Author: Sean C. Stacey

A-Mazing Event in San Francisco

P4200259.JPGWhen in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. –R.A.H.

Over fifty people gathered at Sutro Heights Park in San Francisco this past Sunday to practice the ancient sport of “Labyrinth Running” which, according to the recently-launched Alternate Reality Game, “Find the Lost Ring,” was lost in 393 A.D. when Theodoseus banned the Olympic Games. Find the Lost Ring is an ARG designed to promote the upcoming Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, China in August, and is sponsored by the McDonald’s Corporation. It officially launched on March 3, 2008, shortly after trailhead clue packages were received by various ARGonauts and media sites.

The ARG is conducted in several languages and has gained popularity all over the planet. It was reported that at least two other training events were taking place that day in other parts of the world, including in Brazil, which country holds one of the largest interested groups of players of this game that isn’t a game. It is scheduled to run through to the closing ceremonies of the Olympics on August 24, 2008.

Labyrinth organizers Tom and LenoreAlthough the event was organized by two players, Tom Bullock (aka Ariock) and Lenore Henry (aka hmrpita), it was also acknowledged by the game, and an in-game character named Kai announced early that he would attend the practice run. Lead designer and avant-gamer Jane McGonigal also appeared at the event and offered to help organize and referee the training.

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How committed are you?

ca.jpgThe name Deus City should be familiar to some, as we have reported on it numerous times over the past year-plus. This Alternate Reality Game launched in November of 2006 and wrapped up almost exactly a year later, developed by a team led as part of Adam Brackin’s doctoral project at the University of Texas in Dallas.

ARGNet can reveal that a doctoral dissertation is not the only likely result from this team, however. In post-game contact, the puppetmaster team from Deus City hinted at an upcoming project with a teasing few letters of a domain name, “www.conspi….” The complete URL may be found by watching this video, “Conspiracy Asylum File Zero,” which was recently uploaded to YouTube (or it could also be found by clever parsing of this paragraph).

Our sources tell us that the above video is something of a beta-test but that we can expect a public launch around the first of February. Fans of Deus City who are aching for more contact with the universe may be pleased by the setting of the upcoming game in the same universe as the prior, although our sources also tell us that this story will not be directly related nor a sequel to DC, so players unfamiliar with Deus City need not be deterred from joining in. Here’s another one to look forward to in 2008!

Vanishing Point Game Does Not Go Gently Into That Good Night

wc-vpgp-0003.jpgOn Saturday, January 27, 2007, at 5:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, a sizable crowd of two to three hundred people had gathered on the hill at Gas Works Park in Seattle, Washington, across from the brilliantly lit gas works. An enormous projection screen had been erected on the flat ground between the structure and Lake Union, where colored lights strobed atop police boats that formed a cordon around a darkened barge floating in the lake. As the clock ticked over to the top of the hour, hundreds of eyes aimed themselves at the video now winking into existence on the screen.

This was Loki’s final message to those few of the hundreds of thousands of players of the Vanishing Point Game – a promotion for Microsoft’s upcoming release of the next version of its Windows operating system, Vista – who had managed to be present for the final live event of the game…and to witness the final clues to the identity of “Loki” and her secret to winning, among other things, the grand prize trip into space.

wc-vpgp-0002.jpgIn the video, Loki recounted her mission and praised the progress of the players so far. Photographs from previous live events flashed across the screen, along with screen shots of web sites and message boards that had been involved in the campaign. As the video ended, a single white flare shot out over the lake from behind the screen, music swelled from strategically placed loudspeakers, and the crowd was bathed in bright hues as broad brush strokes of flame painted the sky, synchronized to the wicked techno beats tumbling their way up the hill.

The volume of the fireworks display was only briefly rivaled upon the finale, as the crowd burst into cheers and applause.

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PICNIC ’06, Day Three: Creating New Markets

Lorraine Twohill, Google‘s Marketing Director for Europe presented an excellent keynote address on how Google has leveraged its original core search service to expand existing and create new marketplaces on the internet, packing what seemed like two hours worth of information and anecdotes into a half-hour presentation. She discussed the rapidly changing user experience within the networked environment. Users were originally “pushed” information in similar fashion to traditional media such as television or newspapers. Technologies such as RSS feeds and improved search engines allowed consumers to “pull” only the information that they wanted or needed. Most recently, newly innovated sites and resources have enabled those average citizens to join the content creation marketplace and to publish their works to a global audience.

Google’s mission has always been to assist its users in finding the information and resources they want as quickly and as easily as possible. Ms. Twohill stated that Google’s goal with the search site was all about getting the user off of the site as soon as possible; if they are able to point a user in the proper direction in a fast and simple fashion, it is more likely that user will return again later and become more loyal to the service.

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Toronto wakes up to Alternate Reality Gaming

torGame_sm.gifComing in September, 2006, that ever-progressive Manhattan of the North, Toronto, Ontario, will be hosting a new alternate reality game “of urban exploration and intrigue,” according to TorGame, a non-profit organization based in the city. TorGame bills itself as “dedicated to the exploration of public space, and a unified identity for Torontonians” on its website. It is an all-volunteer operation that, with Waking City, is attempting its first alernate reality game production. Some ARGonauts may recognize the name Tony Walsh in the list of contributors, however, as he collaborated on both seasons of the ARG production “Regenesis” with Xenophile Media.

The game will be played in public spaces out and around the Toronto area, and will include in-game interactions with characters by telephone, email or instant messaging, and in person. In an interesting twist for veteran players, Waking City requires that players form into teams and register their teams before playing. Teams may have from four to seven members and must pay a fee to register which ranges from $100 to $125 (CA) per team. The registration fee is said to only cover expenses of producing the ARG.

TorGames should be commended by local ARGonauts who work during the week for scheduling their planned live events for the weekends. This reporter has been frustrated on many occasions by live events that were held on weeknights or during common working days, making wide participation difficult save for students, those with flexible schedules, or the unemployed.

More information about Waking City and registration sign-up can be found at the official TorGame site.

Related links:
Official Blog
Xenophile Media
Tony Walsh’s Secret Lair

Touch Me, I’m Perplex City

pcx.jpgAs reported earlier this week, the Perplex City ARG has recently ignited a few flames of contention within the ARG community with its controversial announcement of what appeared to be a pay-for-play model based around collectible puzzle cards and, more shockingly, the possible payout of a large reward. Indeed, a prize of £100,000 (about $200,000) may be claimed by whomever locates the Receda Cube, Perplex City’s pet McGuffin Device, and returns it to its rightful owners (assuming Perplex City’s ownership of the mysterious cube is indeed rightful).

These developments have brought up plenty of questions, from whether the announced reward is real (it is), to whether players will have to buy puzzle cards in order to continue playing the ARG (they won’t), to concern about whether a large cash reward will end up factionalizing and splintering the existing community of players (maybe, but hopefully not). It certainly seems as if the recent “Group 333” launch managed to cry havoc and let loose the dogs of Meta across the forums, blogs, and news sites that populate the ARG community space. Opinions a-plenty can be found everywhere, many based on little to no concrete information, yet liberally daubed with some speculative glue to hold them together. A recent article posted to the Perplex City Sentinel helped to clarify some of the aspects of the game as related to the puzzle cards, but the best way to find out more was to secure an interview with one of the Perplex City Puppetmasters. spoke at length with Adrian Hon about several issues related to some of these revelations.

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