Author: Brooke Thompson (Page 1 of 4)

Staff Writer
Brooke Thompson is currently an overworked and underslept graduate student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA. (a Master's in games?! Mom is so proud.) Although she hopes hopes her focus in Game Design & Broadband Entertainment will lead to her spreading the world of ARG to an entirely new and unsuspecting audience, she is happy to see the genre growing on the works of others.
Brooke was first introduced to Alternate Reality Games in 2001, when her undergraduate advisor naively mentioned that the Beast might make a nice footnote in what would become Brooke's first paper on to the genre. Deciding to spend the summer making a little game, Brooke joined several others in watching their summer, fall, winter, and spring melt away under the power of Lockjaw, one of the first successful grassroots games. Since then, she has watched a number of other seasons pass as she tirelessly developed a number of other ARG and ARG-like experiences.

Two More Awards for ReGenesis Extended Reality

It’s been a crazy month for the guys at Xenophile media. It started off back in March at the 10th Annual SXSW Interactive Awards when Occular Effect (The Fallen Alternate Reality Game) won the award in the Experimental category. But it was not about to stop there. The nominations were just beginning to roll in. Fallen was nominated for a Banff World Television Award and Regenesis was nominated for both an Interactive Emmy (pdf) and a CNMA Award. The CNMA and Banff World Television awards will be announced in the next few months, but last night the Interactive Emmy went to(pdf)… Xenophile Media for Regenesis Extended Reality Game!

Clearly, they’re going to need to build themselves a bigger trophy case. But the real question is, how are they ever going to get any work done with all this celebrating? We want more!

The Brooke Thompson 2007 Conference Tour, Part One

Editor’s note: Brooke Thompson is back after a whirlwind tour of some of the biggest festivals so far this year. She attended the Game Developer’s Conference and was a speaker at the South By Southwest (SXSW) and ARGFest-o-Con conferences. This article is the first in a series about her experiences.

GDC.jpgWhat happens when you spend 15 days on the road traveling from conference to conference? You get just about nothing done, including writing reports from the road for one of the greatest websites on the internet (that’d be ARGNet, of course). At first this distressed me, but then I realized that most of the conference sessions that I had attended were well documented on blogs and news sites – some nearly word for word! – and that waiting allowed the experiences that I had to sink in and meld together into a bigger picture. It’s that picture that I hope to paint for you over the next few articles.

The thing that I realized as I traveled from ARGfest to GDC to SXSW is that Alternate Reality Gaming is leading the future of entertainment.

We’ve been saying that for a long time. So, what’s different? What’s changed?

The word is out. People hear “Alternate Reality Game” or “ARG” and they understand what you are talking about. I don’t mean to say that everyone that I met understood it, but if I walked into a crowd at least one or two people did and they were able to get the rest of the crowd excited and curious. And explaining it to those that have never heard of ARGs is easier today than it’s ever been. People might not know that Lonelygirl15 has an alternate reality game component, but they’ve heard of it and when you talk about how the story is out there and it’s fiction outside of a book or TV show and, in fact, might send you an email or call you on the phone – they get it. It doesn’t seem strange, it seems cool.

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Games That Alter Reality

logo_gdconf.gifIf you’ve ever played a game through to the end, you know that strange mix of excitement and depression that hits as you realize that the characters that you’ve loved for the last few weeks or months have completed their story leaving you with no more websites to obsessively check or forums to read or fellow players to talk with. It’s bittersweet and it’s what I call the ARG Hangover. I woke up with a doozy of one on Monday morning. ARGfest was over and here I was still in San Francisco.

I suppose that I shouldn’t complain. I’m here for the Game Developers Conference (GDC). It’s a huge and amazing conference that’s the highlight of the year for many game folk. But it is no ARGfest and after such an amazing weekend, I wasn’t expecting much. Boy, was I surprised.

It’s something to sit in a conference room filled with ARG folk – everyone there knows about the magic of Alternate Reality Gaming. We can get excited and discuss or debate the nuances in a way that only those familiar can. It’s filled with our own experiences and, even, biases. It’s something completely different to sit in a conference room filled with folks with a passing awareness, with experiences completely different. And, when the panelist in the front of the room is discussing the power of Alternate Reality Games to alter our own reality for better, it’s absolutely inspiring as you look over the crowd and see their eyes get bigger, their curiosity aroused.

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Erwin Don’t Like It, Rock the MeiGeist

geist.pngErwin is missing! There’s a great twist to this ARG cliché: you see, Erwin is a cat and back in December he fell down a rabbit hole and hasn’t been seen since.

Erwin’s person is Eva McGill. Eva’s a cute 20-something living on her own over in the UK. Her life seems to be quite ordinary. She stresses over her studies, she looks for her missing cat, and, oh yeah, she blogs.

