ARGFest 2011Next week, from Thursday, August 18, to Sunday, August 21, alternate reality gamers and transmedia producers will descend on Bloomington, Indiana, for ARGFest-o-Con 2011. Led by this year’s Grand Inquisitor Andrea Phillips, the schedule taps into the local game development talent as well as the strong academic presence at Indiana University, which features such names as Professor of Telecommunications Edward Castronova.

Thursday night’s Kick-Off party will start the conference, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, with a special interactive event hosted by Awkward Hug, creators of the highly acclaimed ARG Must Love Robots and the pervasive kid-friendly community, Socks, Inc. I caught up with Awkward Hug’s own Jim Babb to ask about A Wisconsin Hustle. their first foray into the smartphone app space:

We are really excited to bring A Wisconsin Hustle to ARGFest! Wisconsin Hustle is something new for Awkward Hug and will be our first venture into Android apps. While the app is not ready to launch until the end of the year, we have turned the excitement of the app into a real-world pants-off dance-off. A Wisconsin Hustle is, an American tradition clothed in mystery and from unknown origins (we are doing intensive research ourselves into the legend). Men, and recently women, challenge each other in pantsless dance-offs for truth, money, and above all honor.

On a rare occasion Hustlers, as they are known, will pants-off dance-off to the death! Players at ARGFest need not worry, we are more interested in the ethnographic, ethnochoreographic, and pantsnographic study of A Wisconsin Hustle than running a “two man enter, one man leaves” sort of affair.

This year’s keynote speaker will be transmedia storyteller J. C. Hutchins, author of 7th Son: Descent and Personal Effects: Dark Art, who had this to say about next week’s events:

Excited? I’m very excited! I’ve wanted to attend ARGFest for years. I’ve had friends and colleagues come back from past ARGFests feeling pumped and creatively invigorated, so I’m really looking forward to it. This trip is long overdue for me. I can’t wait!

Perhaps what I’m most excited about is meeting face-to-face with some of the most talented storytellers I’ve ever known. These are folks whose work I’ve followed for years: Andrea Phillips, Lance Weiler, Jim Babb, David Varela, Dan Hon and others … the list seems endless! These people are forging the future of storytelling — and I’ll be able to chat with them? That’s just awesome. Nothing’s cooler than meeting people you admire.

My keynote is called “Getting to Good,” and is mostly about the strange creative journey I took that eventually brought me to transmedia storytelling — and how it’s profoundly and positively impacted my life. I also hope to share some ways that others to get into the business, for the folks who’re interested in becoming a part of this movement.

ARGFest will also feature speakers such as Dan Hon, Creative Director at Wieden + Kennedy, and John Maccabee, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of City Mystery LLC, producer of the Smithsonian Museum experiences, Ghosts of a Chance and Pheon. In terms of local talent, the program includes a look at Taming the Butterfly with Kevin Makice and Christian Briggs and a crash course in game design techniques from Studio Cypher’s Ian Pottermeyer.

Other highlights from the program include:

  • A retrospective look at The Beast, the ARG that started it all
  • An early screening of a documentary about indie ARGs from Remix Fiction and Maddison Atkins director Jeromy Barber
  • A showcase of local game developers and upcoming projects at the Bloomington Independent Game Night
  • And of course FestQuest, the traditional ARGFest city-wide scavenger hunt

It’s not too late to join your ARG compatriots and fellow transmedia producers at this year’s ARGFest-o-Con 2011. More information can be found at the official ARGFest site, including the schedule of events, but click here to register today!