This article is the fifth in a series, providing summaries of the panel presentations at ARGFest-o-Con 2008 in Boston
In 2004, Sean Stacey was traveling through France with a friend. Walking along the Champs Elysees, he encountered a man on the street making the most incredible whistling sounds he ever heard. For the next few days, Sean diligently practiced his whistle, contorting his face in new and unfamiliar ways, attempting to duplicate the sound that fascinated him so much. Finally, his friend explained to him that the man on the street was selling bird whistles. He didn’t say anything before because, “well, you were getting pretty good.” Unfiction is kind of like that. The moral of this story is that Sean C. Stacey is one heck of a good whistler.
The story also helps explain the twists and turns in the evolution of Unfiction.com, the largest discussion board devoted to alternate reality games on my bookmark list. When Sean created the website during the alternate reality game Lockjaw in 2002, running a forum was the last thing he wanted to do. He still harbors hopes that Unfiction will not live forever, because the genre will expand beyond needing a single resource.
Sean credited Adrian Hon, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Six to Start, with creating the first alternate reality gaming wiki. He followed that up by noting that no one actually used the wiki. Using wikis, he claims, augment community rather than create it. Thus, the only way you can get Sean to create a wiki on his new website, Despoiler.org, is by requesting one. People like to teach others, and wikis can lower entry barriers for complex topics: but only if a community exists to develop it. One of the true pleasures of the Unfiction community, Sean explains, is that reputation is not an issue in how discussions are handled. Everyone, no matter how well known or well liked, must rely on persuasion to justify their thoughts and opinions.
Tonight on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”, Neda Ulaby talks about Cloverfield–the movie, the promotion and the community. Tune in to your local NPR radio station at 7:00 p.m. EST to hear the show, which we were told will be the second to last segment of the broadcast. The show will also be archived on the NPR website after 8:00 p.m. EST. Unfiction owner and ARGNet staff writer Sean C. Stacey, and Dennis Acevedo of cloverfieldclues.com, were both interviewed for this story.
In the 21st episode of the netcast series, we discuss the ARG news of the past week, including the massive mainstream press attention ARGs have been getting this month and last. Regular panelists Jon Waite, Sean Stacey and Jessica Price are joined by first-timers Michelle Senderhauf and Geoff May. Subscribe to the ARG Netcast feed through this link or via iTunes. Contact us at our special netcast email address, [email protected] with your tips, suggestions, concerns and submissions. Call us on the ARGNet voicemail at 630-274-5425.
In the fourth panel discussion at ARGFest, titled “Defining ARGs and the Future of ARGs”, I was fortunate enough to moderate what turned out to be a lively and entertaining discussion from a panel full of people I have professional and personal admiration for. The panel consisted of Brian Clark (GMD Studios), Adrian Hon (Mind Candy), Jane McGonigal (Avant Game, The Institute for the Future), Sean Stacey (Unfiction), Brooke Thompson (Giant Mice) and Evan Jones (stitch Media).
There was an opening round of statements in which McGonigal talked about her latest project, The Institute for the Future, and spoke about how alternate reality gaming can have an impact on the real world by delivering messages about important world issues. She also discussed World Without Oil, which is poised to launch in two weeks. In his opening remarks, Clark went on to state that he was interested in the idea of sustainability, noting that the community needs to find ways to embrace and celebrate all forms of ARG.
The first question for the panel was, “When asked by others outside of the industry, how do each of you describe what alternate reality gaming is?” Clark described ARG as “platformless gaming,” while Thompson focused on the story and narrative and how pieces of the story can be broken up and distributed in many different forms. Stacey agreed, and as he talked about the “collaborative storytelling process,” he added that player actions ultimately color the experience and make it unique. McGonigal focused on the idea of “massively-scaled collaboration,” where game elements “can’t possibly be solved alone,” and real-time game design. Hon interjected with humor as he talked about a “decision tree” approach that he had used in the past, and discussed the ideas of controls and using real-life interfaces within game design. Jones wrapped up responses by bringing up the accessibility and cross-platform aspects of ARG, adding that talking about the idea that “characters believe that they are real” is one of the ways he describes ARG to others.
ARGFest attendees were privileged to be able to sit in on — and participate in — dialogues between many of the field’s leading developers during the panel discussions held on March 3rd. The first of these panels, Developing An ARG, consisted of Adam Brackin (Fundi Technologies — Deus City), Brian Clark (GMD Studios — Art of the Heist, Who Is Benjamin Stove), Adrian Hon (Mind Candy Design — Perplex City), Evan Jones (Xenophile Media/Stitch Media — Regenesis, Ocular Effect), Jan Libby (Sammeeeees), and Dave Szulborski (Chasing the Wish, Urban Hunt). Unfiction’s Sean Stacey (a.k.a. SpaceBass) moderated the discussion.
As one might expect from such a gathering of alternate reality gaming’s better-known puppetmasters, the discussion was packed with information and insights from behind the curtain (although Brian Clark’s frequent wryly humorous interjections kept it entertaining as well as informative).
In the eighteenth installment of the netcast series, we are pleased as punch to have special guests Will Emigh and Nathan Mishler from Studio Cypher joining us for a fantastic discussion. Will, Nathan and I are joined by Brooke Thompson of Giant Mice, Nicko Demeter of ARGNet and Sean C. Stacey of Unfiction.com. Subscribe to the ARG Netcast feed through this link or via iTunes. Contact us at our special netcast email address, [email protected] with your tips, suggestions, concerns and submissions. Call us on the ARGNet voicemail at 630-274-5425.