** Editor’s Note: The original publication of this article had an incorrect hyperlink to The Hanso Foundation web site. The link has been corrected and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.
It’s been a little over a week since the launch of The Lost Experience, a launch in the form of prominent television advertisements for The Hanso Foundation. Since the first commercial spot reached television sets across the globe, the trailhead site has undergone a few plot-advancing changes, and two new sites (Gary Troup’s site and subLYMONal) have been connected to the game. As well, an official insider’s blog has popped up on the ABC Television web space. So far, the game has performed well, and updates to the Hanso site give players the sense that the game is something they should be watching every day. This is one Alternate Reality Game a lot of people have been waiting for, and it has opened the door to ARGs for an entirely new audience.
The game has become very popular in a relatively short amount of time, mostly because of the exposure it has been given. However, finding the site and calling the Hanso company hotline are only the first steps into the game, and so the game designers have had to focus on how to keep the player base interested enough to keep coming back. Their answer? Make the Experience easily accessible, but with enough content to satisfy even the most voracious fan. So far, so good — the sites are fairly easy to digest but offer underlying layers of complex material giving the die-hard fanatics material to theorize about. By feeding the plot elements to the masses bit by bit, the information is hardly overwhelming, even to the casual watcher. In the end, regardless of a player’s commitment level, the game delivers a rich, interwoven back-story that is starting to answer some of the questions about the show.
The interface for the Hanso site is Flash-based but very slick. It’s a company web site that feels very professional. There are hidden features that can be found in many different places, some of which have been discovered but are not functional yet. The suspension of disbelief factor is quite high here; there aren’t any parts of the site that come across as out-of-place or so completely unbelievable that they tarnish the experience, and the game has been represented as a real-world entity. The latest television ad featured a corporate sponsor (Sprite) which explains why subLYMONal has, apparently, been re-purposed in connection to this game (the site has connections to Sprite and its parent company, Coca-Cola). While this is another way to blur the line between the fictional world of Lost and the real world we live in, the attachment of a corporate entity to the game has disappointed a few players.
Overall, this is a smart move by the show’s producers, now that the summer season approaches in North America, and with it, a break in the series. With The Lost Experience, fans of the show can continue to explore the universe that Lost takes place in (where that might be, exactly, is anyone’s guess). The season two finale is fast approaching, and with it will undoubtedly be some sort of cliffhanger. Hopefully, the game will offer clues that point towards the events of season three over the summer, allowing the momentum of season two to simmer just under the surface, rather than stopping abruptly until the fall. In any case, it will be interesting to see where the game goes from this point.