, although at least one link is to a nonexistent website. There’s also some commented out ‘entries’ that you can see in the source that look to be pre-written blurbs that are ready to be updated to the sight. Oh, and there’s a commented out ‘Blogroll’ with a list of names – none of which I had much luck in Googling. He also links to a blog, which he calls a forum, where you can leave comments: http://buttermilkisalive.wordpress.com/

The Buttermilk Blog has been quietly updating ever since I first found it. Beyond calling for people to help prove that Buttermilk is dangerous (but due to natural phenomenon – not aliens or magical stuff) there really wasn’t much of a catch. Today the website updated with a new entry talking about an email from a disgruntled reader by the name of Rusty. The email links to Rusty’s blog (http://www.rustytruth.com/ )which is, well, one of those whacked out conspiracy websites you come across on the web every now and then.

edit: Google has now indexed a Flicker page of Benji “Ben” Beale (one of the commented out blog roll names.)

Early on, Rusty’s blog appeared to be the victim of a hack that left a trojan in one of the comments. That blog has now been cleaned, so feel free to surf on.

Rowan also has started a guide for the game.

Programming Alert

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Tonight on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”, Neda Ulaby talks about Cloverfield–the movie, the promotion and the community. Tune in to your local NPR radio station at 7:00 p.m. EST to hear the show, which we were told will be the second to last segment of the broadcast. The show will also be archived on the NPR website after 8:00 p.m. EST. Unfiction owner and ARGNet staff writer Sean C. Stacey, and Dennis Acevedo of cloverfieldclues.com, were both interviewed for this story.

Changing the game

cruk_logo.gifGiven $2600 and the resources of a major charity dedicated to cancer research, could you come up with an alternate reality game to help raise funds for a worthy cause? That’s what Six to Start and Cancer Research UK would like to find out. Adrian Hon, formerly with Mind Candy, announced the unusual contest on Unfiction last month.

Let’s Change the Game is a competition for aspiring ARG designers, with the challenge of coming up with the best game to raise money for Cancer Research UK and awareness of cancer in general. The first step for potential puppetmasters (after putting together a team with a minimum of three people) is to submit a 500-word design summary to the competition website by November 16th. The best summaries will be shortlisted and asked to submit full proposals. Complete details along with rules can be found on the Let’s Change the Game website. Judges include ARG illuminaries Sean Stewart, Rhianna Pratchett and ARGNet’s own Jonathan Waite.

And the Emmy® Goes to…

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We offer our belated but no less heartfelt congratulations to the team at Xenophile Media, who along with co-creator Matt Wolf were winners of a Primetime Emmy® award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Television, presented at last month’s ceremony in Los Angeles. The team got the nod for “The Ocular Effect,” the alternate reality game tied in to the ABC Family television movie, Fallen. Xenophile previously won an International Emmy® for the ReGenesis Extended Reality Game.

The Ocular Effect told the story of Faith Arella, a girl searching for her roots in a
transglobal hunt for clues that started with a mysterious sphere called the Oculus. Players at Unfiction and elsewhere helped Faith find the secret of the Oculus and deciphered other puzzles along the way to help her on her journey.

We are also bursting our buttons with pride here at ARGNet, because our very own Jonathan Waite was a part of the Ocular Effect team. Congrats Jon, and rest of the crew
at Xenophile. We look forward to your future projects with great anticipation!

Right or Wrong, Ethan Haas is a Bit of a Disappointment for ARG Fans

AO.JPGThe site Ethan Haas Was Right (EHWR) has had a bit of a identity crisis in the last few weeks.

First, it was connected (wrongly, as it turned out) to the mysterious Cloverfield movie project. Then, once people began to accept that it was in fact a separate entity, players started to wonder if it was a trailhead for an alternate reality game. The slick Flash-animated puzzles and grainy interstitial videos were mysterious and intriguing. Careful research led them to new sites, and voice mails and other clues set up expectations for a much larger story to come.

The much anticipated August 1st date has past, and the EHWR website (along with all other associated sites) finally updated late last night with a direct link to www.alphaomegathegame.com, what looks to be the official site for a new tabletop role-playing game called Alpha Omega, developed by a little known company, Mind Storm Labs. To say this is a bit of a letdown for people who were hoping for a true ARG is an understatement. We have here what appears to be a genuine “drink your Ovaltine” promotion. Perhaps this is unfair in some ways because of all the extra attention the site garnered due to the insistent attempts to connect it to Cloverfield, but it is still the case that the people behind EHWR went to lengths to set up several websites with puzzles, release working email addresses with personalized responses as well as auto-responders, and had voice mail boxes for in-game characters that changed messages over time. One player even got a letter hand-delivered to his place of work. You can’t blame players for taking these earmarks of an ARG and trying to run with them.

