Author: Jessica Price

Calling All Aspiring Game Designers!

biggame.JPGHave you ever had a really cool idea for a game, but despaired of finding enough funding to realize your dream?

If so, Canada’s BIG Games Design Competition may provide you with the opportunity you need to break into design. The Aitken Leadership Group are sponsoring a contest calling for the creation of games that include real-world interaction and take place in real time. Pitch your design to a panel of judges on October 13 October 5, 2007 [Ed. note: the judging date has changed], and if they pick your game, you’ll receive $5, 000.00 to create it, as well as “truly enviable notoriety.”

The rules from the site are as follows:

1) the game must be fun
2) the game must be playable by pretty much anyone: young, old, straight, gay, transgendered, street-engaged, married, people living with disabilities, people living in yaletown, people who play World of Warcraft, etc.
3) the gameplay requires real-world interaction between people (such as online interaction, personal ads, phone-tag, postcards, flashmobs, etc.)
4) Players’ social networks are expanded to include people who are “different” from themselves

Email Brian Smith ([email protected]) for more information. We couldn’t find anything on the site saying you had to be a Canadian resident to compete, but you will have to present your pitch in Vancouver.

(Bear in mind that if you win this contest after learning about it here, ARGNet will expect repayment for the tip in the form of an exclusive interview. You were warned.)

Emmy Gets Interactive

emmy.JPG This year’s Emmy Awards have a category for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television, and regular observers of and participants in the world of alternate reality gaming may see quite a few familiar names in the candidate lineup. Check out the ITVT Blog’s exclusive on the awards for lots of interesting information.

Nominees include:

  • Heroes Interactive (NBC Universal)
  • DirecTV Interactive Sports
  • The Jericho Experience (CBS)
  • The Fallen Alternative Reality Game (Xenophile Media & Double Twenty Productions)
  • Big Brother Goes Mobile (CBS)

ARGNet Editor Jonathan Waite was behind the curtain on Fallen‘s Ocular Effect game, which has already picked up a few other awards, including a SXSW Interactive Award and a Banff World TV Festival Awards. Unfiction players also participated in the Jericho Experience and Heroes Interactive. ARGs are represented on the judging panel as well, which includes 42 Entertainment President & CEO Joe DiNunzio.

Regardless of which nominee wins, we’re happy to see chaotic fiction/alternate reality games/television extended experiences — or however you’d like to classify these works — getting mainstream recognition for their excellence, and offer all of them our congratulations. Here’s hoping the competition gets even fiercer in future years.

Jigsaw Made of Fool’s Gold?

watched.jpgAs a denizen of LiveJournal, I could hardly fail to notice the massive popularity of internet quizzes, so allow me to try to create one of my own, which I feel will be particularly applicable to the wise and wonderful web wanderers who comprise our audience:

In your wanderings, you encounter an example of such breathtakingly futile resistance to the way the internet works (no, I’m not talking about the RIAA) that it is as if you have stumbled upon some rare exotic creature thrown upon an inhospitable foreign shore by an uncaring digital sea. Do you:

A. Pull out your notebook and microscope and study this fascinating specimen. Far be it from you to interfere with nature taking its course, but there may be an opportunity here to reach greater understanding of some sort through observation.

B. Attempt to instruct the alien in the ways of the internet, so it can go on its way more equipped to survive out there in the jungle. The main purpose of the internet is to share knowledge, and to facilitate that, people have to help one another learn how best to navigate it.

C. Compassionately try to either protect it or to return it to more hospitable climes, even if the attempt is futile. Clearly it is not equipped to navigate the wilds of the internet, and the kindest thing to do is to encourage it to go home.

D. Set up a tent around it and charge admission to point and laugh. Maybe make it into a lolcat while you’re at it.

E. Stick a pin through that sucker and add it to your collection. PWNED!

F. Try to drive it away from the young/stupid/potentially innocent, in case it’s dangerous. It probably only looks helplessly ignorant. After all, Google and Wikipedia are free.

