“There’s this expression, “zed omega.” It means “so over.” When you go zed omega, you are done.”
-Ed Zed Omega Revealed
When it comes to public or private education, everyone has an experience, everyone has a story, and everyone has an opinion. The internet is rife with pointed discussions about the problems in education, and full of suggestions on how to solve them. While education issues vary broadly from state to state and nation to nation, they share at least one commonality: solutions tend to be easy to propose but difficult to implement. Education reform is an ongoing conversation amongst government officials, educators, and the public, and conversations between these groups are often politically charged and riddled with miscommunication and misunderstandings.
Andi McDaniel and Ken Eklund have brought something new to the conversation about education with their freshly-launched project, Ed Zed Omega. The project focuses on a set of voices that often gets lost in the cacophony that pervades the education discussion: the voices of those most directly affected by our education systems, the people currently subject to the state of “being educated.” Ed Zed Omega features the stories of six fictional teens who have decided that they are done with education, and that they’re not going back. Their guidance counselor, Mary Johnson, has convinced them to use the time they would have spent in school to complete one more assignment, exploring solutions to the problems they perceive in education. Ed Zed Omega launched on August 15, 2012 and will run through November 15, 2012 to follow their journey.
As yet another entry in the serious gaming genre, Ready For The Big Chill asks a “chilling” question: would you be ready in the event of a catastrophic event such as the eruption of a super-volcano or an asteroid impact that blocked the sun, throwing the world into a new Ice Age?
Several ARG and Unfiction community members received a dark and cryptic envelope with the words “Nobody Knows It Yet” stamped on the outside. Inside, an equally cryptic card adds, “…But It Has Already Started” one one side, printed on top of what appears to be a block of ice. On the other side, the silhouette of a screaming figure frames the url for a Facebook page, Facebook.com/ReadyforTheBigChill. The game’s Facebook page then leads to The Big Chill’s main site.
The presently unnamed group behind The Big Chill have formed an “idea-community“ to generate survival ideas from the players through the help of an eclectic group of characters including vulcanologists, geologists, a video director, and a certified conspiracy theorist, who are all monitoring and reporting on world geologic events that could lead to such a catastrophe. Many of the characters have Twitter feeds, Facebook accounts, blogs, YouTube channels, and other avenues of communication with players.
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.
Earlier today, I received a package containing a message in a bottle from Aguatero Industries. The company was so excited to announce its expansion into the Las Vegas and Los Angeles markets, it sent me a message secreted inside their newer, more eco-friendly bottle design. On the inside of the bottle cap, I could faintly make out the letters “WP.ME /PURU9-2″ written in pen, with the number 998 embossed beneath that.
Sadly, in order to reach the message in the bottle, I had to cut the water bottle apart. Once inside, I unfolded the press release, revealing the following message describing Aguatero Industries’ involvement in worldwide urban water system operation, and announcing its plans for expansion. According to the company’s website, its expansion into Las Vegas and Los Angeles is only part of a larger rollout of services. The press release was dated in the near future, on June 10, 2010.
The company has a social media presence with its twitter account. Refreshingly (pun entirely intended), no one seems to be in physical danger. However, typing in the shortened url on the bottle cap leads to the Our Water Planet blog, which suggests the empty bottle I received represents something more insidious: “It represents something far too many people experience: a lack of water.” The blog is run by Connor Arter, who maintains a twitter account for the site.
All the signs seem to indicate that this is the launch of a new serious game addressing water scarcity and resource management issues: the Our Water Planet blog even includes a donation link to Charity: Water. Charity: Water is near and dear to to the hearts of alternate reality game fans, as players of Levi’s Go Forth treasure hunt selected the charity to receive a $100,000 donation from Levi’s at the game’s conclusion.
Was this message in a bottle simply a press release, or was it an SOS to the world?
Click Here for the discussion at Unfiction.
Wouldn’t it be great if, during times of crisis, there was a way to access a network of experts ready and able to help avert the crisis? Starting March 3rd, the Evoke Network goes live and available for all your crisis-averting needs!
EVOKE was developed by the World Bank Institute, the educational branch of the World Bank Group, and directed by Jane McGonigal, the creative mind behind Superstruct and World Without Oil (among many others) and most recently an invited speaker at TED2010. The alternate reality game’s mission is to help the world help itself, by empowering young people to tackle the world’s toughest problems. In the first episode, the year is 2020 and Japan is facing a nation-wide famine. The Governor of Tokyo sends an “EVOKE” to the mysterious Alchemy, who then activates the Evoke Network by contacting individuals with the necessary skills and ideas needed to help Tokyo avert her food crisis, and teach her people how to avoid it in the future.
During the 10 week course of the game, players will be presented with 10 different challenges involving topics like hunger, poverty, and education – one challenge per week. Players who participate in all 10 challenges will be honored as a “Certified World Bank Institute Social Innovator – Class of 2010.” On top of that, the top 10 Social Innovators will also have the opportunity to be mentored by noted social innovators and business leaders, along with scholarships to the EVOKE Summit in Washington, DC to share their innovative ideas with the world.
The goal of the game? Fun of course! But the main goal is to teach the young people of the world skills such as networking, resourcefulness, creativity, and vision; empowering them to start solving the world’s problems. Teach the people, save the world!
EVOKE launches on March 3rd and is accepting membership reservations now, and discussion is brewing over in Unfiction. Also, the first graphic novel episode can be read in its entirety on the EVOKE homepage, including links to articles for additional information on the topics discussed in the episode and a video trailer with clues about the nature of the EVOKE Network.