In the summer of 2008, Tim Kring and Christopher Sandberg were discussing the future of transmedia and community-based entertainment, standing on top of Isaac Mendez’ iconic post-apocalyptic tableau painted on the floor of the Heroes soundstage. As a result of that conversation, The Company P signed on to help produce Conspiracy for Good, a large-scale movement with alternate reality gaming elements. Kring had previously pitched the concept for Conspiracy for Good to Nokia. The movement will play out “across both traditional media and new media platforms including smart mobile devices, game consoles, tablets, and PCs.” At the heart of the experience is a locative event that will play out over the course of three weeks in London starting in mid-July and running until August 7th. According to Kring, this is a great week to join in with the action, as “the narrative aspect really gets cooking as far as meeting key characters and key figures. A lot of the smoke that’s surrounding it will start to lift in the next few days.”
Conspiracy for Good first launched in May with a series of videos featuring celebrities ranging from JJ Abrams to Ringo Starr declaring “I am not a member.” Later in the month, the site hosting the videos redirected to the game’s main portal at Conspiracy for Good. Savvy players discovered a puzzle-locked allegory about Lord Magpie and his efforts to silence the songbirds. One of the puzzles introduced Blackwell Briggs, a global company seeking to increase surveillance by supercharging existing CCTV networks and introducing legislation to subvert mobile networks to track citizens. The Conspiracy for Good leaked the footage to The Pirate Bay, and spokeswoman Ann Marie Calhoun posted a re-edit of the video, revealing a different side to the company. Shortly after posting the video, Calhoun went missing and The Pirate Bay received a notice from Blackwell Briggs requesting that the tracker be removed. Further hints at the overarching story emerged by playing Exclusion, a free game for Nokia phones that includes unlockable codes that lead to additional pieces of information on Babbage, a website discovered through Exclusion. Nokia partnered with Kring and The Company P to launch the project, and will release a series of games expanding on Exclusion to advance the narrative.
Over the course of the week, participants will have the chance to interact with one of the original members of the Conspiracy for Good who will be helping them along over the coming weeks. Kring also intimated that solving a puzzle hidden within a still-frame of Calhoun’s edited version of the Blackwell Briggs video would provide early access to some of the content that would be coming out over the next few days.
Running parallel with the alternate reality game is a pervasive element seeking to promote social causes on the Conspiracy for Good website. Players can use the game’s platform to get involved in their local communities. Kring explains, “This is not just a story. It is a movement. You are now being asked to join this movement and make this conspiracy a reality” in order to effect positive change where it is needed the most.
Kring and Sandberg are no strangers to alternate reality games. In 2008, Kring’s television series Heroes won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Media, recognizing the Heroes Evolutions experience, which extended the show’s mythos through an interactive adventure spanning multiple media. Kring is currently in the process of launching Imperative, a company dedicated to transmedia storytelling. As CEO of The Company P, Christopher Sandberg explored the limits of participatory dramas through the Swedish television show and interactive experience The Truth About Marika, which won an International Interactive Emmy for Best Interactive TV-service in 2008. The Company P is also responsible for Dollplay, an alternate reality game for the Dollhouse series. Sandberg notes that
It is kind of unique that this whole thing is done by this small, slightly mad creative outfit in Stockholm together with Tim, who is arguably one of the largest showrunners in Hollywood, and it will not be done as a marketing campaign or a stunt. We’re doing it to reinvent what you can do with participatory dramas.
The team behind Conspiracy for Good seems focused on providing a high degree of interactivity and immersion for the players. Sandberg explains that the goal is to develop
a real sense of agency and a real arc to the whole drama, so you’re not just digging into an extended universe . . . you’re important to the characters, and vice versa . . . we’d rather have hands-on, quality relationships with a small number of people rather than superficial flashmobbing with many people.
Even before the introduction of locative elements coming out this July, Conspiracy for Good is following through on that promise by offering real consequences to player decisions. For example, when the player AzureWolf uploaded the Blackwell Briggs video to YouTube, he received a message from the fictional company threatening legal action if the video was not removed. Later, the player Shizzire helped Blackwell Briggs access the Babbage website, and was unwittingly implicated for the act of sabotage. The elements of the story so far have been laying a foundation for things to come, so the scope of this project promises to become quite extensive. Luckily, a series of videos summarizing the experience will be posted periodically to make it easier to follow along. The first two summaries have already been posted. (1, 2)
This article has been edited to better reflect the relationships between Tim Kring, The Company P, and Nokia on the project.