The rare beetle that caught my attention this week was the behavior of the puppetmaster(s) of the Golden Jigsaw puzzle contest. An Unfiction player named IRC1968, as well as Unfiction moderator and ARGNet staffer Michelle Senderhauf, had received notices that their accounts had been deleted. IRC1968 was told he’d been kicked out for posting answers. Upon inquiry, Michelle was told her account was deleted because it “was found to have a positive link with a website or website(s) that are being used, encouraged or moderated to infringe upon player rules and, despite prior warnings, continue to actively release private information concerning The Golden Jigsaw via a public forum on the internet, with the intent to damage the interests of the owners, developers, partners & players of the game.”

Upon further inquiry, Michelle got a response from Don Campbell explaining that her account had been deleted because while she hadn’t posted any answers, as a moderator at Unfiction, she had failed to censor the information other players posted at UF. (Her account was later reinstated, “with conditions.”)

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Having Conquered Cincinnati and California, John Turns Gaze To Internet

yost.JPG With an increasing number of television shows extending their worlds onto the web, it seems worthwhile to start asking for whom the extended experiences are intended. In the case of the online experience for John From Cincinnati, it appears that this is a bonus for people who are already fans of the show. While it seems unlikely to attract any new devotees, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, at least from a player point of view: it’s nice to think that maybe the makers of a show are appreciative enough of their fans to want to play with them outside the confines of the TV set.

In brief, John From Cincinnati is “surf noir” series from the maker of Deadwood, about a brittle family of surfing superstars and a strange young man who appears and turns their lives upside down.

Via Game Tip, ARGNet received word that HBO was doing something interesting with a promo site, Clicking repeatedly on the “Help” button generates an increasing number of search terms and objects floating around your screen until you’re told, “That’s all the help you’re going to get. There’s more out there. Start Searching.” However, the interface seems pretty intelligent — entering your own search terms nets results that usually seem on-target. There’s definitely something to put together, here, but I’m not conversant enough in the show’s mythology to have any idea what it is.

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Subject 137 and The Experiments Of Doom

I’m dying. I was falling asleep last night, and I knew. All I had to do was just let go, you know? …And that would be it. I’d wake up a f*cking corpse, and you’d be in trouble. So why don’t you just let me go? Why don’t you just let me get out of here before everyone gets in trouble?

The plea is made with weary resignation by Subject 137, a man who appears to be in his twenties and who, the video’s poster tells us, has been the subject of mysterious medical testing.

It’s an eerie and surprisingly affecting response to the assertion, delivered from offscreen in an electronically disguised voice, that Subject 137 is special, but that he’d get lost “out there” in the real world. Is this the idealism of a fanatic scientist? Propaganda from an organization with sinister plans? Or is Subject 137 actually special? It’s impossible to tell from this first video, but Subject 137’s bleak response is delivered in a way that makes him seem grounded and easy to identify with.

The viewer allegiances established by the introductory video (Subject 137 sympathetic! Voice-disguised man scary!) are destabilized, however, by the notes attached to it by Maria Ail:

I beg viewers to be careful when watching this clip since it’s view out of context of everything that comes before it. Think of this clip as a test.

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Be Good, Tanya, and You Might Just Discover Something Supernatural

13450703.jpgPity Tanya Mitchel: she’s just a nice girl with a LiveJournal, a job at a bank, and a wacky sister. The last of these happens to have disappeared, leaving a cipher-strewn trail and mysterious plea for her sister to save her by finding Dean Winchester (who appears to be the same Dean Winchester from CW’s Supernatural), and poor Tanya is utterly distraught about the whole thing. So, like any self-respecting character in an alternate reality game, she has turned to the wisdom of the internet to help her out.

A tip sent to Unfiction owner SpaceBass last Friday, containing a link to Tanya’s blog (Essentially Invisible), set players on the trail of what is beginning to look like a disjointed indulgence in ARG cliches. Between Tanya claiming that she found her own blog by accident and the appearance of ciphers with no plot-based justification for their placement, this looks likely to be the type of game that makes community veterans roll their eyes.

However, the game’s limited scope provides an easy opportunity for overview. During a discussion about the difficulty of finding regular coverage of the ARG world that is geared to people outside the community with game reviewer par excellence Chris Dahlen (one of the few journalists to tackle reviewing an ARG — Perplex City — in the context of mainstream gaming), Chris expressed a desire for regular sports-page-like coverage of running ARGs. He wanted to see an account of a game’s highs and lows that would be accessible to people who are internet literate but don’t regularly play ARGs.

