For over ten years, a panel of judges pulled from the ranks of advertising agencies and brand marketing teams have sifted through the best the web can offer on a daily basis for the Favorite Website Awards (the FWA). Their goal? To highlight a single online property that exemplifies cutting edge creativity as Site of the Day. Rounding out the year, the international panel of judges select one site as FWA’s Site of the Year. And in 2012, that honor went to the interactive documentary Bear 71.
ARGNet previously covered Bear 71 when it was introduced to the world as a featured installment at the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier. The 20-minute documentary follows a collared grizzly bear, tagged as “Bear 71″, as she travels throughout Banff National Park. Visitors to the site experience the wildlife of the forest through Bear 71′s perspective, narrated by The L Word‘s Mia Kirshner. The data-driven project taps into trail cams, animal tracking tags, and photography to tell a story customized to your exploration of the Park, its wildlife, and its many human intrusions.
More than a few transmedia campaigns we covered here at ARGNet have been selected as the FWA’s Site Of The Day. Prometheus, Daybreak, Tap Joint, and Byzantium Tests all received Site of the Day accolades from the FWA. But for the 58 international judges on the 2012 selection committee, Bear 71 stood out as the best of the year.
FWA’s founder Rob Ford praised Bear 71 for its ambition, noting “In a year when we have seen so much experimental work, so many agencies and clients focused on just trying to be cool with mobile, I was delighted to see a real idea and a powerful story win this year’s Site Of The Year.” Ogilvy & Mather judge Corinna Falusi praised the campaign’s design choices: “I especially love that the interactive and fragmented style of storytelling in Bear 71 does not act as superfluous artistry – it truly helps the film makers create a deeper narrative totality. People have been discussing the possibilities of interactive film for decades, Bear 71 is one of the first examples of a director getting it right.”
To experience Bear 71 for yourself, set aside 20 minutes to explore the documentary, but be prepared to spend a few more minutes exploring elements of the map you might have missed the first time around.
The silent epidemic began in the year 2011. Children around the world were born without the ability to learn language. They didn’t babble as babies. They didn’t speak as they grew older. They couldn’t understand what their parents were saying. They seemed to show no interest in using language at all. Parents became frustrated, trying every obscure teaching method and advertised miracle cure. Scientists were baffled. There was no virus, no environmental toxin they could pinpoint as the cause of the disorder. As years went by, hope for a cure dwindled, but it became obvious that there was something more to the silents, something everyone had failed to notice.
This is the premise of a new, serialized digital novel, The Silent History, by Kevin Moffett, Matthew Derby, Russell Quinn and Eli Horowitz. Fans of puzzle hunt books might recognize Horowitz as one of the authors of The Clock Without a Face, a children’s book filled with hidden clues that led to real-world buried treasures.
While The Silent History doesn’t have cryptic clues or buried jewels, it does encourage readers to explore the story in several new and exciting ways. The creators, who designed and released The Silent History as an iOS app, are calling it “a new kind of novel”. Initially, the app offers video and text that introduce the reader to the story world. There are then two different experiences a reader can choose to explore: the time-released Testimonials, or the location-based Field Reports.
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.
Five brilliant young scientists collectively known as “MHD-6″ disappear from Belgrade University. Shortly after, a video of the kidnapping makes its way to the foundation that sponsored them. A mysterious person known only as “The Donetsk Voice” feeds bits and pieces of information relating to the disappearance of the MHD-6. As the investigation progresses, the Alvinson Foundation puts out a global call for help solving the mystery. Players who respond to the call are thrown headfirst into the European-based transmedia experience Alt-Minds, an eight week long paranormal mystery that incorporates puzzles, websites, geo-locative content, and a Facebook game.
French telecommunications corporation Orange joined the French game development studio Lexis Numérique to create the Alt-Minds experience, which launched on November 12th, in four languages: French, German, Spanish, and English. According to a press release by Orange, “Alt-Minds is a cohesive set of films, games, monitoring tools and web documentaries.” The story unfolds live over the game’s eight week span, using the web series format as the framework for players stepping into the role of investigator.
Over the years, more than a few alternate reality games, transmedia storytelling projects, and advertising campaigns have warned that December 2012 would mark the end of the world. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: you can’t get much higher stakes than saving the world, and fighting against an ancient prophecy with its own pre-existing mythos (however misinformed) can add mystique to a narrative.
In 2009, the alternate reality game The Institute for Human Continuity reportedly sparked hundreds of letters to NASA’s Astrobiology Institute from people earnestly worried about the coming Apocalypse. Closer to the date in question, Funcom’s The Secret World offered a series of six missions intended to forestall the End of Days both inside and outside the game. Even Old Spice got in on the harbinger of doom act, using points from six increasingly ridiculous flash games to power a laser cutter that slowly etched additional time onto the Mayan calendar for their absurdist campaign, Old Spice Saves the World.
Proclamations of impending disaster weren’t limited to global catastrophe this year, with Fourth Wall Studios’ Elan Lee adding his voice to the chorus claiming that ARGs are dead at the StoryWorld Conference in Los Angeles. And yet, 2012 was in many ways a renaissance for alternate reality games and transmedia storytelling, as new sources of funding arise for a thriving community of developers. What follows is a closer look at some of the major events in alternate reality gaming for the year.
Yesterday, Paramount released its newest movie trailer for Star Trek: Into Darkness on iTunes. As the second film in JJ Abrams’ re-imagining of Gene Roddenberry’s original franchise, fans have been speculating wildly about whether Abrams would retell Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or explore a different aspect of the mythos through the film’s villain, John Harrison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Now, fans have a new question to speculate wildly about: are you the 1701?
As the camera zooms in on John Harrison at the 1:07 mark on the trailer, a display panel shows the website AreYouthe1701.com, a website featuring a simple registration page in grayscale.
JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek film was prefaced with Alert Vulcan, an intensely immersive alternate reality game that started similarly, with a website hidden in promotional photographs from a Star Trek event in Paris. The game eventually included a staged Romulan crash site in the UK, a crime scene with green blood, and a personal YouTube video from Leonard Nimoy thanking the most active players for their help.
Most of JJ Abrams’ projects find life outside the television screen or cinema. with this new Star Trek viral finding its place in a long line of puzzles, cross-references, and alternate reality games tracing back to the Alias Web Puzzle in 2001. It’s too soon to tell what form this particular iteration will take, but it’s the perfect time to decide: are you the 1701?