Author: Brandie Minchew (Page 2 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.

ARGNet’s Michael Andersen to Present in StoryWorld Webcast

Digital Book World, an online community for publishing professionals and host to the StoryWorld Conference + Expo, will feature ARGNet owner and senior editor Michael Andersen in StoryWorld’s July 27th WEBcast. The webcast is titled What’s Possible with Transmedia: Case Studies in Successful Projects and will air at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

According to Digital Book World, the transmedia campaigns that Andersen will talk about during this roundtable webcast include HBO’s recent Maester’s Path experience; Chain Factor, the Numb3rs tv series’ episode tie-in experience (and addictive flash game) from 2007; and Valve’s Portal 2 ARG.

Attendees may register here for this free webcast. Registration is required to attend the free webcast and to access the audio recording.

For those interested in attending the StoryWorld Conference + Expo, ARGNet is pleased to offer our readers a promotional code. When registering for StoryWorld, use the code ARGN11 to receive $50 off the early bird price for StoryWorld’s conference registration.

Quick Facts

What: StoryWorld WEBcast featuring ARGNet’s Michael Andersen

When: Wednesday, July 27th at 1:00 p.m. EDT

Where: Register here

SXSW 2011: Andrea Phillips on Blurring the Lines

Andrea Phillips has excellent qualifications to talk about ethics in transmedia. In addition to designing a number of transmedia narratives, she, or rather, one of her transmedia campaigns, has been condemned by NASA. In 2009, Sony Pictures launched a website for The Institute for Human Continuity promoting  2012, their disaster movie for the year. Soon after the website’s launch Dr. David Morrison of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute began receiving emails about the site from people who failed to notice the references to Sony Pictures and the film in both text and logos, leading him to declare the site to be “ethically wrong.”

This was not the first time Phillips encountered ethical quandaries in transmedia. Her interest in this issue began in 2001, after finishing an alternate reality game called The Beast. Shortly after the game ended, a smart, empowered, close-knit group of players behind who call themselves “Cloudmakers” were faced with the events of September 11. In the aftermath, some of the Cloudmakers discussed the possibility of combining their skills again, this time to track down the perpetrators of the attack in the real world. This was a source of concern for Phillips. Following a breadcrumb trail of clues in a game does not equate to the skills for dealing with global terrorism. She and other feared that people trying to “solve” 9/11 would in fact be placing themselves and others in danger.

Phillips prefaced her talk with the disclaimer that, while she intended to share some cautionary tales from the history of alternate reality games and transmedia campaigns, her intent was to highlight concerns, not call anyone out on their mistakes or cast aspersions on the campaigns or the industry in general.

So, what are the ethical concerns that today’s transmedia creators should keep in mind? In her talk, Phillips took the audience through some history of attempts at blurring the line along with more than a few war stories, focusing on the risks and consequences of excessive realism in transmedia campaigns. She followed this up with some suggested solutions.

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Will Wright’s Bar Karma: One Step Closer to Collaborative Entertainment?

How often have you thought to yourself I could have written that better after watching an episode of your favorite television show that fell below your expectations? Game designer Will Wright‘s new television series may give you the chance to do just that.

Earlier this month, Current TV announced its new tv series, Bar Karma, scheduled to debut in the first quarter of 2011. Created by game designer Will Wright, known for his popular video games including The Sims and SimCity,  Bar Karma‘s production model promises to provide a high level of audience involvement with the show, giving viewers direct control of the plot as the story evolves in 30-minute episodes.

Wright has designed interactive technology for Current TV’s audience-produced material that will be adapted to the production of Bar Karma. Current TV’s press release for the show lists four steps in the episode development process:

  • Step 1: Joining – viewers register and log on to the Bar Karma website.
  • Step 2: Creating – participants submit their own storyboards based on a basic outline provided by the producers, which all participants can then comment on, discuss, merge ideas, and hammer out a final plot.
  • Step 3: Voting – participants will vote on the finalized story proposals.
  • Step 4: Producing – Once voting is closed, the studio will produce the winning storyline, and the episode will then air. Episodes will be 30 minutes in length.