I’m far too lazy to attempt such an ambitious project for a large-scale game, but Essentially Invisible provides an example of limited enough scope that I’m willing to give it a try. Please mentally read the following in your best sportscaster voice.

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History is Circling Back Upon Us, Like – Dun Dun DUN – A Halo!

halo3.jpgThe gears of the Universe spin further and further apart.
Ever greater grows the gulf between souls,
And distance gives false hope of safety
But for the grim tidings this messenger bears:

The enemy is almost upon us…

…slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, perhaps.

The lines above were taken from an email sent out as part of what appears to be an ARG (or at least a promotion that takes a few pages from the ARG playbook) designed to lead in to the launch of the third installment of the wildly popular Halo game series.

It all began on Monday, June 11th, when an entity calling itself Adjutant Reflex began posting cryptic messages on the Bungie forum. From there, the trail lead to an alien-awareness site called Society of the Ancients (SOTA), as well as one entitled “Transmission Log,” which contains a countdown slated to end this Thursday. SOTA members have since staged live protests in New York, Vancouver, San Francisco and London, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with a symbol that seems to figure significantly in the unfolding story. Elements in the game link directly to the Halo 3 site, so it appears that the campaign is not hewing as firmly to the “This Is Not A Game” aesthetic as its predecessor, 2004’s ilovebees, but there appears to be the beginning of a rich storyline that may illuminate some of the unanswered questions in the Halo mythology.

Halo fans have been speculating rampantly (pun intended, of course), and the launch of the game has also served as an informal reunion for a lot of beekeepers (participants in ilovebees). The identity of the company responsible for the game has been a hot topic of discussion, with 42 Entertainment — creators of ilovebees — among the most popular suspects.

However, in an exclusive statement to the panel on the ARG Netcast, 42 Entertainment’s Vice President of Experience Design, Elan Lee, announced that the campaign was not a 42 project, and Steve Peters of 42 also replied to an email sent yesterday with a similar statement. Bungie Studios, makers of the Halo series, has used ARG-like elements to promote their games before, beginning with 1999’s Cortana Letters, so it’s possible they are doing it in-house. Regardless of who the creators are, with live events, Forerunner poetry to interpret, mysterious locked servers on the Halo 3 site, and the mysterious Adjutant Reflex at large, it promises to be an exciting ride!

Join the discussion at the Unfiction forums, visit thebruce’s wiki to get caught up, or chat with other players in #halo on

Thanks to the denizens of #halo for their invaluable help in summarizing the action thus far.

Sammeeeees PM Looks a Little Lonely

Recently, ARGNet learned that Jan Libby, solo PM of the popular indie game Sammeeeees, has joined the Lonelygirl15 team. She began by writing a recent Lonelygirl video, “Sing With Me,” and it sounds like we will be seeing a lot more of her work in the future.

“In addition to writing videos, Jan is also taking a leadership role in implementing more puzzles and interactivity into our show. We are thrilled to be working with her,” says Greg Goodfried, an executive producer for the series.

Jan herself adds, “I have found my eternal song with LG15! 😉 Seriously, Greg, Mesh, Miles, and Amanda make the collaboration process so much fun. I’m having a blast — although this ‘no curtain’ PM stuff will take some getting used to.”

We congratulate both parties on what we hope will be an exciting and productive relationship on both sides of the curtain, and look forward to seeing what’s in store for LG15! We would also like to congratulate the team on their recent Webby award — a well-deserved accolade for this engaging series.

Catch up on the Lonelygirl15 series at YouTube, or discuss the announcement at Unfiction.

Come Out And Play…In London!

toplogo.gif For all those UK residents who wished they could have attended New York’s Come Out And Play Festival, now is your chance to have your own weekend of public gaming fun.

Sponsored by a mysterious benefactor named Gideon Reeling (see here if you want a peek behind the curtain), the Hide and Seek festival promises both new games, such as the London Poetry game, and soon-to-be classics such as Cruel 2 B Kind. There’s even a game done in conjunction with the folks from SFZero and a seminar discussion on why pervasive games are “the new punk rock.” (Full schedule here.)