If all that mundane activity doesn’t get you going, what if I told you that there’s an actor, Melvin Geist, who seems to believe that he was experimented on by aliens and can control people’s minds and wants to build some sort of large something on his property outside of Los Angeles, CA? There are puzzles to leave you spinning, some sort of mysterious countdown to keep you guessing, and a most awful sounding herbal supplement with its own bacterial chatbot that knows a bit more than it should (and, like all chatbots, not nearly enough).

Meigeist, the game percolating all of these fantastic moments and images, launched this past weekend and promises to be an eight week long experience unfolding online and off with websites, live events, email, and text messages. It’s being produced by the UK-based Licorice Films with support coming from HP Labs, UK Film Council, and Watershed – with all that support and talent behind it, it is no surprise that it has gotten off to a promising start. So whatcha waiting for? Go follow Erwin down that rabbit hole!

Learn more and register for the game at
Check in on Eva at
Chat with Yuki at
Wrap your mind around a puzzle at

And, of course, meet and collaborate with other players on the MeiGeist forums at unfiction and on the player-run wiki.

The Human Pet: An Interactive Fictional Horror Story

Ed. Note: Since this article was first published, some of the links to the game have changed. We have updated the links so that they are current to November 21, 2006.

humanpet.jpegThe scene opens with a man tied up and struggling. He’s lying in a white room with a mattress on the floor. A man in a white mask enters carrying a knife which he uses to free the bonds around the captive’s hands. As he leaves, he whispers something into the camera. All we know is he is here against his will

The captive, the Human Pet, has freed himself from his leg restraints and is pacing about the room screaming, asking if anyone can hear him. He finds the camera and, for the first time, we get a good look at his face. Suddenly the face turns into a mask and as he backs away, we see that he’s holding a baseball bat and the Human Pet is laying on the mattress in obvious pain. You will see everything.

This is how the interactive and fictional horror story began three weeks ago. There have been three videos since then, with a new one appearing on a regular weekly basis, allowing us to learn more about the man in the mask and his pet, which he’s named Sunny. The man in the mask has not only uploaded the videos, but has interacted with his audience, going as far as placing the life of his pet in the audience’s hands. There have been messages hidden in the film and in the YouTube tags attached to the short movies that have led the audience to Bible passages that provide more symbolic insight into this man and his motivations.

Since the success of Lonelygirl15, we’ve seen a number of stories told through episodic YouTube videos. While few are well told, intriguing or truly interactive, The Human Pet, directed by the fictional Sam Deercot (anagram of Codemaster) is one to check out. It is a very interesting (if not controversial) story and has provided the audience with some power over the story, albeit purely an illusion. Additionally, while the videos are short and filled with obvious and simple devices, they are quite effective and, considering the subject matter, beautiful. The allegorical shot of the Man, mask off and back to the camera, at the Seder table lit only by candles is a stunning picture ripe with visual delight. The latest video, The Stalker, makes effective use of a classic music cliche as the tension mounts and pulls you to the edge of your seat before letting you settle back down as it sinks in that Sunny is not the first.

Like all good art, The Human Pet invites discussion. The idea of the subject matter is horrid – a human, held captive with a number of other victims preceding him. Even more scary is the idea that this is really happening and that we are watching and participating as it unfolds. Is it possible that such a thing is real? How far should fiction go in blurring that line and, more philosophically, can we ever know what is real and what is fictional? It was brought to my own attention as I was writing this that while this may in fact be art, I have no actual evidence that it is fictional. To that, I reply: watch the movies and contact Sam Deercot yourself. The codes, the multiple interactions (both public and private) from Sam, and a number of shots in the film suggest that this is, just as it claims to be, an interactive, fictional horror story.

To watch the videos, visit The Human Pet on YouTube. And feel free to join in on The Human Pet discussion at Unfiction.

Update: The user account on YouTube has been suspended and the videos were removed as violating the Terms of Service.

Chat tonight with John Little, puppetmaster for Waiting for AV

Waiting for AV came to a frustrating end last night, leaving players wondering just what had happened and if their efforts to complete the game’s ritual were successful. This morning, players woke to learn that while they did manage to complete the final ritual, doing so resulted in the death of Shamash, a player-turned-character.

Not without criticism after starting with graphic imagery and then struggling to adapt to the players, the game generated a small, tight-knit group of players who waited patiently through moments in a game that seemed as if it might end at any moment. While the end-game didn’t bust the climactic scale, the players report that they enjoyed the time that they spent together and are pleased to see such a small independent effort come to a successful conclusion.

John Little, puppetmaster of the effort, has updated the Altus Veritas website with a thank you to his players, and will be participating in a Puppetmaster Chat this evening at 9pm EDT/8pm CDT in #av on

Find out more information at Altus Veritas and the unforums. For those that would like to participate in the chat, you can use the ARGNet chat applet or connect through your favorite IRC client.

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