There’s an often-repeated contemporary folktale: if you try and place a frog in a boiling pot of water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly turn up the temperature, it won’t notice the gradual change until the water is boiling hot. This apocryphal tale may not apply to actual frogs, but it makes for one heck of a compelling metaphor. With Neil Patrick Harris’ single-player puzzling experience BoxONE, the heat is turned up so deftly, you’ll barely notice the game’s evolution from trivia game into…well, that would be telling.
ARGs and the Slow Burn Narrative Since alternate reality games play out in real time across platforms, ARGs will frequently throw their players into a ludo-narrative pot: start by introducing players to something that’s relatively normal and familiar, and then gradually introduce fantastic elements as the story progresses. This has the side effect of making players sound mildly unhinged when describing their experiences, since what they experienced as a slowly unfolding narrative is an abrupt shock to the system for the listener.
The indie game scene has produced projects with similar trajectories, albeit at a quicker pace: James Lantz’ Discord-powered game SmileBot may start out as a simple chatbot that measures a server’s emoji usage, into a multi-phased text adventure that’s a single player game, except for when it isn’t. Frog Fractions may start out as a childish edutainment game of arithmetic, but it hops rapidly through increasingly ridiculous genres and scenarios until the game’s sequel is launched as a secret easter egg in the game Glittermitten Grove.
Which brings us back to BoxONE: a game coyly described on its website as “an ever-evolving game of trivia, codes, puzzles, and discovery only from the mind of Neil Patrick Harris.”
Steve Peters is a guest writer for ARGNet and founder of No Mimes Media.
A few weeks back, I was able to head to Hollywood to take part in Accomplice: Hollywood, a new interactive experience produced by Neil Patrick Harris, Tom Salamon and Betsy Salamon-Sufott, that takes place entirely on foot throughout Hollywood Boulevard and its neighboring streets. While the website bills the experience as a “luscious blend” of one part Scavenger Hunt, one part Interactive Theater, and one part Walking Tour, (with all the good parts left intact and all of the bad parts sifted out), I’d add one part Alternate Reality Game into the recipe, for sure (c’mon Neil, get with the lingo). What was it like? I’ll do my best to explain without spoiling the fun. Was it any good? Read on and see.
After reading a blurb about Accomplice: Hollywood on some vanity blog, I said to myself, “Hey! I live near Hollywood!” and promptly bought tickets for the missus and myself, along with cajoling a couple more friends to come along for the fun. We booked 2pm on Sunday, September 27th, and were told that we’d be contacted the day before the event to be given instructions, including where to meet. In the meantime, we were told to visit NikkiDesmond.com to find out more. Go there now and watch the video (which is pretty funny, I must say). I’ll wait…
This article is the second in a series on “secret tourism” spots: cities that provide immersive experiences to residents and tourists alike, as long as you know where and what to look for.
He’s played a genius child doctor and a likable womanizer. He’s hosted the Tony’s and will do the same for the Emmy Awards this year. He’s become an internet sing-along sensation as Dr. Horrible. Now, Neil Patrick Harris can add Puppetmaster to his list of credentials, as he is co-producing an ARG experience in California called Accomplice: Hollywood.
Accomplice: Hollywood is a third in a series of live theatrical experiences that send participants out into the city to find clues and interact with characters in public places. Harris describes it as, “[p]art walking tour, part murder mystery, part scavenger hunt”. After playing Accomplice: New York himself a few years ago, Harris collaborated with the original creators, Tom Salamon and Betsy Sufott, to bring the experience to the West Coast.
This third installment involves a missing starlet named Nikki Desmond. Participants purchase tickets in advance, but have no information other than the date and time of the event and a video, starring Harris himself, with some background information on Desmond. A few days before the event, participants will receive a phone call from a character with the meeting location and other details. When they arrive, they suddenly find themselves immersed in the world of Nikki Desmond. They help solve the mystery behind Desmond’s disappearance while exploring Hollywood.
The customer reviews for all three Accomplice experiences are outstanding, with an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars. This definitely looks to be a fun experience for anyone living in Hollywood or New York. Tickets can be purchased through the Accomplice website.