Seeing Red with Webishades: An Introduction to a Few Web Series

Images courtesy of No Mimes Media

Last week, I got a phone call from Felicia Day . . . and you can too.

It all started with an interview with No Mimes Media by Jenni Powell posted on Tubefilter, a news site dedicated to web television. While Tubefilter’s primary focus is web television, alternate reality games and transmedia tactics have been successfully utilized in the space since the early days of YouTube, when lonelygirl15 became one of the biggest breakaway hits for scripted web television.

In the article, Powell mentioned that she recently “had the pleasure to collaborate with No Mimes Media” on a project. And in response to Powell’s final interview question asking where someone could find an ARG to play, No Mimes Media cryptically replied that “you never know, a rabbithole might even be on this very page somewhere, if you look carefully enough!” Sure enough, below that comment was an advertisement for Webishades.

Webishades, it seems, are an amazing new form of sunglasses that let you watch web television on the go. The campy website behind the product fully embraces the aesthetic atrocity that typifies many infomercial pages, while featuring images of the cast and crew from popular web series donning the signature red sunglasses. By following a sequence of clues, players hop seamlessly across websites, email, Facebook, Twitter, and phone trees, punctuated by an automated call from Felicia Day herself.

This experience was highly reminiscent of another one of No Mimes Media’s projects, Mime Academy. Mime Academy was a comedic storytelling experience presented at ARGFest and South by Southwest that billed itself as a “10 Minute ARG” for its ability to tell a cohesive interactive story in a limited amount of time. Webishades succeeds admirably at replicating the condensed feeling of interactivity that made Mime Academy such a powerful exemplar for the potential of alternate reality games.

The Webishades experience serves as a primer of sorts for many recent web series. Through the course of the game, players were guided through the websites for Squatters, The Guild, Compulsions, Anyone But Me, Bumps in the Night, A Good Knight’s Quest, The Quitters Show, and The Temp Life, with passing reference made to The Bannen Way and BlackBoxTV. Jenni Powell is the producer of Bumps in the Night, made a guest appearance on Squatters, and worked on The Guild, while No Mimes Media’s Jamie Bullock is the producer of The Quitter Show, so the selection of the eight primary web series featured makes sense.  However, in this case, promotion might have been done at the expense of a story.

In Mime Academy, players are introduced to a world and watch a short story develop as they try to help Oswald the Mime escape the clutches of his captors. With Webishades, that call to action is missing. While numerous points along the trail hinted that Webishades might be used for nefarious (or pornographic) purposes if jailbroken, that potential remains untapped, and perusal of the assorted assets is motivated only by idle curiosity at what lies behind the company’s login for beta testers. The Webishades alternate reality game established a concept, but neglected to follow through with an actual story.

Despite its flaws, Webishades provides a tantalizing look at how a condensed alternate reality gaming experience can be used to provide cross-promotion for a series of related products. The game’s content may only remain accessible for the next few weeks, so act soon . . . the Webishades offer may be expiring shortly.

Start the Webishades experience
Read the Webishades walkthrough
Start the Mime Academy experience

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Webishades was technically launched through a tweet by @worldofhiglet.


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