Tag: Personal Effects

A Particularly ARGish Summer Reading List

pileofbooksThe idea of cross-media convergence is anything but a new concept. In the introduction to Rethinking Media Change, media studies scholar Henry Jenkins noted that in the 11th century, the Bayeux tapestry “combined both text and images, and was explicated in spoken sermons–a multi-media bridge between the oral culture of the peasants and the learned culture of the monasteries.” Many novelists are rediscovering the joys of crafting stories that go beyond the book in some form.

Back in December, Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo predicted that “[i]n the future and especially in 2009, the books that are popular will be much more interactive between the reader and the book.” Her theory will be tested over the next few months, as a plethora of cross-media books are hitting local retailers near you. If you’re interested in exploring a potential future for the publishing industry, here are a few recommendations of books that use cross-media elements to enrich the narrative.

Cathy’s Ring, by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman

On May 4, Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart released the third and final book in a series of cross-media novels about an ordinary teenaged girl and her not-so-ordinary boyfriend. Each book comes with an evidence packet that continues the story through a series of clues that the novel’s protagonist encountered, in addition to intricate doodles in the margins. Some clues add depth to the story, while others forshadow the shocking revelations in future books. The first book in the series came under fire from consumer activists for its cross-promotional arrangement with Cover Girl.

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Rachael Webster Is Calling Me a Liar: Meet Her at GDC

rachaelwebsterRemember how I insisted a few months ago that Rachael Webster, the video game blogger behind PixelVixen707.com, was fake? The folks at GameSetWatch and I were convinced she was all part of an elaborate yet eloquent ruse to get people to buy JC Hutchins’ new book, Personal Effects: Dark Art.

Rachael Webster called us out. She’s real, and she’s willing to prove it.

Rachael Webster will be attending the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco next week shaking hands and passing out business cards. The first ten people to crack the puzzle on the back of the card and email a picture of themself holding the card to [email protected] will receive “something cool” from her friend Jessica.

During last week’s ARG Netcast, JC Hutchins talked about his work on the transmedia novel Personal Effects: Dark Art. Explaining the debate over Rachael Webster, Hutchins told us that “Rachael is Rachael. Rachael is real in a way that is really kind of brainbending and really cool…Rachael is as real as you want her to be.”

As for me, I’ll believe it when I see it. So if you receive the business card seen above from a snarky woman at the Game Developer’s Conference, convince her to take a picture with you, and send it to us at [email protected] And if I’m wrong, I’ll commit myself to Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital.

Click Here for our previous coverage on Rachael Webster and Personal Effects: Dark Art

JC Hutchins thinks you should be taken to the brink and committed

brinkvaleLast November, podcast novelist and author JC Hutchins spoke with ARGNet about his upcoming transmedia novel Personal Effects: Dark Art, produced by Smith & Tinker. In the interview, Hutchins explained that a number of online-based transmedia experiences would be released prior to the book’s release that would leverage his strengths as both a storyteller and a podcaster. Earlier this weekend, Hutchins announced that he was seeking volunteers interested in becoming committed…to an insane asylum.

By visiting JCHutchins.net/thebrink, volunteers can commit themselves to Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital. After filling out their patient profile, volunteers receive their admittance papers and are eligible to submit their “art assignments” to Brinkvale’s art therapist and Personal Effects protagonist Zach Taylor. Submissions will appear in The Brink’s patient gallery. The first assignment, Your Mad World, is already available.

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An Interview with JC Hutchins: Personal Effects

jc_hutchins.jpgEditor’s note: this is a companion interview for the article we ran yesterday on Personal Effects: Dark Art, the new transmedia novel written by JC Hutchins and produced by Smith and Tinker. Mr. Hutchins was kind enough to answer a few questions posed by Michael Andersen, and the responses are below. Picture courtesy of CC Chapman on Flickr.

MA: You’ve developed a strong core following through your work with The Ministry of Propaganda over the years — how will we see them utilized through the Personal Effects ARG?

JH: Thanks for mentioning the Ministry of Propaganda! I love connecting with my audience using the MOP, and giving them street team-style missions to perform. They’re amazing, generous people who volunteer their time to help spread the word about my work.

When it comes to Personal Effects: Dark Art, I’m certain I’ll ask them to evangelize the book’s release, as well as some special — and at present, secret — promotional stuff we’re cooking up. As always, the hundreds of MOP “agents” will be on the front lines, firing people up for the project. I’m lucky to have so many cool people in my life.

MA: A lot of the clues will be found with the book and its contents: how much can we expect to see from Personal Effects before the novel’s print release this Summer? And what can you say about your experience working with Smith & Tinker (and St Martin’s Press)?

JH: There’s already some content connected to the Personal Effects universe out in the wild, and I think it’s awfully cool. While longtime ARG players are accustomed to some of the stuff we’ve already released — fiction that’s being updated in real-time, in sync to when Dark Art’s events take place — the Personal Effects experience is ultimately designed for newcomers. We were careful to craft a tale that adult readers would really enjoy, and motivate them to pursue the transmedia experience on their own, solo-style.

That’s not to say we won’t have a “base of operations” forum available for players, or that we don’t welcome dedicated fans of ARG storytelling — we will, and we absolutely do. But we all know that most ARGs require what I call “bunches of brains” … lots of players … to unlock puzzles and push the story forward. Dark Art is different in that we’re aiming to allure folks who’ve never heard the word “ARG” to participate in this awesome breed of storytelling.

Speaking personally, it’s sometimes hard to remember just how remarkable and unique transmedia storytelling is … and how high its barrier for entry can be. The Personal Effects series is built to resonate with the individual reader. We absolutely hope — and totally encourage — longtime ARGers to read, play and share their experiences with the community, but we wanted to make the Personal Effects narrative to be a welcoming one for newbies.

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I Swear, I’m Not Claiming All Girl Gamers are Fake: Personal Effects Goes Live

pixelvixen.jpgBack in September, podcast novelist JC Hutchins tweeted about a friend’s new gaming blog. A little over a week ago, he did it again. And I’m glad he did — since January 2008, Rachael Webster has posted some rather insightful and snark-filled articles critiquing recent game releases under the moniker “PixelVixen707”. The blog has attracted some attention, and Pixelvixen707 even had the impeccably good taste to list ARGNet on her blogroll.

Only one problem: Rachael Webster isn’t actually real. Although the blog’s archives go back to January 2008, the domain was only registered in June. Compounding the problem, her employers at the New York Journal Ledger have a tendency to report news that hasn’t actually happened. Some of that news involves her boyfriend Zach Taylor, a rather popular art therapist at Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital. With the recent addition of personal posts to the PixelVixen707 blog, a simple gaming blog slowly yet subtly drags you into the rabbithole, as GameSetWatch noted earlier today. For a bit of irony, check out Rachael’s article on Matt Hazard, an action gaming franchise that never existed, as described by Ralph Tokey, a game developer that never existed.

These assets set the stage for JC Hutchins’ upcoming supernatural thriller, Personal Effects: Dark Art. The story revolves around Zach Taylor, an art therapist who uses his patients’ personal effects to help decipher their mental problems. However, according to JC Hutchins, “Zach gets far more than he bargained for when a new patient is admitted to the facility: a man who is a suspected serial killer.” The thriller will showcase a spooky storyline featuring a young optimistic hero, in addition to a relentlessly cruel villain with a secret.

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