In the fourth panel discussion at ARGFest, titled “Defining ARGs and the Future of ARGs”, I was fortunate enough to moderate what turned out to be a lively and entertaining discussion from a panel full of people I have professional and personal admiration for. The panel consisted of Brian Clark (GMD Studios), Adrian Hon (Mind Candy), Jane McGonigal (Avant Game, The Institute for the Future), Sean Stacey (Unfiction), Brooke Thompson (Giant Mice) and Evan Jones (stitch Media).
There was an opening round of statements in which McGonigal talked about her latest project, The Institute for the Future, and spoke about how alternate reality gaming can have an impact on the real world by delivering messages about important world issues. She also discussed World Without Oil, which is poised to launch in two weeks. In his opening remarks, Clark went on to state that he was interested in the idea of sustainability, noting that the community needs to find ways to embrace and celebrate all forms of ARG.
The first question for the panel was, “When asked by others outside of the industry, how do each of you describe what alternate reality gaming is?” Clark described ARG as “platformless gaming,” while Thompson focused on the story and narrative and how pieces of the story can be broken up and distributed in many different forms. Stacey agreed, and as he talked about the “collaborative storytelling process,” he added that player actions ultimately color the experience and make it unique. McGonigal focused on the idea of “massively-scaled collaboration,” where game elements “can’t possibly be solved alone,” and real-time game design. Hon interjected with humor as he talked about a “decision tree” approach that he had used in the past, and discussed the ideas of controls and using real-life interfaces within game design. Jones wrapped up responses by bringing up the accessibility and cross-platform aspects of ARG, adding that talking about the idea that “characters believe that they are real” is one of the ways he describes ARG to others.
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).
We are happy to announce that ARGNet is an official media sponsor of the 2007 ScreenBurn festival, taking place at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival this weekend in Austin, Texas. The ScreenBurn festival is an initiative dedicated to providing programming about the newest developments in the gaming community, and we are honored that the festival’s coordinators are recognizing alternate reality gaming as an important piece of the gaming landscape. The festival will run from March 9th through the 13th, and will feature panelists many ARG fans are already familiar with. Brian Clark from GMD Studios and Tony Walsh from secretlair.com will be there, as well as Evan Jones from Stitch Media and Dan Hon from Mind Candy Design. We are fortunate to have representation at the festival as well, as staff writer Brooke Thompson (representing giantmice.com) will be talking on the panel entitled, “ARG! The Attack of The Alternate Reality Games,” which will be moderated by Alice Taylor of the Wonderland blog.
For those looking for a more robust experience (you know, the kind that goes beyond the realm of ARG), you’ll be happy to know that, according to the ScreenBurn website, “panels cover topics such as blogging, business models, content creation, digital convergence, e-learning, entrepreneurism, open source, ubiquitous computing, web design, web hacks and web standards.” With such a depth of topics and panels, the festival should be one of the can’t-miss events of the year.
So, with all of those superstars in attendance, how do you get in on the festivities? Easy! You show up at the door of the Convention Center in Austin, and you pay your money to get in. For the sheer amount of panel discussion and events taking place this year, the $350 cost for the weekend is a bargain. So, if you want in on one of the greatest cutting-edge festivals of the year, get down to Austin and get in to SXSW Interactive. Oh, and if you see Brian, Evan, Dan, Tony or Brooke, say hi for us.
Editor’s note: For those of you who played Art of the Heist last year, or who are currently enjoying Who Is Benjamin Stove?, you might already know about GMD Studios, the driving force behind some of the biggest Alternate Reality Games to date. Brian Clark, who co-founded the company in 1995, has become a valuable and active member of the ARG community. His energy and creativity have helped in taking the genre to new heights, and Dee Cook was lucky enough to sit down with Brian during the SXSW Interactive festival for a few words.
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie? Probably my favorite movie of all time would be Bladerunner. [Ed. Note: Possible spoilers for Bladerunner.]
The director’s cut or the original version?
Oh, definitely the director’s cut. No narration, no Mickey Spillane voice-over with the extra wrinkle that the Bladerunner’s a replicant (Oh, no, spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! I spoiled the movie!)
Did you see the narrated version first?
Do you think that made you appreciate the second one better?
No. I think once they took the voice-over out, it left more to speculation. Peoples’ motivations and machines’ motivations became less clear. We didn’t need to have Harrison Ford tell us about Rutger Hauer dying. We could just watch that scene and not have to say, “Maybe in the end he valued any life, even his own.” I think that the film company underestimated the intelligence of the film-going public.
I read somewhere that Harrison Ford said he did the narration badly deliberately so they’d have to cut it.
Really? That’s a great detail – a little sabotage.
True, but I don’t know whether it’s an urban myth or not.
Yeah, but it’s interesting.
Speaking today at South by Southwest Interactive was a panel on the Cluetrain Manifesto. Published in 1999, Cluetrain.com is a list of 95 points regarding companies, consumers, and the relationship between the two, asking companies to wake up and deal with their customers on a human level rather than treat them as potential sources of profit. The panel, moderated by Henry Copeland (founder of BlogAds, was a discussion of Cluetopia and whether society is getting there.
One of the original writers of Cluetrain, Doc Searls, spoke on the origin of the manifesto. In the midst of the Dotcom madness in 1998, the Cluetrain founders, as they would become known, were discussing the disconnect between what the internet actually was versus what was receiving funding and how the net was playing out in the press, as if it could be an extension of the shopping malls in the real world. The founders would use their theories on marketing in order to filter out clients whose philosophies didn’t mesh with their own; if the clients did not agree with the concept of marketing as a conversation, the founders would decline to work with them. The discussion turned into the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto, which was kicked off by Chris Locke’s statement from the everyday citizen’s point of view, “We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings – and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it.”
Sharp’s promotional ARG, Legend of the Sacred Urns, announced a winner tonight in their alternate reality treasure hunt. As posted on the Steinitz Puzzlers Forum, the Contest Grand Prize Winner was Ohio’s Ken Floss. Ken was the first to submit a correct answer identifying the location of the third sacred urn back on Dec. 1st. There were also six sweepstakes winners drawn at random from those who submitted entries.
Beginning back on September 15th, a series of Sharp TV ads featuring an orange Karmann Ghia crashing into a swimming pool directed observant viewers to moretosee.com, which led to the Steinitz Puzzlers site. There, players learned about fictional eccentric treasure hunter Dagobert Steinitz and the three urns he’d hidden for other adventurers to find. The game led to various blogs and websites where players were able to find clues pointing them to the final urn’s location.
For being the first to submit the correct location, Ken will receive a Sharp Home Entertainment System, consisting of a Sharp 45-inch Aquos LCD TV, a Sharp digital video player and Surround Sound amplification system.
Urns was produced by Mike Monello (the producer of “The Blair Witch Project”) and Brian Clark of GMD Studios in Orlando.