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.
Tonight, the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards held its annual awards, where the Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Original Interactive Television Programming was awarded to Fourth Wall Studios for their interactive program Dirty Work. The Emmy-winning show is a dark comedy featuring an LA-area clean-up crew as they go about their grisly business, featuring guest appearances from everyone from Metta World Peace to Kid Creole. Dirty Work is built off Fourth Wall Studios’ RIDES platform that integrates telephone calls, text messages, and user input to add a layer of depth to the viewing experience of the episodic web series.
Also nominated for the award was USA Network’s Hashtag Killer, and What’s Trending with Shira Lazar. Hashtag Killer is an online murder mystery built around USA Networks show Psych that allows players to virtually chat along with Shawn Spencer, Burton Guster, and the rest of the cast of the show while hunting down a serial killer who methodically stalked down and killed the top-scoring players in the Hashtag Killer experience. The game was built on the SocialSamba platform and linked to fans’ Club Psych accounts. What’s Trending with Shira Lazar combines online news articles and video broadcasts to provide a direct feed into what’s popular on the internet. The show recently accepted a grant from YouTube’s Next Lab, bringing more live and interactive content to the show.
The Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media – Fiction category has historically been friendly to alternate reality games, with the Fallen alternate reality game winning in 2007, the Heroes Digital Experience winning in 2008, and The Dharma Initiative winning in 2009. In 2010, Star Wars Uncut was the final winner for the category, before the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories were combined in 2011. This year, the Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media award was split into two new categories: original interactive television programming, and enhancement to a television program or series. Team Coco’s sync app won the program enhancement award.
Congratulations to Fourth Wall Studios for their win, and head on over to RIDES.tv to check out Dirty Work and the other interactive programs the team has developed.
As reported earlier, The Institute for Human Continuity (or IHC), a promotion for the movie “2012″, went live in November of last year, and visitors to their website were offered the ability to enter a Global Survival Lottery for a spot in one of their “initiatives” to save at least a portion of humanity from the global cataclysm occurring December 21, 2012. Here is a brief run-down of game activity leading up to the event at ComicCon:
- December 21, 2009: lottery ticket holders were sent an email from Dr. Sorën Ulfert, PhD, the Communications Director for the IHC, announcing the launch of the full IHC website in a few weeks and an upcoming discussion with Dr. Ulfert in February. Questions for this discussion could be submitted through Dr. Ulfert’s Twitter or email. Also launched was a wiki page for The IHC.
- January 2009: The full IHC site launched and contained a lot more information – disaster scenarios, news and press info, and details regarding the IHC’s “initiatives” to help preserve mankind after the 12/21/2012 disaster. Also around this time, a new site was discovered – This Is The End, a rebuttal site to the IHC’s, written by a character named Charlie Frost (portrayed by actor Woody Harrelson). Charlie’s opinion is that NO ONE is going to survive The End, and that the IHC, while mostly harmless, are just fooling people. Along with amusing blog posts are very funny videos explaining the nature of the disaster and why no one will survive. Charlie also hosts a “radio show” from his Winnebego where he takes phone calls and answers questions.
You know when you get that feeling that you should have done something last week but you forget what it was? Today was one of those days for me, but luckily a little birdie reminded me about The Institute for Human Continuity, an ARG that launched (gasp!) in November 2008 in connection with the movie 2012. While this campaign has been going for ten months now, activity has been ramping up in recent weeks, with a letter making its way into ARGFest-o-Con 2009 swag bags, as detailed on the Unfiction forums by our own Celina Beach.
We have it on good authority that things are about to get very, very interesting in the next few HOURS, so head on over to theIHC.com (currently redirecting to instituteforhumancontinuity.org) and get your ticket for the survival lottery before it’s too late!