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The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers Bounds into the Limelight

At the stroke of midnight on July 7th, the first two videos of Jon M. Chu’s web series, The LXD, went live for viewing in the United States, and the international release should not be far behind. Beginning with its “Moments” trailer released last December, The LXD has been hard at work during the first half of the year promoting its dance team and raising awareness for the web series with performances at TED, the Oscars, and So You Think You Can Dance. Billing itself as “the world’s first online dance adventure”, The LXD promises a transmedia experience spanning multiple platforms, including instructional videos, live events, film, and television supplementing the web series.

In his talk at TED 2010, Chu described The LXD web series as “a living, breathing comic book series – but unlike Spiderman and Iron Man, these guys can actually do it.” The LXD shows a world where dancers are superheroes with powers and abilities related to body movement and dance. A great battle between good and evil looms on the horizon in this world of superdancers, encapsulated in an event known as “The Uprising.” “There is a legion,” the unnamed series narrator tells us: “a legion of bravery, of hope, of the extraordinary. They lie amongst us, preparing for battle, waiting to rise and change things for good.”

The initial two videos offer a troupe of tropes from the “good vs evil” archives. There is Trevor, quiet and repressed but possessing secret powers of dance, a secret crush, and a demanding father. There is Illister, the villain, and the Observers, who are with the good guys and who protect “the son of the Drift.” There is also the conspiracy theorist reporter, determined to unlock the secrets of the LXD, and two best friends who will be torn apart by jealousy. Yet, in the story are some intriguing elements that rise above the tropes: what bestows these powers of movement on the dancers? what is really in the warehouse, who put it there, and why? And who is the Illister, my current personal favorite, described in the site’s character biographies as having “no side but his own”? (Except that his mission is to kill Trevor, so it sounds to me like he has a side – an evil side.)

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On April 23rd, London Becomes the Game Board for Nike Grid

nikegridUK runners will take to the streets in less than a week to compete with other runners across London in Nike’s new interactive street game, Nike Grid. The urban game will launch on April 23, 2010 at 8pm and will last 24 hours. No more, no less.

Nike is no stranger to developing interactive programs for runners. In 2006, Nike and Apple teamed up to produce Nike+iPod, a sports kit that records data over the course of a walk or run and allows the user to upload that data to the Nike+ website. Unlike Nike+iPod, Nike Grid does not require runners to possess any items of technology to track their run. Instead, the game uses payphones across the city of London as check-in points before and after each run. All runners need to play are their fastest shoes and a free player’s account with Nike Grid.

In order to play, runners must register at the Nike Grid website. Once registered, each runner receives a 4-digit game code that they will use to check in and out of each run at designated phone boxes. Maps will be available on the website to allow runners to prepare their routes and find the location of the phone boxes. Four maps have already been released: North, South, East, and West London. The Grid covers 40 postcodes, and runners can choose to run only in their own postcode, or they can steal others’ postcodes to rack up points.

Rules for running the Grid are posted on the Nike Grid website: no walking; no buses; don’t run through walls or walk on water; and don’t even think about cheating! “The Grid will know,” says a comment on the Facebook page, in response to one question asking how Nike can keep people from claiming points after riding bikes or taking the bus between pay phones. “If we reveal how we know, people will try to get around it. It is never foolproof, but we have ways of monitoring,” states a follow-up comment.

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Recap: DIYDays Fireside Chat with Jan Libby and Steve Peters

DIYDaysFreshly triumphant from their most recent transmedia projects, Steve Peters of No Mimes Media and Jan Libby, recently of Levi’s G.O. IV Fortune campaign, took the stage at DIYDays LA to talk about their experiences designing Alternate Reality Games.

Steve and Jan began as players in the emerging genre that we call ARGs. Both made the transition from player to puppetmaster through their work on independent games, which led to careers for each of them in the newborn industry of transmedia entertainment. And both acknowledge that their roots in the player side of these games and experiences now inform their choices as designers. “Sure, we do this for money,” Jan said, “but our hearts are indie.” Whether they are designing an ARG for a client or for an indie game, they consider not only the story and its characters, the protagonists and antagonists, but also the audience. Jan views the audience as a character, one that will interact and possibly shape the story as it plays out.

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