Tag: festquest

A Puzzling Prelude to FestQuest 2013


Last year, William Sawtooth III embarked on a great experiment: he sold off 100 shares in his personhood in exchange for a billion dollars. Being a savvy investor, I managed to secure a 6% interest in Sawtooth prior to his untimely demise at the hands of a masked henchman from the Secret Games Society. Yesterday, I received word from Sawtooth’s legal counsel informing me that Sawtooth’s death was confirmed after a thorough investigation, and my shares were reverting back to the Mega Hard Wood Group Board of Directors. As a courtesy, the Board sent me a framed certificate commemorating my brief status as a Majority Stockholder. They also unknowingly sent out an invitation to this year’s FestQuest, an annual puzzle hunt held during ARGFest.

Sawtooth’s misadventures in personal corporate governance were the focus of the alternate reality game Boom the Moon, an extension of Steve Peters’ crowdsourced alternate reality gaming thought experiment World Without Helium by Synth-Bio Productions. For two weeks, players tricked Sawtooth’s silent investors into handing over their shares to prevent a plan to use Sawtooth’s newfound wealth to solve the impending helium shortage by detonating a nuclear bomb on the moon’s surface. Players secured a majority stake in William Sawtooth III, and staved off plans to blow up the moon. While celebrating the win, Sawtooth was shot and presumed dead. The correspondence from the Mega Hard Wood Group only served to confirm that presumption, pronouncing his death a suicide.

After closer inspection, I discovered an invitation to FestQuest 2013 slipped in between the certificate and the frame’s backing. The secret message cordially invited me to join the Sawtooth Circus in Seattle on July 27th. Sawtooth also offered his handwritten assurance that “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” It also included an introductory puzzle to whet players’ appetites for the main course this weekend. The return of William Sawtooth III should be an exciting one for ARGFest attendees, as Sawtooth is one of the most colorful characters in alternate reality gaming to break the fourth wall I’ve seen.

Synth-Bio Productions is resurrecting Sawtooth through their role as host of this year’s FestQuest. Pre-registration for FestQuest is mandatory this year, with groups of 10 asked to provide their email address along with a “Circus Name”. The experience is only available to ARGFest attendees, and is expected to take approximately 2 hours to complete.

ARGFest 2011: Sandwiching Panels with Play

Image courtesy of Kevin Makice

For almost a decade, ARGFest has gathered game developers, academics, and players in one spot to take stock of the industry, sharing insights into the development process, best practices for design, and personal anecdotes from past campaigns. As I have previously argued, however, one of the best ways to hone the craft is to set aside the PowerPoint slides, step away from the podium, and play games. And since the first ARGFest in 2003, games have peppered the proceedings from start to finish.

FestQuest: An ARGFest Tradition
The longest-running tradition at ARGFest is FestQuest, an annual scavenger hunt through the host city. Exploring a new city through a series of puzzles provides an intimate way to experience the neighborhood, ensuring exposure to the city goes beyond the hotel conference center itself. This year, Studio Cypher designed a puzzle trail that took conference attendees on a tour of Indiana University’s campus with stops at the Monroe County Public Library, the Kirkwood Observatory, the tunnels running underneath Indiana University’s Chemistry building, and the Sweetheart Tree. The sometimes exhausting process of pounding through puzzles was captured on film by a documentary crew from beActive Media, who documented much of the proceedings.

Wisconsin Hustle: Pants-Optional Dancing
Awkward Hug is fast becoming an ARGFest institution: two years ago, they brought the characters from the romantic comedy alternate reality game Must Love Robots to Portland for a round of robot speed-dating, while last year Awkward Hug invited attendees to craft sock puppets as part of the New Employee Orientation to their new game, Socks, Inc. ARGFest 2011 saw a live-action game demo of the company’s first mobile app, Wisconsin Hustle. The game is like a dance-fueled game of Simon, with players competing to execute an ever-lengthening list of winning dance moves in sequential order. Awkward Hug kept the list of moves as memorable as they were simple to execute, including the pop culture-inspired “Egyptian,” “Travolta,” and crowd favorite “Carlton.” The first night’s festivities ended with a championship showdown, with panelists as judges. Co-creator Jim Babb had been an intern for Jane McGonigal’s Top Secret Dance-Off, a game designed to make people feel more comfortable dancing in public, and Wisconsin Hustle retains TSDO‘s whimsical innocence as it asks players to act ridiculously for a game.

The Wars of Authenticity
ARGFest is unrivaled in its ability to gather alternate reality gaming fans in one place, so it’s no surprise the conference is often used as a platform to launch games. One of the most infamous launches occurred in 2008 when the Smithsonian hired Craig Torres, a professional weight lifter and former Mr. New England, to walk into the conference covered in henna tattoos wearing nothing more than a banana hammock to kick off their game, Ghosts of a Chance. John Maccabee, one of the developers behind the Ghosts of a Chance launch, provided a repeat performance, calling in model Lindsay Forster to serve as the physical representation for Terra Firma in 1807. In a short, 10-minute puzzle-solving exercise, conference attendees were asked to answer a series of questions and assemble a device to guide a balloon to Terra Firma. This task introduced attendees to The Wars of Authenticity, an offshoot of the Smithsonian’s alternate reality game Pheon.

