Tag: Michael Betcherman

PICNIC ’08, part six: From Crowdsourcing to Collaborative Creation

argnetpicnic2008.jpgEditor’s Note: Daniël van Gool, an administrator at the Unfiction forums, was on the scene at PICNIC ’08 on behalf of ARGNet. We were impressed with Daniël’s work covering PICNIC ’07 and, as media partners of the annual cross-media festival, were invited to a number of special events in addition to the speaker sessions. This is the sixth and final part of Daniël’s comprehensive look at this year’s event in which he outlines the highlights of day three of PICNIC ’08. All pictures are courtesy of Daniël as well.

I arrived at PICNIC early on Friday the 26th. When I arrived, the main conference hall was mostly empty, but it was filled with the ambient noises one would expect at a picnic — crickets, a flowing creek, and the occasional buzzing fly. This is why I love PICNIC so much! The smell of fresh coffee slowly filled the building, even though PICNIC’s Espresso Factory was closed for the morning, and life was good.

The focus of day 3 of PICNIC ’08 was on the collaboration within the creative industry, which mean that there would be a ton of showcases by different entrepreneurs that are developing several innovative concepts that provide means for creativity and/or collaboration. Before this ‘parade’ of mostly very ingenious commercial concepts, Matt Costello gave a speech presenting his thoughts and ideas on creativity in games in a highly entertaining form. Costello is mostly known as a games-designer, having worked on The 7th Guest and Doom 3, and on several novels and games for TV (PBS, BCC, the SciFi channel). He introduced himself as somewhat of a cross media schizophrenic.

He started out by talking for a bit about the concept of Story, by telling a tale about a personal encounter with a shark that he had while diving. He then read a passage from a novel he co-wrote that used that personal experience to base the storyline upon and engaged the audience in a conversation about the differences.

He stated that the audience often knows something that the protagonist in a story doesn’t know, a point he illustrated by bringing two members of the audience on stage. His point was that a good story creates the illusion that something is going to happen, but then causes something else to happen, making the audience the surprised party instead of the protagonist. The unexpected and the unknown are two important factors in storytelling, interactivity and games.

Costello went on to demonstrate a lot of his other points by having members of the audience perform several tasks. Again, it is very hard to convey his points by merely describing what happened. During his address, I was chatting with people on IRC following along through PICNIC’s live feed, and I said the following:

<Gisk> yeah, Matt Costello is a fun guy
<Gisk> very good points he made about storytelling and gameplay
<Gisk> unfortunately, almost impossible to write up… you need to see his interaction with the audience and the creation of illusion to convey what he was talking about
<Gisk> which is exactly his point
<Gisk> so, figures 🙂

I guess this is the best summary I can give, so I’m afraid it’ll have to do.

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The Daughters of Freya are Gonna Get Ya

freya.jpgEvery once in a while, the staff of ARGN are approached by people wanting to share their talents and ideas with the ARG community. When Michael Betcherman, a co-creator of emailmystery.com approached us with an opportunity to experience the mystery of The Daughters of Freya, I jumped upon the chance to try something a little out of the ordinary.

ARGers, when not in the midst of a game, usually spend their time honing their puzzling skills by creating or playing puzzle trails and dunking their pens into the ink well of the internet to find some similar puzzle game. Rarely do they find the chance to indulge themselves in the “other side” of ARGs, the more literary, story and character driven half. Michael and his co-creator, David Diamond, have tapped the proverbial beer keg of immersive story greatness that allows even the most hardcore, plot-driven ARGers the opportunity to flex their brainpower on something other than vigenere or the latest Dan Brown novel.

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Biding Time With Immersive Fiction

gaelph.jpgWhat’s becoming known as Immersive Fiction seems to be gaining popularity of late. While not really ARGs per se, works of immersive fiction often have enough ARG-ish elements to them to merit a second look, as they might definitely feed the need for those of you waiting around for the “next big game,” (and you know who you are!).

Web-based episodic entertainment is nothing new. There are websites and communities such as EpiGuide dedicated to the genre, and while websoaps and the like have been around for quite a while, some of these episodics have made an effort to become more interactive/immersive.

Past examples of this include Online Caroline, in which you ‘make friends’ with Caroline, a Bridget Jones-ish character who gets caught up in a humorous nefarious plot. The narrative takes the form of emails and pre-recorded webcam vignettes that utilize information you’ve provided about yourself or opinions you’ve given Caroline. She’ll even bug you if you don’t stop by the site for a few days. This database driven personalization made Online Caroline very unique, and resulted in the reader feeling intricately involved in the story. As far as we know, you can still experience Online Caroline for yourself, which takes a minimum of 24 days to play out, and is free.

Looking for something new? A few current examples of Immersive Fiction include Gaelph and The Daughters of Freya. Gaelph is the story of a little girl who, by consequence of some ancient prophesies and circumstance, is exiled from her childhood home. So far, the story has provided some ARG-ish puzzles for the readers to solve in order to continue the story. Gaelph takes place in real time over the next few weeks/months, and is free. (discussion at Unfiction)

The Daughters of Freya by Michael Betcherman and David Diamond is a unique new mystery novel told through emails exchanged between characters in the story delivered straight to your inbox, just as if the they had copied you on the emails they’re sending to each other. The story revolves around Samantha Dempsey, an investigative journalist who gets an assignment to do an article on a Silicon Valley sex-cult, and as with any good mystery, includes sex, murder and intrigue.

Readers receive a few emails at random times every day over the three weeks that it takes for the mystery to unfold. The Daughters of Freya is $7.49, but you can receive the first 3 emails for free.