Five brilliant young scientists collectively known as “MHD-6” disappear from Belgrade University. Shortly after, a video of the kidnapping makes its way to the foundation that sponsored them. A mysterious person known only as “The Donetsk Voice” feeds bits and pieces of information relating to the disappearance of the MHD-6. As the investigation progresses, the Alvinson Foundation puts out a global call for help solving the mystery. Players who respond to the call are thrown headfirst into the European-based transmedia experience Alt-Minds, an eight week long paranormal mystery that incorporates puzzles, websites, geo-locative content, and a Facebook game.
French telecommunications corporation Orange joined the French game development studio Lexis Numérique to create the Alt-Minds experience, which launched on November 12th, in four languages: French, German, Spanish, and English. According to a press release by Orange, “Alt-Minds is a cohesive set of films, games, monitoring tools and web documentaries.” The story unfolds live over the game’s eight week span, using the web series format as the framework for players stepping into the role of investigator.
« JC, my brother, I haven’t forgotten you. Goodbye – Fred ».
This message, hidden in an encrypted note found in a Parisian hotel room, finally gave some closure for JC, the protagonist in Supernatural Oddities. JC embarked on a journey to investigate the supernatural after his brother JC disappeared 20 years ago, driven by the motto : “Supernatural is Normal!” On April 29th, JC discovered that Fred became a matchmaking angel, and that they would probably never see each other again. Nicolas, one of the players of the Finding Fred alternate reality game joined JC, his mother-in-law Simone, and his wife Muriel in the hotel room for the discovery. A few days later, the community watched the epilogue to the ten-day long investigation on JC’s mockumentary webisode Life Really Is a Funny Thing, guest-starring Nicolas as a full-fledged character in the fiction.
Jane Doh introduced ARGNet readers to the Finding Fred ARG, part of the Supernatural Oddities transmedia project produced by Happy Fannie in partnership with Orange. In recent years, Orange, a French public telecommunications company, has moved its core business model from selling telecommunications pipes to global production in the mobile, web, and content sectors.
Sandrine Girbal, co-founder of Happy Fannie and executive producer of the project, explains that “Supernatural Oddities is the first transmedia fiction project for TV, Internet and social media in France. We partnered with Orange who wanted to take part in this experiment. They also wanted to try and find original content for their cable TV Channels, Orange Cinéma Series / Choc.” She explains that the main challenge was to change viewers’ habits :
Fiction is a very formal genre in France, very few attempts have been made these last years to change that. Supernatural Oddities is our attempt to cater to an audience hungry for more interaction with the fiction and the characters! Supernatural Oddities’challenge consisted of a 4-month real time story developed for several media platforms. More than a simple TV program available on different platforms, our wish was to go further in terms of storytelling.
In February, freelance graphic designer JC Dénarié started documenting paranormal experiences in France on his videoblog, but he’s been interested in the supernatural for 20 years, ever since his brother Fred disappeared mysteriously. In addition to writing an encyclopedia about aliens, demons, and other strange things, JC’s findings have since been picked up by a production company eager to produce a reality TV mini-series called Faits Divers Paranormaux, or Supernatural Oddities. JC’s findings in 26 short episodes will be broadcast Monday through Thursday evenings at 20:30 on Orange’s Cinéchoc.
Encouraged by JC’s investigations, since March, people all over France have been submitting their own experiences of the supernatural, in a kind of “paranormal urban hunt.” JC continues to delve deeper into the unnatural and the uncanny all around France, “assisted” by his wife Muriel and his mother-in-law Simone (who is also on Facebook). By signing on to the Faits Divers Paranormaux site with a Facebook account, players can earn points, badges, and prizes as they take quizzes, submit content, and engage in the online community. Other features, including the “paranormal urban hunt,” encourage people to capture and share evidence of the supernatural using their mobile devices. Prizes include True Blood and Harry Potter DVDs and a chance to win a trip to a film festival in Deauville, France.