Image courtesy of the SXSW Interactive Web Awards site.
It’s a big night for three campaigns tonight, as the teams behind The Dark Knight ARG, Lost Zombies and We Tell Stories have won major awards at the 12th annual SXSW Interactive Web Awards. The awards were handed out earlier tonight at the Hilton Austin Downtown, and according to The Underwire blog at Wired, the major hardware found its way into the hands of the wonderful people behind these highly successful campaigns.
One of the biggest wins of the night came for We Tell Stories. This project was a collaboration between Six to Start and Penguin Books and, as reported here in March of 2008, was a way for media-savvy designers to retell classic stories through the use of technology. We Tell Stories won in the Experimental category, but as a bonus, also walked away with the Best in Show Award. This is a monumental win for the company, formed at the beginning of 2008 by former members of Mind Candy.
It would seem that there is trouble brewing at the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin this week, and it’s a very persistent kind of trouble – protesters. On March 11th, Steve Peters posted the following on his Twitter account: Hmm, some group is protesting our SXSWi panel?? RT @StopTarpARG Alternate Realities are set to destroy our children. Visiting the Twitter account for StopTarpARG leads to their web site, stoptarparg.com. Once your eyes have adjusted to the multi-font experience at that site, the message sinks in: there’s a new ARG set to launch at SXSW, called TARP ARG 2009 for the kids, and according to StopTarpARG, it’s a government-sponsored attempt at brainwashing the minds of America’s children in the face of hard economic times.
Of course, the folks behind TARP ARG 2009 for the kids see it differently, claiming to be part of the economic bailout assistance program in the U.S. while promising to build a “direct interface with [their] targeted child audience.” Brian Cain’s name is all over this, and a simple Googling leads back to Campfire, the company behind many of the most popular ARGs of all time. Brian is going to be at SXSW Interactive on the same panel as Steve Peters, so we assume this is related to the hijacking of the panel Steve alluded to in the recent press release about his new company, No Mimes Media.
For those curious enough to sort through this madness, StopTarpARG has set up a phone number (866-397-7406) where Brian Cain’s apparent manifesto can be heard, while the TARP ARG folks have an email address where people can ask their questions. It would also seem that events are starting already, two days before the scheduled panel discussion, as our own Michael Andersen has outlined recently in the Unfiction forum discussion thread for Stop TARP ARG. In my opinion, this should be a fun way of showcasing alternate reality gaming, and I’m sad that I can’t attend the event myself. We’ll keep up with the Tweets and the shenanigans leading up to and following the panel discussion, so stay tuned.
Editor’s note: For those of you who played Art of the Heist last year, or who are currently enjoying Who Is Benjamin Stove?, you might already know about GMD Studios, the driving force behind some of the biggest Alternate Reality Games to date. Brian Clark, who co-founded the company in 1995, has become a valuable and active member of the ARG community. His energy and creativity have helped in taking the genre to new heights, and Dee Cook was lucky enough to sit down with Brian during the SXSW Interactive festival for a few words.
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie? Probably my favorite movie of all time would be Bladerunner. [Ed. Note: Possible spoilers for Bladerunner.]
The director’s cut or the original version?
Oh, definitely the director’s cut. No narration, no Mickey Spillane voice-over with the extra wrinkle that the Bladerunner’s a replicant (Oh, no, spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! I spoiled the movie!)
Did you see the narrated version first?
Do you think that made you appreciate the second one better?
No. I think once they took the voice-over out, it left more to speculation. Peoples’ motivations and machines’ motivations became less clear. We didn’t need to have Harrison Ford tell us about Rutger Hauer dying. We could just watch that scene and not have to say, “Maybe in the end he valued any life, even his own.” I think that the film company underestimated the intelligence of the film-going public.
I read somewhere that Harrison Ford said he did the narration badly deliberately so they’d have to cut it.
Really? That’s a great detail – a little sabotage.
True, but I don’t know whether it’s an urban myth or not.
Yeah, but it’s interesting.
Speaking today at South by Southwest Interactive was a panel on the Cluetrain Manifesto. Published in 1999, Cluetrain.com is a list of 95 points regarding companies, consumers, and the relationship between the two, asking companies to wake up and deal with their customers on a human level rather than treat them as potential sources of profit. The panel, moderated by Henry Copeland (founder of BlogAds, was a discussion of Cluetopia and whether society is getting there.
One of the original writers of Cluetrain, Doc Searls, spoke on the origin of the manifesto. In the midst of the Dotcom madness in 1998, the Cluetrain founders, as they would become known, were discussing the disconnect between what the internet actually was versus what was receiving funding and how the net was playing out in the press, as if it could be an extension of the shopping malls in the real world. The founders would use their theories on marketing in order to filter out clients whose philosophies didn’t mesh with their own; if the clients did not agree with the concept of marketing as a conversation, the founders would decline to work with them. The discussion turned into the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto, which was kicked off by Chris Locke’s statement from the everyday citizen’s point of view, “We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings – and our reach exceeds your grasp. Deal with it.”
This afternoon’s South by Southwest Interactive panel entitled Serious Games for Learning provided a fascinating look at how immersive gaming is bringing new opportunities into learning environments.
Moderator Jim Brazell from the IC^2 Institute opened the program with a reference to how quickly technology has developed in the last several years. In 1995 there was a Teraflop Challenge, asking supercomputer manufacturers to develop a computer which was capable of teraflop operations (one trillion operations per second). At that time, the cost to upgrade a computer to that capability cost $100 million. Today, the XBox 360 is teraflop-capable and has a MSRP of $299.99. He projects that by 2011, a teraflop computer will cost one dollar.
Danah Boyd moderated a panel consisting of Irina Shklovski, Amanda Williams, and Liz Lawley (stepping in for Jane McGonigal, who was home sick with pneumonia) entitled Designing for Global and Local Social Play this afternoon at South by Southwest Interactive. The panel focused on why play is important and how new technology enables us to collapse the boundaries between local and global play.
Danah brought up the idea that the internet allows people from all over the world to talk to each other. However, those people are connecting to each other by using shared ties, be they geographical groups or on a more social level, such as sharing interests. She likes to modify her environment in a way that allows her to have more fun with it. The environment in which one plays can change the way one interacts with others.
The word “play” has multiple meanings – first is the obvious, recreation and fun-time. It can also mean slop or wiggle room. The two meanings are linked, according to Amanda Williams. You can’t have the first without the second. Recreational play requires the flexibility to push boundaries.