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).
On December 19th, 2006, Jane McGonigal was interviewed by CNET‘s Daniel Terdiman at the CNET Bureau in Second Life, as we previewed the day before. As a follow-up, readers who were not able to get into the live audio interview may want to know that the chat transcript has been posted online for the past two weeks in the Newsmaker section at CNET. McGonigal talks about her history with alternate reality gaming, the possibilities of ARG within Second Life, Cruel 2 B Kind and the NintendoWii.
Speaking of Second Life, it’s been quite a while since we were supposed to have reported on the Second Life Future Salon podcast, so now’s just as good a time as any. On November 27th, 2006, the Second Life Future Salon podcast series recorded its second episode. Tony Walsh (Clickable Culture), Elan Lee (42 Entertainment), Adrian Hon and Dan Hon (Mind Candy) joined Jerry Paffendorf of The Electric Sheep Company for a discussion of alternate reality gaming and its relation to Second Life, which also gave the panel an opportunity to pontificate about the future of ARGs in the Second Life universe. While the audio quality is not the greatest, it’s an interesting discussion and is worth taking a listen to.
Mind Candy, in conjunction with the Perplex City Academy, ran their first Games in London on Saturday. The widely anticipated urban scavenger hunt unleashed impromptu choirs and conga lines across the capital, earning a wave of acclaim from over 200 participants.
The games – within the ‘reality’ of Perplex City, but unrelated to the mystery of the missing cube – were first announced in early January, and the Mind Candy team were deluged with applications from over eight hundred would-be players. The numbers were eventually whittled down, and 40 lucky six-member teams finally converged upon City Temple from as far afield as Barcelona, Texas and Hong Kong – some sporting uniforms, others neatly equipped with Rollerblades, and all buzzing with nervy excitement. Also in attendance were a gaggle of reporters and a volunteer crew of Game Rangers, who patrolled the streets and ran events throughout the day.
As reported earlier this week, the Perplex City ARG has recently ignited a few flames of contention within the ARG community with its controversial announcement of what appeared to be a pay-for-play model based around collectible puzzle cards and, more shockingly, the possible payout of a large reward. Indeed, a prize of £100,000 (about $200,000) may be claimed by whomever locates the Receda Cube, Perplex City’s pet McGuffin Device, and returns it to its rightful owners (assuming Perplex City’s ownership of the mysterious cube is indeed rightful).
These developments have brought up plenty of questions, from whether the announced reward is real (it is), to whether players will have to buy puzzle cards in order to continue playing the ARG (they won’t), to concern about whether a large cash reward will end up factionalizing and splintering the existing community of players (maybe, but hopefully not). It certainly seems as if the recent “Group 333” launch managed to cry havoc and let loose the dogs of Meta across the forums, blogs, and news sites that populate the ARG community space. Opinions a-plenty can be found everywhere, many based on little to no concrete information, yet liberally daubed with some speculative glue to hold them together. A recent article posted to the Perplex City Sentinel helped to clarify some of the aspects of the game as related to the puzzle cards, but the best way to find out more was to secure an interview with one of the Perplex City Puppetmasters. Unfiction.com spoke at length with Adrian Hon about several issues related to some of these revelations.
Adrian Hon, one of the developers behind Perplex City, has somehow found time in his busy schedule to blog about Alternate Reality Gaming and how it fits into the historical scheme of things. His new entry, The Reality Artificers, places ARGs in the context of the long history of storytellers using framing devices to create more believable stories. It’s an incredibly well-researched and interesting read.
“…ARGs are not a new idea – they are simply the newest instance of an idea almost as old as storytelling itself – of storytellers constructing fictional realities, by deliberately mimicking the trusted information sources of media in order to create more realistic and affecting stories…
“…It is clear that storytellers throughout history have repeatedly and independently discovered that increasing the audience’s belief in a story can provide a more affecting and engaging experience. All of these artificers of fictional realities have used the same strategies: ancient Egyptian stories used fake letters; Welles used a fake news broadcast; the BBC used a fake live documentary; and ARGs use a network of fake news and personal websites…”
You can read The Reality Artificers in its entirety at mssv.net.