During the live event for the IDEAS Festival ARG, I came across a laminated cipher reference card made by a company calling themselves Studio Cypher. After the curtain was lifted, I got the chance to speak with the Puppetmasters behind both the IDEAS Festival ARG and Ares Station. Ian Pottmeyer, Will Emigh and Nathan Mishler have formed a company dedicated to the production of ARGs called Studio Cypher.
Their website describes Studio Cypher as a company that â€œcreates multi-player novels: stories that place you in the middle of a mystery you can help solve.â€ Mishler and Emigh explained that they use the term â€œmulti-player novelâ€ rather than ARG to avoid alienating potential players who arenâ€™t familiar with the term. Studio Cypher is going to use a partial pay-to-play model for their ARGs. Players will be able to play along without paying a fee, but wonâ€™t be able to access some of the premium content in the game. Although they havenâ€™t announced an official price, I was told that the cost will be less than $10 per adventure. The first episode is due to launch sometime over the next month.
As previously reported, the 2006 IDEAS Festival took place this past weekend at Indiana University in Bloomington. The annual festival celebrates Interactive Digital Environments, Arts and Storytelling (IDEAS) and promotes the university’s Masters Program in Interactive Media and Game Design (MIME). In past years, the festival exhibits were judged and awarded prizes. The coordinators of this year’s festival decided to eliminate the judging to create a more open environment where ideas could be shared.
Works in several different media were exhibited including video games, alternate reality games, immersive virtual reality environments, interactive sculpture and mobile art. Many of these pieces explore different ways to immerse or interact with the audience. One piece by Robert Derr, Chance, immerses the art museum-goers by giving them the opportunity to interact with the artist by rolling a die to determine his fate. Derr places four video cameras on his body and moves throughout the city in the direction determined by what number is shown on the die. Another piece, The Uncanny Road Ahead, uses virtual reality technology to immerse players in the virtual environment. I attended the event myself to exhibit Orbital Colony as interactive art and storytelling, but the IDEAS Festival had an ARG of its own, IDEAS Festival 1906. I actually was lucky enough to take part in a live finale for the game during the show:
One of the characters, Director Anderson, entered the hall and announced that he was going to exhibit a game from the future called Non Compos Mentis. This was the cue to begin my mission. I nervously made my way through the halls of the university building, keeping an eye out for Anderson’s cronies. Agent Sueno and Silas McGuffin were counting on me to retrieve the evidence they needed to bring down Director Anderson. I made my way to the locker and unlocked it with the combination they had given me. I found enough evidence inside to ensure that Anderson was going to be brought to justice. Soon after, I joined Sueno and McGuffin to confront Anderson and show him the video of his future arrest.
Overall, the most exciting part of the festival was the high level of awareness about Alternate Reality Games. A surprising number of people in attendance knew what an ARG was and could name at least one example. Most of those who weren’t already familiar with the genre were very interested in learning more.