ARGFest is a yearly gathering of transmedia players, designers, and enthusiasts that has been going on for almost ten years. And while the gathering is now dominated by the series of panels and presentation that make up the conference, every year offers ample opportunities for attendees to settle down and tackle perplexing puzzles as a group. Often, the most challenging part is finding the puzzles in the first place.
Stitch Media hid the following puzzle in the ARGFest program, leaving attendees perplexed under an ever-increasing stack of annotated programs. After receiving a number of hints from Evan Jones at Stitch Media, a few players managed to break the code and make their way into the Winner’s Circle. Do you have what it takes to do the same? We’ll release the full explanation for the solution after ARGFest coverage is completed . . . until then, see if you can figure it out yourself!
Next week, from Thursday, August 18, to Sunday, August 21, alternate reality gamers and transmedia producers will descend on Bloomington, Indiana, for ARGFest-o-Con 2011. Led by this year’s Grand Inquisitor Andrea Phillips, the schedule taps into the local game development talent as well as the strong academic presence at Indiana University, which features such names as Professor of Telecommunications Edward Castronova.
Thursday night’s Kick-Off party will start the conference, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, with a special interactive event hosted by Awkward Hug, creators of the highly acclaimed ARG Must Love Robots and the pervasive kid-friendly community, Socks, Inc. I caught up with Awkward Hug’s own Jim Babb to ask about A Wisconsin Hustle. their first foray into the smartphone app space:
We are really excited to bring A Wisconsin Hustle to ARGFest! Wisconsin Hustle is something new for Awkward Hug and will be our first venture into Android apps. While the app is not ready to launch until the end of the year, we have turned the excitement of the app into a real-world pants-off dance-off. A Wisconsin Hustle is, an American tradition clothed in mystery and from unknown origins (we are doing intensive research ourselves into the legend). Men, and recently women, challenge each other in pantsless dance-offs for truth, money, and above all honor.
On a rare occasion Hustlers, as they are known, will pants-off dance-off to the death! Players at ARGFest need not worry, we are more interested in the ethnographic, ethnochoreographic, and pantsnographic study of A Wisconsin Hustle than running a “two man enter, one man leaves” sort of affair.
It’s the 10th anniversary of ARGFest-o-Con August 18th-21st in Bloomington, Indiana. Perhaps this seems inconsequential to you. Perhaps, you forget that 10 years ago an interactive experience called The Beast shook people’s lives more than any church mass ever has. So, chew on this: what once seemed crazy is now a definitive part of the future of interactive media. Today everyone from across the entertainment and media industries now lines up to imagine how an alternate reality game or transmedia storytelling strategies could be used to help market their products or shake their communities into action. In the music business right now, it’s the Lady Gaga ARG, while video games generate buzz through ARGs as with Valve 2′s ARG, and ARGs are used to support reality TV. Earlier this year, Fourth Wall Studios received a $15-million investment to bring together some of the most renowned ARG designers in one studio. They’re preparing to tempt the ever-growing audience for some of the latest and greatest blockbuster films on the horizon.
Not sure if ARGFest is for you? In the words of ARGFest’s primary organizer, Jonathan Waite, are you “ready to take part in a unique, perhaps life-altering experience”? Do you have “an open mind and a curiosity about how gaming can go beyond traditional media”? Then by all means, catch the early bird discount (promotion ends today!) and get yourself a ticket to ARGFest.
I asked Waite about the context of this year’s ARGFest: “I think one of the most exciting things about ARGFest-o-Con 2011 is that we are celebrating our tenth “anniversary.” Even though the first ARGFest-o-Con was in 2003, this is the 10th time we are gathering as a community, and the tenth city playing host for the event. I’m also very excited to be visiting Bloomington, Indiana, as it is a unique and welcoming city that we think will really impress the attendees. As always, ARGFest-o-Con will be a fun, informative and educational event where fans and players of games can sit alongside leaders in transmedia while enjoying intimate, interactive discussions and presentations.”
Every year, alternate reality game developers and players assemble at ARGFest to talk shop, discuss recent innovations in the field, and find exciting new locations to discuss future plans while partaking of drinks sporting umbrellas. This year, ARGFest’s planning committee is aiming for transparency throughout the process, and will be holding a General Meeting this Sunday, October 10, online at 1PM EST.