Alex Fleetwood, one of the festival’s organizers, describes the New York festival as one of the inspirations for the event:

“I attended the Come Out and Play festival in New York and came back inspired. I love ARGs but I’m very attracted to the more user-friendly aspects of pervasive games – you can pick them up for an afternoon and really get something out of them. I wanted to run a game that got people talking to strangers as that was my favourite element of the games at COAP. I’m also hopeful that the open-source translation that the players and the people of London collectively create will be a beautiful thing in itself.”

As for the mysterious Mr. Reeling, Alex can’t tell us much:

“Little is known about Mr Reeling. He describes himself as an adventure capitalist and only communicates via email. We have asked that he tell us more about himself and that he attend the festival in person; watch this space for more news…”

The festival runs Friday through Sunday evening, and all games will begin at the Delegates Centre, BFI South Bank Centre. Readers, if you’re able to attend, please send us your thoughts afterwards!

Perplex City Season 2 “Preview Episode” Goes Live

pxc.jpgThe ARGNet tipline has garnered some exciting news about an upcoming development in the world of popular ARG Perplex City:

This Friday, a live “preview episode” for Perplex City will launch, providing the first opportunity in two years for newcomers to join a Perplex City game as it starts. While not the full replayable episode expected in June, no prior experience is required for the mini-game, making it an ideal opportunity to jump in.

Sign up at the Perplex City Stories website to receive notification when the game starts.

ARG Netcast, Episode 21: The Mainstream

argnetcast.jpgIn the 21st episode of the netcast series, we discuss the ARG news of the past week, including the massive mainstream press attention ARGs have been getting this month and last. Regular panelists Jon Waite, Sean Stacey and Jessica Price are joined by first-timers Michelle Senderhauf and Geoff May. Subscribe to the ARG Netcast feed through this link or via iTunes. Contact us at our special netcast email address, [email protected] with your tips, suggestions, concerns and submissions. Call us on the ARGNet voicemail at 630-274-5425.

The Unseen: A Thank You to A Few of the Individuals Who Help Make the ARG Community A Great Place


It takes a lot of people to keep the ARG community running. ARGNet is a news organization, and as such we tend to focus our reporting on the people who grab headlines, to indulge in a cliché: puppetmasters, players who win prizes, and so on.

However, many of the people who make the community what it is — and ARGs what they are — work nearly invisibly, quietly creating essential resources, keeping websites updated, and using their skills and talents in other ways to benefit the community and games that they love.

ARGNet would like to take this opportunity to recognize some of these individuals and their contributions. We would like to make this a regular series, and hope our readers will keep us informed about other people from whose work we all benefit but who may not get the credit they deserve.

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ARGFest 2007: 42 Entertainment Roundtable Discussion — The Big Picture

After a number of panels featuring discussion between independent puppetmasters and members of different design companies, 42 Entertainment‘s Jim Stewartson (Chief Technology Officer), Elan Lee (Co-Founder, Vice President of Experience Design), Sean Stewart (Co-Founder, Creative Director), Steve Peters (Game Designer) and Michael Borys (Visual Design Director) sat down for a roundtable discussion, moderated by Kristen Rutherford, about how their team works together.

Stewart began the roundtable with a discussion of a chemistry puzzle in the Beast that was intended to look “cool and spooky” but be relatively easy to solve, and 42’s subsequent efforts to reproduce that effect in their other games. One of these attempts was Flea++, the “programming” language used in I Love Bees. In a similar vein, players would “teach” the character of the Sleeping Princess to speak as she cobbled together words and phrases from their emails and replied to them. Stewart’s favorite draft reply was “I want a cupcake.” Lee told him they couldn’t use it because it was too ambiguous — it could be a call to action for the players. According to Stewart, one of Lee’s main roles within the company is removing ambiguity from what the players see (Stewart’s summary: the creative process at 42 consists mainly of Lee saying, “That’s really good but can we have another draft?”).

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ARGFest 2007 Panel II: Running an ARG

The second panel discussion at ARGFest focused on Running An ARG, and it had a diverse selection of panelists. Sam LaVigne and Ian Kizu-Blair of SF0, voice actress Kristen Rutherford of I Love Bees fame, and Unfiction administrator Jackie Kerr delivered a multi-perspective approach to the subject which in turn provided a thorough look at player relations. It was moderated by Unfiction moderator Krystyn Wells.

