Today saw the opening of the Game Writers Conference, a subset of the Austin Game Conference which opens tomorrow. Of particular interest to ARGers was the discussion by Maureen McHugh from 42 Entertainment about the work that went into The Beast and I Love Bees.

Maureen was contacted in 2004 to write for I Love Bees. She has a background in teaching English and writing science fiction. She made some interesting points about the emergence of varying types of entertainment being dependent upon what technology is available. As the printing press made novels possible, so has the internet made Alternate Reality Gaming possible. Additionally, she spoke about the emergence of the novel in comparison with the different ARGs we’ve seen so far. In the beginning were fake memoirs – Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders – which were originally published as actual diaries rather than a made-up story. From there, novels moved to an epistolary form (such as Clarissa) where the reader eavesdropped on conversations between strangers. She compared this with The Beast, where the players dropped in on writings which were originally intended for other in-game characters. Next in history, the novel moved into an art form with an omniscient narrator, such as Tom Jones. Could this be where ARGs are headed?

She drew similar parallels with film. The first films were strictly documentary, such as movies of trains. Next, filmmakers started to film plays from the perspective of a seat in the audience. Then, thinking outside the box, filmmakers started putting cameras everywhere – an omniscient camera, so to speak.

Past the theory into interesting I Love Bees tidbits:

The Walk-away Girl went through 56 revisions before it was final.
– The game was re-written in midstream in order to accommodate players who wanted to see more puzzles. Since the radio play was pre-recorded, the re-write was what brought the live calls.
– There were 7 hours worth of script written in 5 months.
– The lack of ability to beta-test meant that 5 hours before the phone calls went live, the PMs were still trying to see if the payphones would ring.
– The PMs had not expected Weephun to rat out the Sleeping Princess so easily and had to do quite a bit of rewriting in order to deal with it.
– When they went live in week 1, week 8 was still unwritten.
– They are very careful not to mention who the client is because players get turned off if the advertising is too overt.

And to finish with one last interesting quote – an audience member asked what happens when the game goes beyond the players – i.e., what if you give 42 Entertainment your phone number, and they end up calling and talking to your grandmother? Elan Lee once said, “If I could send electric shocks through the phone, I would.” He wants no-holds-barred, mind-blowing immersion. Maureen talked about future technologies with a gleam in her eye, saying that some day Elan wants to appear on the heads-up display of your vehicle as you drive.

They’re a little evil, a little scary, but… all good puppetmasters are.