Author: Brandie Minchew (Page 1 of 5)

Staff Writer
Brandie became fascinated with interactive fiction after reading/clicking through The Dionaea House. Shortly after, she learned about Alternate Reality Games from reading a news story about the lonelygirl15 "hoax", which lead her to Wikipedia, which led to ARGs, which led to unFiction, which led to the most exciting year of her life in 2007.

After spending five minutes feeling sorry for herself that she hadn't been paying attention in 2001 when The Beast made its debut, Brandie set out to learn all she could about multi-platform storytelling and interactive narrative while she experienced her first ARGs - MeiGeist, World Without Oil, Eldritch Errors, and (her favorite so far) Sammeeeees II: The Wrath of Johnson. After reading as many of the guides to past games as she could find, Brandie realized she had finally found a game genre that fulfilled her childhood dream of stepping out of the mundane and into another world.

Today, Brandie lives and writes in Houston while slowly building up the courage to write and launch an ARG of her own. Her three cats provide plenty of distraction, as does her husband, who occasionally worries for her sanity when she paints SATOR squares under the bed or wanders around the house muttering about "ravens" and "dark temples". When she isn't writing or plotting, Brandie spends her time playing SF0 and playing games on her XBox 360.

Road Trip into Terror: Dark Detour Revs Up for a Week of Chills and Thrills


In the tarot card deck of Talbot Griffin’s life, the first card on the table would most likely be The Fool, that familiar vagabond traveler blithely setting out into the unknown. Scrolling through his social media accounts, Griffin’s audience can piece together a whimsical portrait of a happy-go-not-so-lucky young musician whose life has hit a few bumps in the road. After making a pilgrimage to Jim Morrison’s grave in the Paris cemetery Père Lachaise, Griffin returned to New York City to find his life taking a sharp curve. His girlfriend leaves him. His boss fires him. And he’s got to find a new place to live. What’s a rising superstar musician to do? “Borrow” his grandfather’s ’67 Mustang and take a cross-country road trip to Los Angeles, where fame and fortune await him, of course!

As Griffin travels, elusive song lyrics distract and disturb him, a cut on his arm festers and refuses to heal, and the same creepy hitchhiker mysteriously appears in several stops along the way. Where is Talbot Griffin really going, and what waits for him at the end of the road?

Described by its creators as “a ghost story for the digital age,” Dark Detour, the tale of musician Talbot Griffin and his travels, is a comedy-horror tale that makes use of several social media platforms, allowing the audience to follow Talbot Griffin’s harrowing adventures in real time. The interactive ghost story will wrap up on Halloween, and comes with its very own safe word – MIMEKILLER – that audience members can use to opt out of the experience at any time if it becomes too intense.

This independent project is produced by a creative team led by Alison Norrington of StoryCentral and Steve Peters of No Mimes Media, along with creative consultants Brian Clark, Jan Libby, Blair Erickson, and Mike Monello. Peters and Norrington raised funds to produce the project through an Indiegogo campaign, with Clark, Libby, Erickson, and Monello added to the team through the campaign’s stretch goals. Perks for campaign backers included postcards, dashboard hula girls, project consultations, and “a personalized phone call to scare the crap out of you on or around Halloween night.”

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The Future is Fiction: Playful Future-Thinking About Climate Change with FutureCoast

Sometime in the near future(s), something will go awry with the voicemail system sending messages spiraling back through time, a phenomenon that is being referred to as “chronofall.” These messages take the form of small, elegant crystalline structures referred to as “chronofacts” that can be decoded to reveal a taste of life in the future. But these chronofacts aren’t just coming from “the” future: chronofacts carry voicemails from the cloud of all possible futures: happy futures, bleak futures, unimaginable futures. A new project called FutureCoast and its “Coaster” enthusiasts seek to collect as many chronofacts as possible, with the goal of cataloging and organizing them into coherent glimpses of the possible futures awaiting us. And when the next big chronofall happens in February, they’re going to need your help.

FutureCoast, set to launch on February 5th, 2014, is the latest project by veteran game designer Ken Eklund. Like its predecessors World Without Oil and Ed Zed Omega, FutureCoast aims to open the doors wide to a new kind of conversation about the world we live in. This time, the subject is one of the most polarizing topics, the kind of thing you don’t usually want to bring up in mixed political company: climate change and one of its key indicators, rising sea levels.

Climate change, its effect on polar ice, and rising sea levels are topics that spawn impassioned opinions and difficult discussions from many different scientific and political angles. The heart of the FutureCoast design seeks to create a playful, inclusive common ground where information and idea sharing happens, where everyone’s thoughts about the future have a place, and where a meaningful dialog and a common ground can be created to replace the animosity that these topics can evoke.

The project is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to Columbia University’s Polar Partnership. Eklund dates the idea of FutureCoast back to a conversation with Dr. Stephanie Pfirman, Professor of Environmental Science at Columbia, in 2009. Dr. Pfirman, interested in the idea of World Without Oil, wondered what a climate change game look like, and Eklund began working on prospective ideas for a WWO-like game that would encourage conversation about climate change and rising sea levels. FutureCoast was accepted into the NSF grant, and work on the project began in earnest in 2011.

FutureCoast‘s structure is almost “retro” in its conception, elegant in its simplicity yet with the potential for powerful collaborative storytelling to take place. The premise of the overarching story hinges on voicemails that filter to our present from the near or distant future(s) that can be decoded, collected, and shared. FutureCoast invites its audience to pluck their personal vision from among all the possible futures and share it in a voicemail. The audience will also be able to create playlists – mix tapes, Eklund playfully calls them, and officially named “Timestreams” – by choosing amongst the voicemails and piecing them together into a kind of narrative of the future. Through FutureCoast, players have the ability to both create the future and to curate it in meaningful ways.

