Just when you thought the LonelyGirl15 phenomenon had settled down, in walks Cassie. Cassie, an 18 year old YouTube contributor from, um, “right there above you,” first caught the eye of LG15 fans in mid-September when she was mentioned in one of the LonelyGirl15 videos. From there, it’s a little hard to explain, what with the public skepticism about whether “Cassie Is Watching” (the first video in the Cassie series can be found here) was officially tied in with LG15. Weeks passed by with no official confirmation on whether Cassie, Bree and Daniel (the latter two being the main characters of the LG15 videos) were all part of the same story, which left fans wondering whether Cassie was another creation by the makers of LG15 or some sort of story hijacking attempt.
Then, on October 21, things took a turn for the… even more strange and confusing. Somehow, a YouTube user named OpAphid became intertwined into the LG15/CIW universe. Again, followers of events had to wonder if this was another attempt to derail the “official” LG15 experience. Fortunately, exactly one month later, the public got some well-deserved answers from the LG15 creation team — OpAphid had become the “Official LG15 Alternate Reality Game,” according to a post on the LG15 forums. Days later, the LG15 creators acknowledged that OpAphid “was a 100% fan created ARG” and that they “liked it so much that [they] decided to contact the creator and make it the official LG15 ARG.”
So what is OpAphid, anyway? Well, it’s short for Operation Aphid, for starters, and so far it’s an ARG that has doled out cryptic codes and number strings through YouTube videos, while interacting with players via LindenLabs’ Second Life online world. It’s also seen its story elements inserted into the LG15 plot, despite being started outside of the control of the LG15 creators, which Eston Bond talks about at length the article “Cassie is not the only one watching“, found at his web site hyaline skies.
For all of the talk that circulates among the various circles of the ARG community about “blurring the lines” between a game and its audience, the fact remains that alternate reality gaming is unique in the sense that it can adapt to its audience in real-time, and that fan-created content can have a place within the official structure of an ARG, even while it’s running at full steam. Seeing what is happening with LG15/CIW/OpAphid certainly reminds us that almost anything can be possible within game design.