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.
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 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.
When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. –R.A.H.
Over fifty people gathered at Sutro Heights Park in San Francisco this past Sunday to practice the ancient sport of “Labyrinth Running” which, according to the recently-launched Alternate Reality Game, “Find the Lost Ring,” was lost in 393 A.D. when Theodoseus banned the Olympic Games. Find the Lost Ring is an ARG designed to promote the upcoming Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, China in August, and is sponsored by the McDonald’s Corporation. It officially launched on March 3, 2008, shortly after trailhead clue packages were received by various ARGonauts and media sites.
The ARG is conducted in several languages and has gained popularity all over the planet. It was reported that at least two other training events were taking place that day in other parts of the world, including in Brazil, which country holds one of the largest interested groups of players of this game that isn’t a game. It is scheduled to run through to the closing ceremonies of the Olympics on August 24, 2008.
Although the event was organized by two players, Tom Bullock (aka Ariock) and Lenore Henry (aka hmrpita), it was also acknowledged by the game, and an in-game character named Kai announced early that he would attend the practice run. Lead designer and avant-gamer Jane McGonigal also appeared at the event and offered to help organize and referee the training.
It’s been three days since Find the Lost Ring launched with a fanfare of posters and yarn. Since that time, players and puppetmasters alike have been busily fulfilling the prophetic messages written on vintage Olympic postcards. The game traces a story fraught with mystery and intrigue across the globe in so many languages, you’ll be glad you studied Esperanto in university. You did study Esperanto, didn’t you?
If you’ve been reading ARGNet recently, you might be able to guess one of the developers behind the curtain. However, it’s now official. According to the Lost Ring development team,
The Lost Ring is a global alternate reality adventure created in partnership between McDonald’s, AKQA and Jane McGonigal. Designed in collaboration with the IOC, The Lost Ring invites players from across the globe to join forces online and in the real world, as they investigate forgotten mysteries and urban legends of the ancient games. The Lost Ring recognizes McDonald’s historic sponsorship of the Olympic Games, and brings the spirit of the Games to people around the world.
Jane McGonigal adds that she is “so thrilled to be collaborating with these organizations to create what we hope will be the most global ARG, ever. This is really a dream project for me – we are bringing together the two kinds of games, ARGs and the Olympics, that have the power to engage and unite people all over the world.” So far, the game is succeeding admirably, with characters interacting with players in English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Mandarin, Japanese, and Esperanto.
If your curiosity is piqued, a brief review of what’s happened so far is waiting for you after the jump.
FINDTHELOSTRING – No, there’s no “lo” string, nor a string named Thelo – but there is a lost ring..somewhere..and we need to find it, to save the world. Apparently. By August 24th.
On Leap Day, I received a package via FedEx, which was followed quickly by reports from others who received similarly couriered packages from “T.L. Ring” in San Francisco, CA. (Could T.L. Ring be “The Lost Ring”?) The package itself was quite curious, filled with a number of items forming a mystery begging to be unravelled.
First off, there’s a large poster advertising the 7th Olympiade in Antwerp, Belgium. Two things stand out — the year 1920 (the package originated from 1920 Olympic Way), and a short message written on the back: It’s a secret someone has been keeping for a very long time.
Next up, each package contained three photos — old photos of locations related to the 1920 Olympics. When all of the pictures from the discovered packages are taken into account, there’s quite a variety, and it seems the three photos people got are fairly random. However, on the backs of these photos are written our call to arms:
March 3, 2008
March 4, 2008??
Find the others…
March 5, 2008??
March 11, 2008??
Find the secret…
August 24, 2008
Save the world.