Kerr began the panel by enumerating three design difficulties that can create problems with community relations: badly-defined game boundaries that confuse the players to the point of frustration, games that break down the community’s collective intelligence rather than supporting it, and design decisions that provoke so much meta discussion that it becomes difficult to interact with the game itself in a natural manner.

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ARGFest 2007 Panel I: Developing an ARG

ARGFest attendees were privileged to be able to sit in on — and participate in — dialogues between many of the field’s leading developers during the panel discussions held on March 3rd. The first of these panels, Developing An ARG, consisted of Adam Brackin (Fundi Technologies — Deus City), Brian Clark (GMD Studios — Art of the Heist, Who Is Benjamin Stove), Adrian Hon (Mind Candy Design — Perplex City), Evan Jones (Xenophile Media/Stitch Media — Regenesis, Ocular Effect), Jan Libby (Sammeeeees), and Dave Szulborski (Chasing the Wish, Urban Hunt). Unfiction’s Sean Stacey (a.k.a. SpaceBass) moderated the discussion.

As one might expect from such a gathering of alternate reality gaming’s better-known puppetmasters, the discussion was packed with information and insights from behind the curtain (although Brian Clark’s frequent wryly humorous interjections kept it entertaining as well as informative).

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ARG Netcast, Episode 17: Meigeist, Yourgeist

argnetcast.jpgMeigeist special! Host Jonathan Waite and panelists Marie Lamb, Jessica Price, and Sean Stacey are joined by Meigeist puppetmaster Hazel Grian and Meigeist player Karl Smith for an intensive post-game Q&A session. Read the show notes at the ARG Netcast web site. Subscribe to the ARG Netcast feed through this link or via iTunes.

ARG Netcast, Episode 16: Back to Basics

argnetcast.jpgOne week after the Greatest Show in ARG, panelists Nicko Demeter, Sean C. Stacey, Marie Lamb and Jessica Price join host Jonathan Waite for an hour long look at recent game developments and the fallout from ARGFest-o-Con 2007. Read the show notes (coming soon!) at the ARG Netcast web site. Subscribe to the ARG Netcast feed through this link or via iTunes.

ARGFest 2007: Cruel 2B Kind

c2bklogo.jpgWelcome to beautiful downtown San Francisco!
Did you see that amazing cable car?
You’re looking gorgeous tonight!

You’re too kind.

I should know, of course, since teammate Elan Lee and I are the Cruel 2 B Kind World Champions. We achieved this renown by carefully plotting our strategy weeks in advance: we monitored traffic patterns in the play area from a helicopter, had minions who quietly attached GPS tracking devices to ARGFest participants so we could locate them easily during the Friday night game, and brought in an industrial psych firm to do detailed profiles on our competitors so we’d be able to out-think them.

C2BK.jpgThere’s a vicious rumor going around that we ended up partners by accident, hadn’t read the instructions in advance, and won only through sheer dumb luck, but I will of course categorically deny the truth of said rumor. And you should believe me. After all, I’m the world champion in a game of sneaky assassination, so you know you can trust me.

Cruel 2 B Kind is a game of “benevolent assassination” in which you slay other players with compliments and other kind phrases. You don’t know who else may be playing, so you have to be kind to random strangers as well, often with entertaining results. The three phrases listed above were our weapons, which we deployed against other teams in a sort of verbal rock-paper-scissors encounter to determine who was victorious and who was dead of an overdose of kindness. At ARGfest, we played the “Booty Variant” in which each player carried a piece of booty to award to the assassin who killed them most impressively. The booty ranged from the bizarre (a length of rubber tubing) to the edible (cookies and gourmet chocolate) to the truly entertaining (the “It’s Just A Flesh Wound” shirt Elan acquired from one of our first victims). Each time you kill another player, they are absorbed into your team.

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Vanishing Point Post-Game Chat Now Online

A recording of Vanishing Point’s post-game SkypeCast with 42 Entertainment’s Elan Lee and Steve Peters is now available. If you missed the chance to listen to the live SkypeCast as the puppetmasters revealed behind-the-scenes stories, puzzle solves and other secrets from the other side of the curtain, you can catch up now!

