As reported previously at ARGNet, sexy Formula 1 racer Lewis Hamilton had been leading a double life: when he’s not out leaving his competitors in the dust, he’s recovering stolen art and returning them to their rightful owners. According to Hamilton, he just can’t “resist a challenge,” and after his first recovery heist, he was hooked. Soon he assembled a crack support squad, including logistics expert Anna Chao, professional lookalike Lenny Rose, and his trainer Joe . . . and about 637,000 enthusiastic players from all over the world.
Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life was the epic international game created by nDreams for Reebok. Building on nDreams’ experience creating the Xi, the highly regarded alternate reality game for the PlayStation Home, Secret Lewis ran from March to November 2010, included numerous online assets, and entertained players from London to Abu Dhabi. Based on the reactions of players, some of whom flung themselves full-speed into the game world, Secret Lewis was one of the most engaging, interactive, and exciting games of 2010.
But what accounted for this success? Looking over the whole campaign, this article will try to figure out what made the game tick and explore how Secret Lewis can serve as a model for future alternate reality games.
Earlier this year, Formula 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton sent out a call for help, but not with his racing career – he uses his globe-trotting lifestyle to track down and recover stolen works of art, and his latest case was proving a tough nut to crack. Thus began Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life, brought to you by Reebok and nDreams.
Since our previous article on this game, players have cracked a museum security system, tracked down a reclusive art collector, aided an aspiring singer, and, finally, guided Lewis himself a daring heist through a mansion in Shanghai. Throughout the varied story, the most impressive elements have been a live meet in Kuala Lumpur and the fully interactive game used to plan the eventual heist.
After tracking down the culprit to his mansion in Shanghai, players needed to find the mansion floor plans so Lewis’ team could plot the heist. Luckily, Lewis’ comrade Anna discovered the mansion had been designed by an architect named Frank, and players were tasked with retrieving the mansion plans from him. Once on Frank’s website, players found an email address. Sending the name of one of several notable architects to the email address provided a response with a link to Frank’s twitter feed, @AnonArchitect. Not only did this reveal a picture of Frank in his best pink Lacoste shirt, but players also found he had plans to visit Suria KLCC, a mall in Kuala Lumpur, on a research trip. One intrepid fan contacted an expatriate website, finding a contact in Kuala Lumpur ready to meet Frank on the appointed date. You can read the story of the encounter here (although you will need to translate the article from French).
Helen Hobbes, forty-nine-year-old British homemaker, has a quiet and charmed life with her husband of twenty-eight years Bruce and two grandchildren, but she is restless and yearning for excitement beyond deciding what to make for dinner. While reading a second-hand copy of Madame Bovary, Helen discovers three worn diary pages inside, narrating what might have been a downed airman’s last days in the desert. Overtaken by her curiosity, Helen leaves everything behind and embarks on a worldwide journey to uncover the airman’s fate in Spirit of Adventure.
A “visual novel” presented through a Facebook app, Spirit of Adventure combines an artful and engaging narrative with embedded gameplay through puzzles and riddles. Spirit of Adventure is created by “social storytellers” nDreams, the makers of the wildly successful and innovative Xi, the first console-based alternate reality game that brought over 5 million players into a virtual world on Playstation Home and out on the streets worldwide. nDreams is also behind the currently running game, Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life, in which players help the Formula 1 driver recover stolen artwork from around the world.
Each Thursday, a new chapter in Helen’s story unfolds, as she travels around the world in search of the airman’s identity. Every person Helen meets along the way is an entrée into another life, another story, and sometimes another puzzle that brings in an otherwise marginal character deeper into the story. While solving puzzles and progressing in the plot, players collect mementos of Helen’s journey, such as a matchbook from a Paris cafe or a little plastic rhino. Perhaps an experiment in monetizing storytelling, players can subscribe to further content from the airman’s point-of-view, but otherwise Spirit of Adventure is free to play. Slated for twenty-six weeks, Spirit of Adventure is currently in on its sixth week.
There’s a lot to envy about Formula 1 driver and former World Champion Lewis Hamilton: competing in the fastest sport in the world, being surrounded by beautiful women and earning ridiculous amounts of money while doing so. It turns out however, that even this life isn’t exciting enough for Mr. Hamilton, and that is why he’s involved in a whole other “secret” life on the side. Courtesy of Reebok , the company Hamilton has been commercially involved with since 2008, we now get to have a look inside this Secret Life.
A few weeks ago, Reebok launched secretlewis.com, giving visitors a little sneak preview of Lewis Hamilton breaking into a big mansion utilizing high tech gear, with the help of a pretty girl with a headset and some Reebok sneakers. The site also sported a timer, counting down to March 10.
Since then, it has become clear that Mr. Hamilton spends his free time stealing back art and other artifacts that were previously stolen from their rightful owners. And the good news? You get to help him do so! Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life provides players with an opportunity to help Hamilton train and prepare for his endeavors, solve puzzles and retrieve artifacts. The game is available in nine languages and can be played on the web and via mobile phone.
According to the buzz, the game has been in production for over 12 months and going by the look, feel and production value, players should be in a for quite a ride. “Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life” is being produced by nDreams, a digital media/games company set up by Patrick O’Luanaigh, former Eidos Creative Director.
Earlier this year, the Xi alternate reality game invaded the Playstation Home community-based service with cryptic clues scattered across the virtual playspace that Home provides. The game was billed as the first console-based ARG, and put nDreams (the company behind the game) into the spotlight. Recently, the company announceda return to the Home community with new projects, and another ARG project. According to David Varela, ARG producer at nDreams, “[i]t won’t be based in PlayStation Home – sorry, Home fans – but I fully expect it to be one of the biggest ARGs in the world next year.” Varela adds that the ARG is still in development and will not be released until early in 2010, but the company is very busy behind the scenes. In fact, they are expanding their team through a recruitment drive as they search for a Senior Programmer, Programmer, Artist, Web Developer/Engineer and Finance Manager.
We will keep tabs on this new, mysterious nDreams project, as can you by following them via RSS.