Free speech, a fundamental human right? Yes, of course, you’d say. A universally granted human right? Absolutely not, even in the 21st century. Confronting 5,000 years of reading, writing, and the politics of censorship, Lekha’s Journey is a fictional interactive experience tied to the four-part documentary series, Empire of the Word, which aired in November-December 2009 on TVO, a publicly funded, educational media organization in Ontario, Canada.
In Lekha’s Journey, author I.P. Burroughs’ writings sparked international controversy and violent rioting that forced the mysterious writer into hiding 20 years ago. Aspiring Canadian writer Lekha Sharma forged an online friendship with the fugitive author, who is about to release a translation of the Bhava Sutra manuscript. The Bhava Sutra is believed to be a politically dangerous (anti-patriarchal) tract, written by a woman in Dehradun, India, in the 5th century BCE. The last people who tried to study the Bhava Sutra died or disappeared in unusual circumstances.
I.P. Burroughs convinced Lekha to meet her in Egypt, but the Bhava Sutra manuscript was stolen from the modern Library of Alexandria before the two could meet. Instead, I.P. Burroughs has laid a puzzle trail for Lekha, as she looks for missing pieces of the manuscript around the world. As she travels, Lekha is being followed, but she cannot allow the hidden message of the Bhava Sutra to be suppressed. Beautifully filmed on location in Canada, Egypt, Italy, Turkey, Germany, India, and England, Lehka is plucky and approachable as the protagonist, albeit a little naive. I.P. Burroughs’ supporters Lekha meets along her travels can be entertaining and sometimes cryptic as they help guide Lekha’s journey.
On May 15th, 2009, over 60 participants in the Mazda 33 Keys ARG met in a Montreal warehouse, led by Pat Martin. Their goals: defeating the Unifos (the ARG’s bad guys), liberating Xira and, ultimately, to finally understand that the soul they were given the mission to recover by Reperio was none other than the Zoom Zoom of the new 2010 Mazda 3.
This ultimate stage in the interactive fiction (developed by Doner Canada and 1976 Productions on behalf of Mazda Canada) gathered all the players who had collected the keys — using various clues dispersed online, on television and radio broadcasts, on posters and in the field — to finally find out which of those keys would unlock the coveted car. Amélie Tremblay was the lucky owner of the winning key. Amélie and her famliy were very active players in the ARG and managed to find a total of seven keys!
It is obviously quite a satisfaction for the puppetmaster — as well as for the winner! — when that person worked really hard for the prize.
This ARG was developed exclusively for the French speaking market in the province of Quebec and was 1976 Productions’ first experience in the genre, and they got the bug! I met with Stéphane Raymond and Guillaume Bilodeau who told me the story behind the Mazda 33 Keys project.
Two bits of exciting information coming out of the ReGenesis camp this week, one concerning the relaunch of the series on public television, and the other regarding the nomination of the ReGenesis website for a major Canadian award.
We last reported on ReGenesis back in October of 2004 when the series was first aired on Movie Central and The Movie Network, both subscription-based cable networks in Canada. The series included an ARG element, or “extended reality” to it. Now, almost a year later, ReGenesis is enjoying a resurgence in popularity with the broadcast of Season One on Canadian public television channel Global. (Unfortunately, there is no current syndication deal for any networks outside of Canada.) With the re-airing of the series on Global comes the relaunch of the web-based ARG. This is the first instance of an “replayed” ARG — that is, the reset and replay of an ARG that had previously run its course.