Who Is Martin Aggett?
Martin Aggett is not a real person. Rather, he is the lead character in an alternate reality game about…well, Martin Aggett, that’s been in the works for years. That didn’t stop him from attending ARGFest, and this year, Aggett has finally launched his game, which serves as tribute to his fictional narcissism. It started with slips of paper placed in the ARGFest welcome bags: properly assembling the pieces of paper revealed a QR code that contained a secret code that unlocked the first part of Aggett’s story. Aggett “lost” his locked briefcase at the conference, hidden amongst a display of artifacts from past ARGs. Aggett’s birthday unlocked the case, which contained his press pass and photographs from his past. One of the players to find the case set up a lunch meeting with Aggett to return the case. The chase concluded with a dead drop in Bloomington that completed the first chapter of Martin Aggett’s story.

Another Hint for the Stitch Media Puzzle
As for Stitch Media’s puzzle hidden in the ARGFest program print-out? You’ll have to stick around for the solution, but if you’re still puzzling through it, you might be interested to know that the extra print-outs of the program were put to good use as attendees went to great lengths making sure they were connecting the dots correctly.

ARGFest 2008 in Review: The Live Events (Stealing Sleep an Hour at a Time)

ARGNet Writers pose at ARGFest 2008

There were so many game launches, puzzles, and events at ARGFest this year, it’s a wonder anyone had any time to attend any of the panels. What follows is a brief summary of some of the events that robbed this columnist of his much-needed beauty sleep.

Alpha Agency
The first game launch of the night was a subtle one. Upon arriving at the Cocktail Party at 7pm, Lewis Murphy handed me his business card. He even went through the trouble of writing my name on the card before handing it over. Upon closer inspection, there was a symbol on the back of the card. Sixteen other specially marked business cards were handed out over the next few hours. Thanks to some quick footwork by Mapmaker, the symbols were all collected and assembled to reveal the website for Alpha Agency.

Eight Days
Eight days before the start of ARGFest, a number of players received emails leading to a series of highly technical puzzles and a countdown page. When the countdown ran out, something happened at the cocktail party. The general buzz of conversation was replaced with the rantings of a mad man with a manila folder sticking out of his pants. The natural reaction, of course, was to steal the folder from the crazy man, which is just what EGo did. Inside the folder was a CD containing a video as well as a photo that led the partygoers away from alcohol and into the streets, where they eventually found the following letter marking the end of the scavenger hunt.

The Dark Knight
Luckily, the scavenger hunt ended with just enough time to make it to Loews theater to catch a screening of The Dark Knight, courtesy of ARGFest sponsor 42 Entertainment. Watching the film, I appreciated how aspects of the alternate reality game added to the movie viewing experience.

Continue reading

ARGFest-O-Con 2008 – Ready or Not, Here Comes Awesome

logo-wninjas-trans-lg.pngOnce again, ARGNet is proud to join Unfiction in hosting ARGFest-O-Con. This year’s weekend ARG odyssey sails into Boston, Massachusetts on July 18-20 at the Boston Radisson Hotel and Conference Center. Scheduled events include a Friday night Welcome cocktail party, a full day of conference talks on Saturday, as well as the return of FestQuest – the puzzley adventure that takes you around the highlights of the host city. Registration for the event recently opened on the ARGFest website for the low cost of $25 (the Friday night reception is an additional $15). Booking now guarantees you a seat to the hottest ARG show of the year and a weekend of adventure with fellow ARG enthusiasts. Where else would you be able to rub elbows and fight over the last bits of buffet bacon with some of the biggest names in the genre? Book now!

Rooms at the Radisson are filling up fast, but a few slots remain for those procrastinators among you. Information about booking for the ARGFest rate of $189 a night (plus tax) can be found at the conference website.

ARGFest-O-Con is also actively seeking private and corporate sponsors for the event. Sponsorship opportunities have been outlined and can be viewed on the ARGfest website. This year also tills new soil with the addition of the Order of the Trout, an individual sponsorship tier that promises secret handshakes, troutly designation, and the joy of being referred to as “Fish Face” at the conference. Rarely have I wanted anything oh so badly. Now if only the Order came with a Wii…

My ARGFest

SFimage.pngAs the wheels of the small commuter plane touched down on the tarmac of San Francisco International Airport, the rush of excitement I felt having arrived for ARGFest-O-Con 2007 was almost overwhelming. It had been less than two years since I had attended the large-scale conference dedicated to alternate reality gaming – the 2005 event in New York City was my first ARGFest – but the anticipation for this event had me giddy as a schoolgirl. As I navigated through the weaving maze of gates and security checkpoints, I knew that in less than an hour, I would be meeting up with people from around the globe, some of which I had seen in late 2005 at the Last Call Poker finale, and some that I had never even had the chance to talk to in the online chat rooms that dot the ARG community landscape.

I had the benefit of arriving in San Francisco within minutes of Unfiction owner Sean Stacey and 42 Entertainment’s Elan Lee. After some careful coordination, we were able to share a cab to the convention’s home, the Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf in northern San Fran. We began to talk, and it was obvious that despite a bit of fatigue, the other two were just as excited about the conference as I was. We chatted as though we had seen each other only days earlier, and as we traversed the streets leading to the hotel, fifteen minutes elapsed before Elan finally said, “Hey, San Francisco is really pretty.” We hadn’t even looked out the window of the cab, too busy talking with each other.

The rest of the evening went by much faster than I would have liked. Arriving at the hotel to see old friends and meet those I had previously talked with online, events quickly led to a wonderful Chinese meal, a regrettable absence from the Cruel 2 B Kind game that over 50 teams enjoyed, and a number of beverages at the hotel lounge. It was great to see people I write with on this site, people like Jackie Kerr and Marie Lamb, people who I had never met with in a real-world setting previously. Smiling faces and loud, raucous cheers littered the gathering place, and the festival moved forward, full tilt.

Continue reading