Due to the extreme awesomeness of ARGFest 2006: Chicago, one writer was not enough to cover all the excitement! Therefore, this article has been contributed by the combined efforts of Sean C. Stacey, Will Bagby, and Michelle Senderhauf. All pictures for this article are courtesy of Will Bagby, photographer extraordinaire.
On a balmy Friday in late July, ARGFest 2006 commenced, as Bagsbee was first on the scene at the scenic Holiday Inn O’Hare. After doing some reconnaissance on the area surrounding the hotel, he went for an early beer and beef jerky run at the local Dominick’s (where, as one suit-and-tie clad commuter on the check-out line commented wistfully, “that looks like a pretty good day right there”). EGo showed up later that morning, and the first of many ARGFest toasts followed soon after. Imbri and a pair of BYOSPers (thunderclap8 and INCyr) arrived, the group dined at the local Hooters, and were soon joined by ARGFest Hostess krystyn.
More ARGFesters trickled in over the course of the afternoon, another booze run was made by Aliendial and others, and everyone gathered in Room 215 (a.k.a. the BYOSP room) for some pre-dinner PS2 Karaoke. At 7 p.m., everyone piled into cars for a 30-second drive to Gino’s East for some famous Chicago deep dish pizza. The jury is still out on Chicago vs. New York-style pizza, although these reporters know the truth. More ARGers showed up during dinner, bringing the total to around 20. After dinner the siren’s call of Karaoke led the group back to the hotel for more hilarity, and some surprisingly good performances.
At this point, it might be prudent to mention that a particular contingent of ARGFest attendees, referred to by some as the “DS Crew,” began an attempt to realize their singular goal for the weekend: obtaining yet more Nintendo DSes. It was unclear to these reporters, having sadly been in the distinctly non-DS group, to comprehend the allure of these tiny, glowing, pinging, machines that seemed to sprout magically directly from the ends of the arms of the aforesaid Crew, in less than the space of a heartbeat, and any time that those very ARGonauts paused in place for more than half a minute.
After karaoke, all those ARGonauts who had brought with them memorabilia from present and past alternate reality games laid their items out in one of the rooms like some sort of nerd bazaar. Ian Pottmeyer of Studio Cypher was present with a stack of postcards. Mind Candy managed to send Krystyn an extremely generous lot of Perplex City cards, which she handed out to attendees.
Around 11:30 or so, someone decided she wanted vodka so Bagsbee, SpaceBass, and AmberJoy set off on a short-lived and wholly futile quest to buy liquor in a Chicago suburb after 10 p.m. If ultimately unsuccessful, the trip was at the very least quite loud, courtesy of AmberJoy and Sir Mix-a-Lot.
On Saturday morning the attendees that weren’t sleeping in (i.e. those without children at home) went for breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and everyone gathered in the lobby at 10am to prepare for the first strike into Downtown Chicago, specifically, the Museum of Science & Industry, where we all embraced our respective inner science geeks. At around 4 p.m., the group split up: some went to see the museum’s DaVinci show, others went back to basecamp, and the DS Crew (+AmberJoy) did what the DS Crew does – find more DSes.
That evening, the various factions met up at Reza’s, a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant on the north side of Chi-town. Highlights include ogling the enormous portions, some delicious potatoes, and EGo attempting to eat his weight in shish-kabob. After dinner, many of the ARGfest attendees headed over to The Neo-Futurarium to catch a showing of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, the longest running show in Chicago. During the 60 minute show, ARGers were treated to 29 plays (just missing the nightly goal of 30) ranging from quirky and hilarious comedy skits to tragic true life stories that brought the audience to complete silence. Being true to their immersion-loving nature, some ARGers even jumped up on stage and participated in a few plays themselves.
After The Neo-Futurarium, various groups of ARGFesters raced back to the basecamp hotel, those who had chosen public transportation over more expensive, yet more intimate, taxi transport were left far behind, and lagged in returning by a good hour and a half behind the clever cab riders. Immediately, three of the four ARGonauts who had returned early disappeared, only to be seen again the next morning at breakfast.
And the next morning would yet be far off, as dedicated geeks partied until the wee hours of the morning, at which point Bagsbee had to boot the last of them out, still possibly clutching sleepily to their Nintendo portables. During the course of the night, many libations were consumed, much conversation was had, an extremely unfortunate website was christened, and bagsbee began looking over his shoulder every so often for THE REST OF HIS LIFE.
On Sunday morning, or what should rightfully be be described as “later that same morning”, those who were physically able after the previous night’s events gathered for brunch in the hotel restaurant. More PXC cards were handed out (thanks again MC!), and the group gathered for its final assault on Chicago, to Margie’s Candies, a legendary Chicago candy and ice cream shop. A chorus of “mmmmmm”‘s and “aaaahhh”‘s was heard as the crowd devoured sundaes and other ice cream treats, and Shad0 further cemented his god-like status by chugging a gravy boat full of hot fudge. No, we’re dead serious.
Post-ice cream and hot fudge (!), a contingent trooped back to Krystyn’s place to regroup, and Konamouse led an expedition to the Lincoln Park Zoo. We are told that part of the Krystyn expedition again set out in fruitless search for more Nintendos, but this rumor cannot be confirmed. It really would have been pretty surprising if they had not, however. Anyway, at the zoo, konamouse, SpaceBass, imbri, and Caspian_X bid adieu to Bagsbee, after helping him rummage through the gift shop for souvenirs for the kids (which gift shop, incidentally, was a virtual treasure trove of stuffed plushie internet meme jokes involving SOAPs and O RLYs and possibly badgers badgers badgers but the really great find was only to be a FUTURE internet meme: the naked molerat plushie). While wandering around, Konamouse played “Spot the Future PXC Player,” and handed out Perplex City card packs to selected, unsuspecting strangers.
The final group dinner, at which about 13 people attended at least partly, was back at the hotel and next door to Outback Steakhouse, home of the Bloomin’ Heart Attack. The group dwindled over the night at the restaurant and back at the hotel for more drinks afterwards, and the final eight or so retired around 2 am. The next morning, the hotel was a shadow of its former ARGosity, as only SpaceBass and imbri remained to meet for breakfast before flying back out.
In spite of some small hitches for a few people, mainly with travel accommodations falling through at the last minute (sorry Caspian_X! :/), ARGFest was again a great and casual party, with attendees from all over the country and Canada. Shall we begin taking nominations for next year’s location?