Thanks to Neowin’s Rob Wright and Dave Legg for hosting and editing the chat.

The Committee of the Sedulous Amalgamation Rewards Patience With Hand-Made Quality

In a world where technology allows immediate communication between people on opposite sides of the planet, and the internet provides instant access to new entertainment and information generated daily by multitudes of contributors of both the professional and the amateur varieties, it’s easy to forget the value of older, slower forms of communication such as snailmail. Perhaps this is the reason for the growing popularity of the slow foods movement, which offers a sumptuous alternative to the culinary portion of our increasingly-fast paced lives in which the time invested is itself part of the reward, and for which handmade quality trumps convenience.

The ARG world seems to have gotten its own equivalent to that movement in the form of The Committee for the Sedulous Amalgamation, which offers its players a veritable banquet of the type of pleasures that just can’t be replicated digitally: the thrill of tearing open an envelope to find a mysterious snailmail letter, the enjoyment of physically handling a beautifully constructed puzzle, and the satisfaction of possessing swag that you’ll keep long after the game has ended. The game launched with a letter sent to Unfiction, inviting players to thirteen Challenges and exhorting them to “make humanity proud!”

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The Beeb’s a Bit Of A Wannabe

wannabes.JPGYo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want

If what you want is to be friends with the cast of characters of the BBC’s Wannabes, apparently you have to live in the U.K. Following on the heels of Jamie Kane, their successful foray into the world of ARGs, the BBC has created a 14-episode interactive online soap opera in which the online discussions of the fans will drive the story, promising that:

“Now you can REALLY get involved in the sexy scandals and temper tantrums of the Wannabes as they lie, cheat and blag their way to success – with a little help from their friends -duh…that would be you then…”

For those who spend a good portion of their time yelling at their TV screens, convinced that if the characters would only listen everything would turn out better, or for those who can’t understand why the producers of their favorite games continue to ignore the superior wisdom of their online fan communities, the chance to play with a model that adjusts to their whims may provide a certain long-awaited visceral satisfaction.

For those who enjoyed Jamie Kane or like interactive storytelling in general, Wannabes promises some juicy, soapy fun. Players can score “friendship points” by helping the Wannabes make decisions, and really good friends may get private emails or access to special videos. Unfortunately for wannabe players in the U.S., the characters appear not to be interested in foreign friends at this time. If you’re in the UK, check the episode schedule here to catch up and let us know what you think!

Ravenchase Chicago: Treasure Hunting in the Windy City

ravenchase.jpgRavenchase Adventures bills itself as a “real adventure” using “riddles, anagrams, puzzles, actors, the far reaches of imagination and more,” and warns that it “may be more fun than you can handle.” They hold events around the country (upcoming locations include Honolulu, Chicago again next month, Baltimore, Manhattan, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and others) and will be putting on a national treasure hunt in July.

Since I really enjoyed playing Tombstone Hold ‘Em and have always been envious of those who’ve gotten to participate in events like the Go Game or Jane McGonigal’s oeuvre, a Ravenchase race to a final location determined via clues at downtown Chicago landmarks seemed like a perfect opportunity to get my puzzle hunt fix. I headed to Chicago to meet up with fellow ARGNet writer Krystyn Wells and two other crewmembers from my beekeeping days.

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Come Spring, will Odina Nova put the RAWK in Ragnarok?

valkyriehero.jpgHojotoho! And other Wagnerian exclamations! Odina Nova, which gave participants a chance to ride shotgun with the Valkyries, metaphorically speaking, by combining codes, videos, blogs and other standard ARG media with a fresh take on Norse mythology, drifted off into silence last October and was presumed to have fallen prey to the high grassroots ARG mortality rate. An out-of-game Unforums message from the PM promised that it had not imploded, but was being put on hold due to unforeseen real-life circumstances.

It appears that the game will indeed resume this spring (an in-game reference suggests the restart date will be March 21 — an auspicious date which traditionally marks both the vernal equinox and the first day of the astrological year).

The game’s narrative claims that there are nine parallel worlds in which alternate versions of ourselves exist, and travel between them is possible. They appear to correspond with the Norse cosmology in which nine worlds hang upon Yggdrasil, the world tree. A character named Hermod is continuing the work of his father, whose own mentor had traveled to an alternate world called Vanaheim, which he learned had been a place of peace and beauty until otherworldly forces allied with a warrior named Woden drove it into chaos. Certain incidents in human history, the players have speculated, may have been caused by the intersection of alternate worlds with our own.

