Report from Austin Game Developers’ Conference 2008: In ARGs We Trust

October 13, 2008 · Filed Under Events, Features, News · 3 Comments 

magnets.JPGEditor’s note: Brandie was ARGNet’s press presence at this year’s Austin Game Developers Conference. This is the first in a series on her experiences at the conference.

At the Austin GDC‘s only session devoted exclusively to Alternate Reality Games, Elan Lee of Fourth Wall Studios shared his thoughts on trust between ARG designers and players along with anecdotes from some of the most well-known cross-media experiences like AI and I Love Bees. In an interactive, real-time game-story experience, the level of trust between the designers (Puppet Masters, if you will) and the players can have a profound effect on the outcome of the game and the memories the players carry away at the end. “ARGs: Fake Websites, Invented Stories, Automated Phone Calls, and Other Methods to Earn the Trust of a Community” examined the building of trust as an integral part of the game-story experience.

Elan Lee opened the session with a look back at “The Beast” the promotional experience designed for the movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Steven Spielberg came to Microsoft and said he wanted to do something promotional that would familiarize his audience with the A.I. world before the movie opened. What evolved from this was a series of websites, puzzles, and events that attracted thousands of dedicated players – who, incidentally, solved several weeks worth of content in a matter of hours. The designers had to scramble to keep adding content, altering the storyline as needed, and even responding to their audience by taking an initially unimportant but player-beloved character (The Red King) and promoting him to the character A-List.

After “The Beast” ended, Elan was surprised to receive three wedding invitations from players who had been deeply affected by their experience with the game. He realized, he said, that something magical was happening, when an audience felt close enough to a total stranger to invite him to participate in their real-life celebrations. “The Beast” and its designers had evoked a trust that transcended the anonymity of the internet and crossed over into the real world. What builds this intense sense of trust? According to Elan, one of the keys to trust is… a magnet.

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ARG Netcast, Episode 7

December 3, 2006 · Filed Under Netcasts · 7 Comments 

argnetcast_december.jpgWe bring you a merry netcast,
We bring you a merry netcast,
We bring you a merry netcast,
The last one of the year (maybe)!

Carie Ward, Brooke Thompson, Sean C. Stacey and Jackie Kerr return to sling the ARG dirt with Jonathan Waite. Episode seven is a doozy, clocking in at 1 hour and 7 minutes, but it’s definitely something that’ll warm your heart this holiday season. Subscribe to the ARG Netcast feed through FeedBurner or via iTunes.

Game News

  • A bit more on the Lost Planet ARG we talked about last week, which Carie wrote about on Wednesday.
  • Lawn Games For Life is sweeping the U.S. with geocaching and puzzle solving. Not only did Carie write about it for us here, but she also started a guide. You go, girl!
    This is also our Puzzle of the Week, as the players need help getting to items left in the Southwestern U.S.
  • Steve Peters of 42 Entertainment continues on his cross-podcast tour with an exciting and informative interview with GeeksOn.
  • Enoch of Gatewood is new on the scene, but the story leaves us giggly.
  • The creator of Hell Is Not Gone asks for help in advertising their game, almost a month after players were first pointed to it. By him.
  • Jericho may have something ARGish brewing for their off-season, but if they don’t, it’d be a shame.
  • Second Life Future Salon panel discussion on ARGs took place on the 27th of November, we hope to have access to the audio from that discussion soon.
  • EDOC Laundry stirs back to some sort of life, partly by accident. Whatever the case, this might be your chance to get in on the ground floor, again.

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ARG Netcast, Episode 1

October 23, 2006 · Filed Under Netcasts · 4 Comments 

Editor’s note: While we are still figuring out the logistical nature of netcasting, you can subscribe to the netcast by saving/dragging this link into your podcast/netcast program, including iTunes.

netcast.jpgWe’re happy to introduce the first in what will be a continuing series of netcasts featuring ARGNet staff and special guests. The ARG Netcast will be a weekly (we hope) look into the world of alternate reality gaming, in audio format. Episode 1 is up and features Brooke Thompson, Sean C. Stacey and myself talking about a number of different topics:

We dish on the games in our What’s Hot List!

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Greek Mythology Hits the Small Screen (and Your Manly Chest) With Punch

October 6, 2006 · Filed Under Events, News, Update · 1 Comment 

EDOCStaringBefuddled.jpgNot content with spreading its artistic, mysterious, cottony fingers across your chest to spread its message, EDOC Laundry’s coded T-shirts are taking a starring role on CBS’s CSI:NY on Wednesday, October 11.

EDOC Laundry captured the attention of co-creator and executive producer, Anthony E. Zuiker, who found the concept of clues to a murder mystery captured in the everyday clothing item of a t-shirt a compelling idea. He worked to script an episode of CSI:NY, “Hung Out to Dry,” using the EDOC Laundry theme, collaborating with the fashion line’s designers to create 4 new t-shirts to incorporate into the mythological murder mystery. Watch raptly as Gary Sinise and the other cast members stare inexplicably at the trippy t-shirts left on the victims by a rabid serial murderer who spent entirely too much time with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and his sister’s Barbie dolls as a child. Eat popcorn and giggle as big-time New York crime scene detectives wonder “Who on God’s Green Earth would think putting bizarre dripping bloody lines on a shirt would *mean* something besides, you know, bizarre dripping bloody lines? Who are these criminal master minds of puzzling creativity?! Damn these crafty kids!” ARG fans are guaranteed to enjoy this game to TV show crossover, and, if rumors on the internets can be believed, will be treated to cameo appearances by Elan Lee and Shane Small (the rumor mill mentioned “lab coats”).

