Hidden within the storied halls of the Upper Wolverhampton Library in Victorian-era England, a musty book lies in wait, ready to entrap the first hapless souls to peer into its pages. While Colleen and Samuel Quaice fall victim to The Maze of Games, it’s up to you, the reader, to lead the two children home by solving a series of puzzles presented by the book’s enigmatic skeletal guardian, the Gatekeeper.
The Maze of Games is a full-length puzzle novel that follows the adventures of the Quaice siblings as they make their way through the Gatekeeper’s labyrinth. While traditional Choose Your Own Adventure novels direct readers through branching narratives through a series of choices, The Maze of Games‘s “solve your own adventure” format directs readers through the experience through the same series of puzzles facing the Quaices. Solving the puzzle unlocks the page number of the next narrative installment. Illustrated by Magic: The Gathering illustrator Pete Venters, the book is designed to look and feel like a book from the Victorian Era.
The puzzle adventure’s author Mike Selinker launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Maze of Games last month seeking $16,000 to fund the project. To date, the project has drawn in over $109,000 in pledges, with an ebook/iDevice edition available to $20 donors and a hardcover edition available for $50. As an added perk, Selinker has arranged for the Gatekeeper to lock a series of famous puzzle designers in cages until they agree to contribute a Victorian-era puzzle to the Conundrucopia, a bonus set of puzzles in The Maze of Games. At set Kickstarter milestones, the puzzle designers are set free from their cages and put to work. The list of confirmed puzzlers is an impressive one that reflects the variety of puzzles contained outside the Conundrucopia. Innovators in the space including ambigram pioneer Scott Kim, 74-time Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings, Perplex City puzzle designer Eric Harshbarger, Puzzazz founder Roy Leban, and Duck Konundrum inventor Dan Katz have all spent their time locked up by the Gatekeeper, with more to follow.
For day two of ARGFest-o-Con in Toronto last month, attendees were treated to a “sneak peek” of The Institute, a film by Spencer McCall about Nonchalance’s popular San Francisco ARG, The Jejune Institute.
The film focused on the player experience of Jejune and the effect that it had on those who followed its path through the streets of San Francisco and Oakland. Nonchalance presented a case study at ARGFest in 2009, but little of the content from that early phase of the game made it into the film. Most of those elements, which were posted in public places, had been taken down by the time McCall began shooting, first as a video producer hired by Nonchalance and then for the film itself.
“It’d be generous to say that we did an ‘uneven’ job of documenting the things that we created,” said Sara Thacher, who was lead producer on Jejune for most of it’s run. “Video was especially thin on the ground. Because Spencer’s project got rolling after the main parts of the experience closed, he had to rely on our archives and the archives of the participants.”
Later events are more fully documented in the film, including the controversial day-long seminar that concluded the game. The film also documents a rally to protest the game’s apparent villain, Octavio S. Coleman, Esq., a trip through the game’s installation at The Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, and one game mission that culminated with a player dancing in front of a payphone with bigfoot. The presentation also includes footage that was part of the game, with no markers to denote when the film moves between fact and fiction.
In a post-screening interview at the conference, McCall said he took inspiration from Banksy’s film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary widely known for blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Making a film of this kind without falling into the category of “mockumentary” is no small challenge, and with a room full of transmedia creators and some Jejune Institute players, ARGFest was a more demanding audience than most.
On Miranda’s recent vacation to New York City, she lost her gold wedding band in Times Square. And she’s so desperate to recover the band, she’s offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to its safe return. Miranda is encouraging good samaritans across the country to turn to Twitter to help her in her search.
Miranda’s lost ring is part of the Lost Ring Hunt, an interactive contest sponsored by the World Gold Council. Starting tomorrow, a billboard in Times Square will display Miranda’s desperate plea, kicking off an adventure that will have both New Yorkers and online participants interacting with the characters to uncover clues leading to the ring’s location. And while the missing ring might not be real, the reward most certainly is: the first person to submit the proper response to the email address disclosed though the story will win a $5,000 cash prize and a trip for 2 days and 1 night in New York City to participate in a promotional shoot for the campaign.
Interested in following along? Keep an eye on the game’s Twitter account, LostGoldRing, as well as the Gold Ring Hunt tab on the World Gold Council’s Facebook page, which houses the official rules for the contest. And if you’re in the area on Boxing Day, feel free to take to the streets and see what information you can drum up on Miranda’s lost ring.
Lazy 8 Studios has a new sci-fi themed interactive narrative experience in the works called Extrasolar. Lazy 8 Studios is the company behind Cogs, one of the thirteen indie games involved in the Portal 2 Potato Sack ARG earlier this year.
Extrasolar’s story involves the eXoplanetary Research Institute (XRI), a private agency that sent an exploratory spacecraft beyond our solar system a decade ago. They will soon land the craft on Epsilon Eridani b, where the spacecraft will drop a fleet of rovers designed to explore the alien landscape. XRI is seeking volunteers to control the many rovers as they scour the planet’s surface. This fictional extraterrestrial game is partially inspired by actual astronomical crowdsourcing efforts like MoonZoo, designed to classify the lunar surface, and SetiQuest Explorer, an interface for categorizing patterns in radio telescopic data.
Rob Jagnow, one of the creators behind the game, explained some of the game mechanics in an interview with Gamasutra earlier this month. According to Jagnow, players will drive their rovers around the planet, exploring and taking pictures of the landscape. Once the photos have been beamed back to Earth, players can analyze them for artifacts or creatures living on the planet. The story of Extrasolar will unfold over emails, videos and voicemails as players explore more of the planet.
The spacecraft isn’t scheduled to land for a few more months, but rover volunteers can sign up for more information on the XRI website. Extrasolar will be free to play with the option to pay for rover upgrades and other game extras.
For more information, follow the discussion at UnFiction.
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.
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.