ARGFest has pulled off some impressive activities since its humble beginnings in Las Vegas. At ARGFest 2008 in Boston, attendees watched The Dark Knight alongside creators of the film’s viral experience, took part in The Lost Sport as part of an alternate reality game for the Olympics, and witnessed a bodybuilder clad only in a banana hammock flex for the crowd. The following year in Portland, attendees donned cardboard and tinfoil robot costumes for an invigorating round of Robot Speed Dating, experienced the premiere of the 10-minute alternate reality game Mime Academy, and learned of the early days of the genre at the feet of Jordan Weisman. This past summer in Atlanta, the Transmedia Artist Guild officially announced its formation, Jim Babb trained attendees in the delicate art of sockpuppetcraft, and Ian Pottmeyer led a rousing game of No Talent Required, a quickfire artistic showdown.
Clearly, ARGFest has a strong history of bringing together strong panelists and engaging events, but according to Unfiction creator Sean Stacey, it’s “the impromptu discussions between sessions and events that make ARGFest all double rainbows and shit. It’s a good place for ARG and transmedia enthusiasts of all stripes to get together and concoct crazy ideas, such as she-crab.” Based on anecdotal evidence, a number of alternate reality games and partnerships have spawned out of casual conversations in hotel rooms and hallways across the country.
Creating the perfect world for ARGFest’s fruity bounty is a daunting task for the ARGFest staff, and they need your help to make ARGFest 2011 more delicious than the cocktails at a tiki bar. Think you have an idea for a great location, panel, or event? Interested in adding your voice to the discussion on how to make ARGFest 2011 a resounding success? Log on to IRC on Sunday at 1PM EST to join the conversation. The discussion will take place in the #argfest channel on chat-solutions. If you’re less accustomed to IRC, you can get there by clicking on ARGNet’s chat link, selecting a username, and then typing /join #argfest.
Near, far, wherever you are – ARGFest 2010 in Atlanta, GA was a blast. Whether at ARGFest or its virtual Twitter counterpart #PretendARGFest, the annual conference dedicated to alternate reality games was filled with informative panels and discussions, hands on gaming, mysteries, and social and professional networking opportunities. While the player community in attendance was less this year and creative minds and industry folk were in relative abundance, all aspects of the ARG/Transmedia genre and community seemed well represented.
To usher in ARGFest 2010, Brian Clark welcomed everyone and introduced the newly appointed “Grand Inquisitor“, Steve Peters. The first session was presented by Andrea Phillips of Deus Ex Machinatio. Andrea set the pace for the fest by presenting Beyond the Brunette – an analytical look at stereotypical gender roles in gaming and storytelling. By providing a look at numerous common character cliches, attendees couldn’t help but notice throughout the remainder of the conference how common they actually are. As one of her session’s focal points, Andrea posed the challenge to be unique and break away from using standard, typical archetypes.
Other panels and sessions this year covered a host of informative topics, including:
- Brooke Thompson‘s Can Transmedia Save the Soap Opera
- ARG TV panel with Nina Bargiel, Mike Monello, and Owen Shiflett
- We Want To Play! discussion panel with ARG veteran players
- Evan Barba‘s The World Outside on Augmented Reality
- Jim Babb and Simeon Poulin‘s Keeping It Casual on casual gaming
- Patrick Möller‘s Follow the Rabbit on ways to launch projects to existing players
- Peggy Weil‘s TransGenre: City Gaming & Public Art panel
- Behnam Karbassi‘s Transmedia Production – a videochat via Skype
- Mike Monello and Brian Clark‘s Beyond Blair Witch
This year will mark the 8th anniversary of ARGfest, and this year’s conference promises to be the most ambitious yet. The format has changed and expanded to include four days of information, networking and game-filled fun. The two day conference will take place on July 15th and 16th and will be filled with presentations, panels and roundtables galore. And in the spirit of the conference’s new “Think! Play! Do!” theme, a gaming festival has been added July 17th and 18th, where festival-goers will be able to participate in street games, location-based games, storytelling events and ARG live events.
The full conference schedule has not yet been released, but some of the announced panels include one involving casual social games and one made up of ARG enthusiasts. Presentations include Brooke Thompson’s “Can Transmedia Save the Soap Opera” and Patrick Möller’s “Follow the Rabbit”. The conference will also feature a return of the ARG Museum, a display of artifacts from past alternate reality games. In addition to the typical conference activities, this year’s ARGfest will include a writing workshop with Maureen McHugh of No Mimes Media, a mini game jam that will help participants create a working game prototype by the end of the weekend, and an organic panel session that will be shaped on the fly by the audience.
ARGfest 2010 will take place July 15th through the 18th at the W Atlanta-Midtown hotel. Multiple registration packages are available on the ARGfest website or at the door. Hotel reservations can be made on the website at the discounted group rate.
Editor’s Note: Tomorrow (June 27th) is the last day for ARGFest’s Regular Registration rates, so now is an ideal time to select the package that best reflects your interests.