Prepare to work your socks off at Socks Inc., the factory that makes Believe. Socks Inc. is the largest employer of sock puppets in the world and if you play your cards right, you too could be hired, starting today. To complete your employment application, create a sock puppet, go the Socks Inc. website, and register to join the fun. Socks Inc. is the second alternate reality game to come from Awkward Hug, following up on their romantic comedy Must Love Robots. Over the coming months, Socks Inc., lovingly referred to as “World of Sockcraft” by Awkward Hug’s lead game designer Jim Babb, plans on sending you and your sock puppet on countless storytelling missions that will keep you on your toes.
The main storyline of Socks Inc. is explored in Mr. Barnsworth’s office, the boss at Socks, Inc. Other themes, stories and missions are available in the company’s other departments: so far, these include Athletics, Groundskeeping, Politics, Waste Management, and Research & Development. The webpage has a few empty slots left for future departments and added content. Socks Inc. employees are sent out into a world of storytelling adventures, which are usually introduced by one of the many colourful characters running the different departments. Once you have accepted a mission, you and your sock puppet avatar need to go into the real world to complete it, and this is where the potential for creativity kicks in.
Given the task of recording your sock puppet rapping, you could just download the beat and rap a few lines. Or, you could spend days building a set and directing a full-blown music video. Whatever you come up with, the next step is to upload your picture or video onto the Socks Inc. site, where it becomes visible on your profile page and can get responses from other players. If you happen to have made a particularly embarrassing attempt, there is also an option to make your video private so only you can view it. As you complete each mission, you unlock more adventures, stories, and badges. Progress is measured on a gauge and a progress bar on your profile page. Co-developer Julie Coniglio confirmed that the game is scalable, with new online content being planned as well as future live events.
Awkward Hug received initial support for this project through a call for support on Kickstarter. It quickly exceeded its funding goal, receiving over $7,000 from over a hundred backers. The idea was further refined in beta tests like the live event at the Euphrat Museum of Art and in discussion with leading voices from the games and entertainment industry at Power to the Pixel.
Socks Inc. allows players to experience real-world play without the fear of embarrassment or the limits of social conformities. Younger children can play with their parents’ help and playfully develop media and technology literacy alongside creativity and storytelling skills. Tweens and teens will find it easy to explore this alternate reality as a lot of their lives are already played out in the virtual world. This game is not played in real time, which means you can play whenever you like, for as long as you like, and even replay your favorite missions.
Unlike many online environments, Socks Inc. actively encourages creative and critical thinking. Don’t let a lack of offspring put you off though: anyone can play. I know I’m looking forward to trying this game out with my kids, and this is why: we can play together when it suits our busy schedules. My son is good with technology, and my daughter is creative: this is a game in which they can explore their complementary skills constructively. Mostly, Socks Inc. just looks like a whole lot of fun to play.
Editor’s note: Since this article has been posted, ARGNet has learned that Socks Inc. is unraveling corners of the social media world thread-by-thread with Threddit (reddit for sockpuppets) and Buzzfeet (the Fungal Web in Real Time).