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Alt-Minds Serves Up Real-Time Mystery in Four Languages

Five brilliant young scientists collectively known as “MHD-6” disappear from Belgrade University. Shortly after, a video of the kidnapping makes its way to the foundation that sponsored them. A mysterious person known only as “The Donetsk Voice” feeds bits and pieces of information relating to the disappearance of the MHD-6. As the investigation progresses, the Alvinson Foundation puts out a global call for help solving the mystery. Players who respond to the call are thrown headfirst into the European-based transmedia experience Alt-Minds, an eight week long paranormal mystery that incorporates puzzles, websites, geo-locative content, and a Facebook game.

French telecommunications corporation Orange joined the French game development studio Lexis Numérique to create the Alt-Minds experience, which launched on November 12th, in four languages: French, German, Spanish, and English. According to a press release by Orange, “Alt-Minds is a cohesive set of films, games, monitoring tools and web documentaries.” The story unfolds live over the game’s eight week span, using the web series format as the framework for players stepping into the role of investigator.

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Ed Zed Omega: A Serious Game Visualizing New Approaches to Education

“There’s this expression, “zed omega.” It means “so over.” When you go zed omega, you are done.”
Ed Zed Omega Revealed 

When it comes to public or private education, everyone has an experience, everyone has a story, and everyone has an opinion. The internet is rife with pointed discussions about the problems in education, and full of suggestions on how to solve them. While education issues vary broadly from state to state and nation to nation, they share at least one commonality: solutions tend to be easy to propose but difficult to implement. Education reform is an ongoing conversation amongst government officials, educators, and the public, and conversations between these groups are often politically charged and riddled with miscommunication and misunderstandings.

Andi McDaniel and Ken Eklund have brought something new to the conversation about education with their freshly-launched project, Ed Zed Omega. The project focuses on a set of voices that often gets lost in the cacophony that pervades the education discussion: the voices of those most directly affected by our education systems, the people currently subject to the state of “being educated.” Ed Zed Omega features the stories of six fictional teens who have decided that they are done with education, and that they’re not going back. Their guidance counselor, Mary Johnson, has convinced them to use the time they would have spent in school to complete one more assignment, exploring solutions to the problems they perceive in education. Ed Zed Omega launched on August 15, 2012 and will run through November 15, 2012 to follow their journey.

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Alternate History Serial “Balance of Powers” Launches

Major Sonja Slade of the Prussian Army“Think of it as an alternate world Cold War era spy adventure, if that kind of thing included stuff like blood sacrifices packed with dark beings.”
– Andrea Phillips, Balance of Powers Kickstarter campaign video.

Before Adrian Hon and Naomi Alderman took to Kickstarter to fund the mobile app Zombies, Run, there was Balance of Powers. The Kickstarter campaign sought to reunite Hon and Alderman with former Perplex City collaborators Andrea Phillips and David Varela to tell an “alt-history Cold War-era spy adventure.” Finally, almost a year after meeting its funding goals, Balance of Powers is ready to see the light of day.

An update to the Balance of Powers Kickstarter page on August 1st alerted backers to the opening of the story’s website. On the first of August, a short but intriguing prologue gave a quick glimpse into the beginnings of the story and the mind of Major Sonja Slade. The August 1st update also included details on an upcoming live online event, which is scheduled to take place on August 25th at 7pm London time (4pm EST, 1pm PST). Details about the live online event and how to participate will be announced in the weeks leading up to the event.

A few days later, the first chapter posted, introducing character John Noon, the insurance clerk, while providing readers some insight into the shape and flavor of the world. The story weaves together the lives and adventures of an ex-spy who asks too many questions, an insurance clerk who is out of his depth, the daughter of a man accused of terrible deeds, and a major in the Prussian Army pursuing an investigation of the Bulgarian ambassador’s murder. In a city called Midway, the characters will come together – but for what purpose?

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Miracle Mile Paradox Builds Bridge to the Past Through Time Switch

Something very strange happened to Rexford Higgs back in March. An aficionado of wondrous artifacts and things from bygone days, Rex uncovered by chance a set of blueprints for a strange device, hidden in a tin box in a construction site near LA’s Miracle Mile. Fascinated by his find, Rex launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the building of his Time Switch. This campaign was used by Transmedia L.A. to serve as the real-world Kickstarter campaign to fund Rexford Higgs’ story as an alternate reality game, The Miracle Mile Paradox. Transmedia L.A., a monthly meetup group of people in the Los Angeles area interested in transmedia storytelling, is using The Miracle Mile Paradox as an experiment in alternate reality game development for its members.

In late May, Rex succeeded in activating the Time Switch and received a transmission from the past sent by a woman, Jane Winthrop, warning him that he was likely being watched, but he must continue his work. Two days later, he received a cease and desist order from Agent Intellect Corp (AIC). This marked the beginning of a series of threatening messages warning Rex away from Miracle Mile. After being assaulted, presumably by AIC agents, Rex fled into hiding after securing the Time Switch device in a secret location, leaving his friends and followers to piece his clues together and help retrieve the rest of Jane’s message.

The Miracle Mile Paradox ARG officially kicked off on July 4th and will run through the first week of September, so there is still lots of time to get caught up on the story and participate. While the ARG is location-based in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles, California, Transmedia L.A. has provided non-resident supporters with a number of ways to follow along with the story and help solve the mystery of the Time Switch, Jane Winthrop, and the powerful AIC. According to the game’s Kickstarter page, online players can follow the story through “Rex’s blog, websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles, Pinterest boards, email accounts and much, much more. There might even be some hacking in to AIC employee accounts….” Local participants can unlock and retrieve Time Switch messages within the Miracle Mile itself – all under the watchful eye of AIC, of course.

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