EDOCArgus.jpgTo celebrate the collaboration, EDOC Laundry will be selling limited editions of the four shirts created for the episode. Each of the four (Sadly, all men’s styles – Hydra would have looked great on a women’s shirt) shirts is a EDOCHydra.jpggraphical representation of a character from Greek Mythology: Hydra, Hades, Hypnos, and Argus. Furthermore, a fifth shirt inspired by the episode will also be available on the website, depicting the beheaded Hydra. The shirts will be in stock on the EDOC Laundry website beginning on October 11th and should ship in 5 to 10 days.

The media blitz is, naturally, timed to hype EDOC Laundry’s upcoming Winter season, which goes live in November with an entire season of new t-shirts, puzzles, and new videos. Fans of the game can hope that the blitz doesn’t peter out into a fizzle with the game continuing to draw on its old habits of “buy, solve, watch, repeat.” The audience may have wandered off to other engagements during the off-season downtime, bored with the story delivery, difficulty of finding the clothing items, and (often) questionably edited video scripts that hammer heavy on metaphor. Luckily, the quality and look of the clothing remains satisfying, even if the storytelling burps a stinky once in a while.

Tune in next Wednesday night at 10pm ET/PT to catch EDOC Laundry make its television debut on CSI:NY, grab a limited edition shirt, snag a peek at the new clothing line and make sure to catch the next season of EDOC Laundry when it arrives in November.

Catch a quick look at the upcoming episode of CSI:NY on the CBS webpage. Note: CBS only likes Internet Explorer, or the IE Tab extension for Firefox. Video preview also requires Flash player, and either RealMedia player or Windows Media Player (Seriously. Can CBS be any more obnoxious?) But, the clip does show a girl in bra and panties, as well as painted man-nipples and a 360-degree camera swoop around Gary Sinise pondering, so you know, maybe it’s worth it.

Flakes on a Refrain – Brain Ouchies Courtesy of EDOC Laundry

July 31, 2006 · Filed Under Features, News, Opinion, Reviews · Comment 

JEFF!.jpg
If the catchy rhythm of ragtime music, soft-shoeing in your ear, sets your brain humming, the challenge of EDOC Laundry may tune your fork. Since the opening of the company’s online retail store, EDOC Laundry has introduced players to two websites related to the mystery of the band Poor Richard’s demise, and in its wake, a cresting tide of dead bodies. Having worn and faded the few remaining unsolved shirts – two elusive hats still evading purchase by their wallets – players had been intently twiddling their thumbs, pondering a great many things. (Really great things, such as “How much can we really HATE Sally?” and “How many bad PhotoShops of Jeff can be tolerated without inducing projectile vomit?”) Hence, once Sally and Lyn began posting on their respective websites, the players rejoiced quietly, thrilled to finally be getting a little action from the ladies.

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I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours: EDOC Laundry Dresses for Success

May 27, 2006 · Filed Under Game Launch, News, Previews · Comment 

Edoc4.jpg“Psssst! Hey, you. Look at this!” Your head turns at the sound, only to find your eyes landing on some punk lifting up his shirt. Repulsed, you start to turn away and return to your daily machinations, hoping to some how erase the image of pasty tummy skin poking out at you, but something makes you look again. Is it your love for a human train-wreck, or your fascination with anyone willing to flash a complete stranger on the street? If you’re seeing the same thing I am, it’s neither of the above, but the inner-shirt code on a piece of EDOC Laundry.

Anticipated for months, the EDOC Laundry game rushed to the stage to belt out its ARG rock this week with a preview of the next season of clothing, two new websites, and more mystery swirling around its characters. Also new to EDOC Laundry is the unveiling of their eStore, where customers can purchase clothing online directly from EDOC. (Note: The stock is currently low, but a new shipment is expected in about 2 weeks. Backorders will be available on items expected to arrive soon. Check back often for updates. Also, despite earlier reports of tiny tiny fetally-sized shirts, the EDOC items have been resized to be more generous.) The shirts are beautifully made, the caution to detail in each print showing through with quality, and the designs are unique, striking and, speaking of the women’s articles I have, flattering. The preview of the Fall/Winter catalog appears to improve upon an already distinct brand, adding more depth to their offerings (zip hoodies, jackets, and sweaters for both sexes) and designs that are even more rich in detail. Rumors swirl around the future clothing offerings by EDOC, suggesting experiments with glowing dyes and messages that reveal themselves only after the shirt has spent a few turns in the laundry machine. Maybe if I’m lucky, my wish for flip-flop sandals that mark a coded footprint in the sand won’t be too far away from realization.

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