So what is/was www.ethanhaaswasright.com? Before August 1st it was just a very well designed puzzle trail, with beautifully rendered graphics, some grainy, crackly videos and a few easy to mid-level puzzles that have been well documented elsewhere. At the end of the puzzle trail was a mysterious code word, DIVINUS, and a place to register your name and email address, and a promise of more to come on August 1st. The story background is that the man in the videos, Van Mantra, set up a series of tests (the puzzles) to identify people who would be willing to work with him to spread the word of a 19th century prophet named Ethan Haas and help him save the world. The bad guys in this case appear to be the Mezin, who set up their own website, The Truth of Ethan Haas, and prefer to communicate via the Devanegari script used for the Indian language Hindi. While there have been several game-jacking and/or unofficial fan sites that I won’t link to here, the blogspot site was taken to be authentic because they called themselves the Mezin the day before Van Mantra changed his voicemail recording to say that the Mezin had found him and he needed to go into hiding. Also, Unfiction member theonetruebix (B!x) says he got an email from Van around this time in which Van said that there was one site for truth and one site for deception, which B!x took to mean the blogspot site. It’s a tenuous connection, but the blogspot site didn’t disrupt the game like a game-jacking might attempt to do, and they did at least make a great effort to link readers back to the EHWR site.

Players who are interested in the game up to August 1st can find the highlights at B!x’s blog, OMGWTFEHWR, which traces not only the in-game information, but also his quest to find the people and purpose behind the sites. He was the first player on Unfiction to suspect that EHWR was a promotion for the RPG, and he documents his meta pursuit of the people behind Alpha Omega on the blog in detail. You can also find the original puzzles by clicking the “No I need to see and hear the warnings first” link on the main page of www.ethanhaaswasright.com.

Fans of tabletop RPGs can check out the Alpha Omega site for more information on that game, including upcoming events where the game publishers will be in attendance.

“I’ll have some nachos–oh, and one creepy guy to follow me home, please.”

invitesm.jpgThe next time you’re at the theater, why don’t you bring home more than a bellyful of popcorn? The horror movie HEAD TRAUMA is promising to follow you out of the theater. Filmmaker Lance Weiler is calling this special, multimedia presentation of his film a “cinema ARG” and admits that he wants to “disturb” people.

The chills will unfold July 14th at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY as part of their week-long retrospective on horror films. Bring your cellphone–“This is one of the only films where you’ll be asked to keep your cell phone on during the screening,” says Weiler.

“I’m a WHATmaster?” The Lonelygirl15 Creators Appear at ARGfest-o-Con to Tell Us Why They Love Their Fans in Spite of Themselves

A week before a much publicized appearance at SXSW, Lonelygirl15 creators Miles Beckett and Greg Goodfried, and Glenn Rubenstein, the Puppetmaster for the official Lonelygirl15 ARG, OpAphid, appeared at ARGfest-o-Con to talk about the Lonelygirl15 phenomenon and their introduction to the alternate reality of fame, fans, and the internet community’s dogged pursuit of information.

The Creators (as they label their forum posts on the Lonelygirl15 website) never intended to get into ARGs at all. Miles said they just wanted to “tell an interesting story on YouTube.” There were no puzzles at first, just the mystery about whether Bree was real, and if not, who was behind it all. They didn’t count on the fan community’s voracious appetite for information–“Is this a game, and if so, what are we supposed to solve?” Since there weren’t really any clues in the story itself, the community focused on finding the people behind the story, trying to figure out who they were.

In Greg’s case, this meant a surprising amount of information about his personal life was dug up and posted online. The first thing found was the registered trademark Greg’s father had applied for as the team’s lawyer. Then within a few weeks, it was his father’s name, his mother’s name, his sister (who superficially has a lot in common with the character of Bree), and eventually even his wedding pictures became the stuff of internet posts. “It became frightening,” he admitted. “I’d wake up wondering what was going to be on the website next.” His wife, who was the person answering Bree’s email, was caught in an online trap and revealed to be an employee of Creative Artists Agency.

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More Than Meets the Eye? ARG in Disguise?

s7_logo.gif Transformers fans are all atwitter about some mysterious goings-on in the trailer for the live-action Transformers movie, set to come out in July 2007. At a certain moment early in the trailer, the words “Sector Seven Org” and “takara83” appear at the top and bottom of the frame, respectively, leading the curious to www.sectorseven.org. Entering “takara83” in the submit box opens up a very stylish desktop, with a few goodies, including a live-action video and some image files. Also oddly present, a facsimile of a (fake?) legal agreement between “S7 Industries” and Takara, which is the real-life Japanese company that developed Transformers. Many of the desktop icons are locked, leading hopeful fans to believe that more is coming.

Is this a Transformers ARG? In my opinion, it’s too soon to tell, as right now it looks just like a standard movie viral site. But those Decepticons can be tricky creatures.

More details and discussion are at Unfiction.

Bay City ARGers: The ‘Fest in Fogtown ’07

SFimage.pngIt’s official folks: ARGfest-O-Con 2007 is coming to San Francisco and plans to leave its heart there the weekend of March 2-4. The focus will be on “How to PM a Game” and “The Future of ARGs” (working titles). Save the date! And after you scribble it down excitedly on your Dilbert calendar, or type it excitedly into your Nerdtastic Online Scheduler 6000XV, find your to-do list and write down the following: Help plan ARGfest.

