A few months ago, Adrian Hon gathered together a collection of ARG developers with the battle cry, Let’s Change the Game. In collaboration with Cancer Research UK, aspiring game developers were challenged to create an alternate reality game to serve as a fundraiser for a worthy cause: the fight to cure cancer. The winning team would receive £1300 ($2600USD) seed money to develop a campaign that would be promoted through the Cancer Research UK website, 600 plus stores, mailings to over 20 million people, TV ads, a dedicated island on Second Life, and hundreds of live events and races across the country.
On January 31, the judge’s panel selected the pitch for “Operation Sleeper Cell” by the development team Law 37. The game officially launched earlier today via an email from Agent Herring. The game, heralded as “the world’s first massively multiplayer game designed to raise money for charity”, is currently centered around two websites: the Operation Sleeper Cell homepage and the We Are Not the Agency page. The goal of the game is to activate sleeper cells represented as squares on a grid in an effort to thwart the nefarious plans of E.V.I.L. through acts of kindness, puzzle solving, and “spreading loveliness”.
If any of this seems a trifle confusing, the development team set up a Guide to Playing. Operation Sleeper Cell raises money by having individuals and teams purchase virtual currency bonds (BND) that can be spent activating squares on the Grid that will enable missions, live events, story fragments, or special operations. Once a mission is unlocked, everyone is free to play. Sponsors can also purchase advertising ‘cells’ for the game’s front page.
With a staff of over twenty volunteers, Operation: Sleeper Cell aims to spend the next ten weeks raising funds for Cancer Research through a lighthearted, comedy spy game that takes place over websites, blogs, Twitter, and real life. The game’s budget is limited to £1000 (~$2,000USD), with the staff relying on in-kind donations for any additional expenses. Let’s Change the Game founder Adrian Hon commented on the game, saying that “along with raising money for the vital cause of cancer research, Operation: Sleeper Cell shows that games can be a real force for good in the world. Games are often seen as childish distractions or used as scapegoats – what Law 37 have achieved, unpaid, with Operation: Sleeper Cell is a powerful rebuttal to that.”