Image courtesy of stevecadman
This past May, Tim Kring launched Conspiracy for Good, and as the summer comes to a close, the events of the past few months are coming to a head for one final event this weekend in London. If you can make it to Bloomsbury Square Gardens in London on August 7, register to play now, and this article should get you up to speed with what you need to know to join in the adventure.
Conspiracy for Good can best be described as an amalgamation of an alternate reality game, a street theater show, and a social movement. Players have been charged with the task of bringing down Blackwell Briggs, an evil global security firm with a penchant for kidnapping and skullduggery. Players willing to risk attracting Blackwell Briggs’ ire joined up with the Conspiracy for Good, an organization of socially-minded individuals committed to opposing the company’s excess.
Using a series of free mobile games available at Nokia’s Ovi Store, players were given the opportunity to hack into the Babbage 1.6.1 website to extract valuable pieces of intelligence, break into the Blackwell Briggs servers, and hack a series of CCTV cameras across London to help smuggle Nadirah, a key Conspiracy for Good member seeking to build a library for children in Zambia, into the city. The final mobile game lead to the next stage of Conspiracy for Good: a series of four live “Actions” occuring weekly in London. Participants at each Action are provided with a Nokia phone with pre-installed software to help complete the task.
In the summer of 2008, Tim Kring and Christopher Sandberg were discussing the future of transmedia and community-based entertainment, standing on top of Isaac Mendez’ iconic post-apocalyptic tableau painted on the floor of the Heroes soundstage. As a result of that conversation, The Company P signed on to help produce Conspiracy for Good, a large-scale movement with alternate reality gaming elements. Kring had previously pitched the concept for Conspiracy for Good to Nokia. The movement will play out “across both traditional media and new media platforms including smart mobile devices, game consoles, tablets, and PCs.” At the heart of the experience is a locative event that will play out over the course of three weeks in London starting in mid-July and running until August 7th. According to Kring, this is a great week to join in with the action, as “the narrative aspect really gets cooking as far as meeting key characters and key figures. A lot of the smoke that’s surrounding it will start to lift in the next few days.”
Conspiracy for Good first launched in May with a series of videos featuring celebrities ranging from JJ Abrams to Ringo Starr declaring “I am not a member.” Later in the month, the site hosting the videos redirected to the game’s main portal at Conspiracy for Good. Savvy players discovered a puzzle-locked allegory about Lord Magpie and his efforts to silence the songbirds. One of the puzzles introduced Blackwell Briggs, a global company seeking to increase surveillance by supercharging existing CCTV networks and introducing legislation to subvert mobile networks to track citizens. The Conspiracy for Good leaked the footage to The Pirate Bay, and spokeswoman Ann Marie Calhoun posted a re-edit of the video, revealing a different side to the company. Shortly after posting the video, Calhoun went missing and The Pirate Bay received a notice from Blackwell Briggs requesting that the tracker be removed. Further hints at the overarching story emerged by playing Exclusion, a free game for Nokia phones that includes unlockable codes that lead to additional pieces of information on Babbage, a website discovered through Exclusion. Nokia partnered with Kring and The Company P to launch the project, and will release a series of games expanding on Exclusion to advance the narrative.
Editor’s Note: Daniël van Gool, an administrator at the Unfiction forums, was on the scene at PICNIC ’08 on behalf of ARGNet. We were impressed with Daniël’s work covering PICNIC ’07 and, as media partners of the annual cross-media festival, were invited to a number of special events in addition to the speaker sessions. This is the fifth part of Daniël’s comprehensive look at this year’s event, a continuation of his analysis of day two of the event. All pictures are courtesy of Daniël as well.
Another very interesting talk followed, titled Commercial Collaborations: Tools, Things and Toys by Michael Tchao from Nike. This talk expanded some more on the theme of connecting the physical and online worlds and even a little bit on data visualization by addressing one of Nike’s most successful ventures of the past years: Nike+.
In short, Nike was looking for a way to connect the physical activity of running to a digital community, creating a buzz around their brand by creating indispensable tools that connect consumers to each other and the Nike brand.
Looking at runners, there’s only a small group of people that is actually self-motivated. A lot of runners need motivation though, and this is where Nike+ proved to be a valuable addition to the concept of running: digital technology can now provide data, such as distance ran, pace, and calories burned.
Another trend is that music is growing rapidly as an important factor when it comes to running. Forty percent of people say they would not run without music and participation by people who run with music shifted from 25% to 75% in a few years time. Also, fifty percent of iPod owners say that they use their devices in some form or other for sports. This is why Nike teamed up with Apple to develop Nike+, which builds a digital set of information around the iPod functionality: a website that collects statistics and has you set goals for yourself. In short, it provides motivation.
Upon request from its users, a Challenge function was implemented, so people could challenge themselves or others to reach certain goals and keep track of progress. People have met through this community, challenging each other online, but also making friends in real life. The community has taken on the challenge ability to make very interesting challenges (for example, Europe vs Japan, Cat lovers vs. Dog Lovers, Simpsons fans vs. South Park fans, etc.)
Expansion of the community element is still going on: Nike launched a web store, which sold selected T-shirts, available only for people who reached a certain milestone — the 100 Mile Club, for example. Also, you can now create an avatar that you can plug into Facebook to communicate your running progress to your friend and that will motivate you to run if you didn’t.
All in all, Nike+ is a great example of a very successful way of using a community in a commercial setting, which should tell other companies something about possibilities.