Yes, this is your chance to jump in at the beginning and help put together the best fest yet. Rose, Unfiction regular and ARGfest NYC hostess extraordinaire, has once more agreed to helm the efforts to get this show up and running, and she would really like some local help to get logistics settled as soon as possible. Specifically, she needs people familiar with the city and its environs to suggest local venues for hotels, restaurants, amusements, potential field trips, and/or any other information about the area that you can provide. She promises you will not be overburdened.

We also need volunteers to suggest and help coordinate speakers/panels, and help run the registration process. You do not need to be local to do this.

Would you or your company like to help sponsor ARGfest? Contact Rose to discuss the possible arrangements.

PM her at the Unforum (user name: rose) or add yourself to the handy ARGfest-O-Wiki on the Help page with your preferred contact information.

See you by the bay!

We Came Out and We Played: A Weekend of Public Gaming in NYC

coap_logo_3.gifWill is disdainful. “No way I’m running,” he declares, “I refuse.” We are moving in a group of four, myself, Will, Rose and EGo, trying to find the best way from West 21st to West 32nd, only using our feet or public transportation. We expect to be chased at any moment. We walk quickly, and manage to catch a crosstown bus. We make it to the first checkpoint safely. But then as we move towards Penn Station, we hear a sharp “Hey!” to our left. A man on a bike, with the dreaded yellow caution tape around his arm, has seen us. Will looks over. He stops in his tracks, and then… he starts running, bike man in pursuit. The game is now more real than we ever imagined.

For it is a game, one of many offered last weekend as part of the first Come Out and Play Festival, a celebration of street and other “big” games in New York City. Included in the weekend’s offerings are games of chase, espionage, assassins and familiar video game favorites, expanded and released into various public spaces around the city.

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I Died Here (and here and here and here and…)

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Hot off the ARGN Tipline comes news of a new ARG based in India. I Died Here is sure to appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Blair Witch Project. The basic story: three 20-somethings are staying in a guesthouse called Shanti Cottage outside of Mumbai (Bombay) that has a dark history. They intend to document their stay via cellphone pictures and video (promised) as an “adventure” to try to find out why there have been five suicides in the house. They have started writing about their experiences so far in a blog, and also have posted puzzles that need to be solved to reveal information they’ve collected so far.

Thus far, it appears they have arrived at the house and are experiencing odd events, like cold spots and eerie noises. There are also some alarming lemons that they need explained. Three out of the four puzzles posted have been solved, so don’t read the comments on the blog if you want to try your hand at them first.

Websites:
I Died Here (Trailhead)
Blog
Rohan Lives

Kyle XY: Why, why, why?

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Kyle XY gives us another in a series of ABC Television’s efforts to bring the TV show’s audience on-line with a vaguely ARG-like game. Unlike The Lost Experience or Ocular Effect, however, this seems to be the ARG that can’t get off the ground. So far we have one site, MadaCorp, which is some kind of scientific research company. The site itself is slapped together with some not-too-interesting Flash bits, and has whole pages with no content of any kind. Clicking on “Our Jobs” takes you to a secret blog, where a mysterious insider talks about his efforts to bring the truth about Kyle to light, but the entries are obtuse and repetitive, leading this reporter to wonder if he’s the dumbest whistle-blower ever, or the “clues” are so convoluted that no one has been able to figure them out yet.

The show itself, running Monday nights on ABC Family, is a charming bit of science fiction in the guise of a family drama. Matt Dallas brings a kind of goofy innocence to the role of Kyle, and his interactions with the world make for some very funny and touching moments. The family Trager is bland California, however. The acting is competent, at least.

Overall, I can’t say that this has much to recommend it, and yet I can’t stop watching, either. I have this hope that something more will develop and make all those blog entries mean more than the insipid ramblings they appear to be currently. Also, I really want to find out why Kyle doesn’t have a belly button.

Takin’ it to the Streets: Game On in New York City

coap_logo.jpgDoes playing on a computer cramp your style? Feel restricted by that Monopoly board? Or maybe you’re a Puppetmaster who wants to do more than the usual email and websites with your next ARG. This fall, games will bust out of the screen and the box, and take to the streets in a new, three-day event called the Come Out and Play Festival. Based in Manhattan, the festival “seeks to provide a forum for new types of public games and play. We want to bring together a public eager to rediscover the world around them through play with designers interested in producing innovative new games and experiences. Oh yeah, and we want to have fun.”

Come Out and Play will be held September 22-24, and organizers are currently soliciting applications for games that will be fun and interesting, and make use of public spaces. Organizer Greg Trefry is also interested in submissions related to ARGs, noting that their ability to blur the lines between the screen and the real world fits in nicely with the goals of the festival.

Apply online at the festival website by June 30th.