Odina Nova generated plenty of interest and speculation at Unfiction and Immersion Unlimited before its hiatus, so whether you’re one of the people that played it when it was running, or someone who is looking for an ARG to get involved in, check it out on March 21st.

I Need a Hero! NBC ventures into ARGish territory with Heroes 360

heroes.jpgSing it with me, ladies:

I need a Hero[es ARG]!
I’m holding out for a Hiro ’til the end of the night.
It’s gotta be sure [it’s an ARG]
And it’s gotta be soon
And it’s gotta be larger than life…

Okay, I never was any good at the parody-lyrics thing. And while I’d love a full-blown Heroes ARG (if for no other reason than to feed my Hiro crush), even a “digital extension” of the Heroes story seems like a fun opportunity to immerse oneself in the world of this hit series.

It’s probably too early to dub Heroes 360 an actual ARG, but audience members who have been watching closely have been aware of some Lost-style clues in the show that suggested there might be hidden rewards for those willing to dig deeper. NBC promises “rich, original content” including on-air clues to investigate, “interaction with unique mobile content,” access to the phone system of one of the companies in the show, and additional content on the NBC site including hidden sites and secret files.

A website for Primatech Paper was shown on-screen in this week’s episode of the show. Call the number on the site and you receive a code which, when entered, redirects you to a job application form (unfortunately, applications at this time are limited to US residents). Despite the press releases from the network (and unlike ABC’s comparable efforts for LOST, KyleXY and Fallen), the site is intriguingly subtle about its connection to the show and as yet makes no reference to Nissan, NBC’s corporate partner in producing Heroes 360.

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Wheeeee! Sammeeeees Wraps Up

sammeeeees_disc.jpgThe whimsical and popular indie ARG Sammeeeees concluded Tuesday with a hostage exchange, a mysterious ritual, and touching farewells.

The story centered around Mr. Alan Johnson, leader of a group called the Spoocheeeees who secretly ruled all world governments with power from a mystical disc, and a man who called himself Peeps, leader of the Sammeeeees who were trying to break the Spoocheeeees’ nefarious hold on power.

Players obtained the five pieces of the Spoocheeeees disk and its central serpent icon and Unfiction’s Konamouse performed the ritual to reverse the Spoocheeeees’ power. (See it on YouTube here.) Meanwhile, Peeps offered himself to Mr. Alan Johnson in exchange for the five Sammeeeees held prisoner. During a struggle with double-agent named Cathy who was attempting to rescue her son Dwin — one of the five hostages — Mr. Alan Johnson fell on his own knife, freeing both Peeps (who was, ironically, his estranged brother) and the hostages.

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Ho Ho Ho, Ya Grinches!

ElfinHumor.gifIf you’re looking for some seasonal puzzle fun, grab some eggnog and have a seat at your computer. The elves who man the ARGNet tipline have alerted us to what appears to be a holiday-themed puzzle trail with a trailhead on blogspot.

Are you ready to play the oldest sport in the world? asks the title of the single post on The Reindeer Games blog. Snowball McJinglebell, the recently appointed head of the Human Division of the Reindeer Games, is happy to announce that Santa has opened up the competition to human participation this year, and he and his fellow elves (including Holly O’Mistletoe, who, in a whimsical touch, makes iPods out of snowflakes) would like to invite you to try your skills on the puzzles at the Reindeer Games board.

The boards are password-protected (presumably the answer to each puzzle will be the password to the next) and the password for the first puzzle is provided at the end of the blog entry. It seems to be in binary, and the translation of the binary is half a Christmas-themed word, but it requires a bit of a guess to get the correct answer.

All of the other reindeer are playing, but they’re willing to let you join in this reindeer game, so head on over to The Reindeer Games Blog for a dose of puzzly Christmas spirit!

Free! Psychic Readings! Also Free! A Chance To Be A Human Sacrifice!

fpr.jpgAmong the myriad bizarre religious groups that have cropped up on the internet, one of the more humorous is the Church of Google, which argues that Google fits the criteria for a deity. We’re not so sure, but we will admit that it makes a pretty good psychic.

At least, that’s where we assume the puppetmaster of Free! Psychic Readings! is getting the information for his character’s cold readings, with varying and sometimes humorous results.

News of the game arrived at the Unforums via an anonymous tip sent to UnFiction’s SpaceBass, pointing to psychic Miss Corinn’s website. Capitalized letters in one of the testimonials on the site led to a blog written by Frank, a man who claims to have lost his job due to false accusations by Miss Corinn, a cheery Miss-Cleo-style psychic who can “gaze across space and time” to tell you what you need to know. Frank has dedicated himself to exposing Miss Corinn as a fraud, and information on his site thickened the plot considerably by directing players to the website for PhoenixFire Corporation, which promotes belief in the “metaphysical world,” claims Miss Corinn as a “project,” and supplies subjects for a Satanist coven to sacrifice. Add in Frank’s star-crossed love affair with the descendant of a psychic who started PhoenixFire Corporation, his death, and his posthumous communications with players, and you have a recipe for drama.

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The End is Ny: Ny Takma Explores Dead Languages and Possible Planetary Destruction

NyTakma.JPGEden, Shangri-La, Mu, Lemuria, Tir Na Nog, El Dorado, Lyonesse: lost lands have fascinated audiences as long as humans have been telling stories. So it’s probably not surprising that the most famous of them, Atlantis, has finally gotten its own ARG.

On September 30, Unfiction players received an email directing them to a website which warned that the end was near, and showed videos of what appear to be an exploding planet. Attempts to make sense of the site’s content led to a hunt for Hank Morgan, a man obsessed with the mysterious language of Atlantis and searching for answers in the Bermuda Triangle. Hank has a tragic history: his obsession cost him his relationship with his daughter Kendra, and drove his wife to suicide.

Through contact with Hank, his faithful friend (and ladies man) John, and a linguist named Bryan Aristos, players were introduced to what appears to be the game’s central puzzle: translating the Atlantean language.

Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t quite live up to the allure of the concept. Lanti is not a language, merely a word-level substitution cipher. Therefore it’s not a solvable puzzle: players are limited to guessing words from context and waiting for the PMs to drop more vocabulary in their laps. Nevertheless, the audience has been eagerly dissecting the cryptic texts, producing both a wiki lexicon and a translator. Perhaps the game will spawn some Lanti catchphrases that will spread around the community.

The romance of a lost language, hints that Bryan may not be trustworthy, and intriguing symbols and Atlantean references to Kendra and Hank have brought together a close-knit but welcoming community of players to unearth the answers.

Catch up with the story so far at Unfiction, visit the player wiki to get a look at the language, or pop into #nytakma on to chat with players.

You’ve Got Mail – The Message Center Turns On

On July 20th, UnFiction member tallerbird logged into her Kingdom Of Loathing account, and found a message from someone called The Messenger:

Please go there as soon as you can! I need your help!

At first she thought it was spam, but after a little exploring, it became clear that the mysterious message was actually a clever grassroots launch. (During popular ARG Last Call Poker, players started games of Tombstone Hold ‘Em in cemeteries in the online realms of World of Warcraft, but to the best of our knowledge, this marks the first time an ARG has launched using virtual spaces; it will be interesting to see if the Message Center sparks a trend.)

The Message Center turned out to be a portal into a twisted plot resembling the unholy offspring of Saw and Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. The Messenger started his site because of an email he received describing some horrifying circumstances. Trapped in the “Room Of Doom” are eight people, each of whom corresponds to a label: the whore, the robot, the doctor, the father, the shy person, the liar, someone who is already dead, and the sender of the email. Through a series of site updates and instant messenger conversations with the characters, players were drawn into the room of doom, in which they and the characters must decide who lives and who dies to appease a sadistic killer who is lurking among them.

Catch up with the discussion on UnFiction here, or visit The Message Center to check for the latest dispatches from the Room Of Doom.

Editor’s Notes: And as quickly as it came, it went — the game wrapped up earlier this evening. For words from the Puppetmaster, check the chat log hosted at UnFiction. Also, we originally unintentionally reported that Tallerbird was a male, when in fact, she is a female — those errors have been fixed in the article.