The publishers of the highly praised email mystery The Daughters of Freya (review) have announced a unique “Group Read” for readers of ARGN, where everyone will read the mystery at the same time, and discuss it in an online forum as it happens. The idea is to create a shared interactive experience out of what is normally a solitary activity. The story itself – about a journalist investigating a Marin County sex cult – is told through emails exchanged among the characters. But instead of reading them in a book, readers get them as part of their regular email – 4 or 5 a day over the three weeks it takes for the mystery to unfold. The mystery introduces a new and innovative way to use the Internet as a storytelling tool, and has been getting a great response from readers and reviewers alike.
In some ways, these email mysteries are much like ARGs, only without the puzzles. So, we thought it would be fun to offer ARGN readers an opportunity to experience the story collectively in real-time, much like a typical alternate reality game. The folks at Email Mystery have been kind enough to extend a special promotional price of $3.99 for those who wish to take part. The Group Read will begin on August 1st, when the first installment of the mystery will be emailed to readers.
A forum will be set up for discussion of this Group Read as it happens , so watch ARGN for details on that. If you’d like to participate, you can register here. In addition, there is a free preview with the first three emails from the mystery available here.
EDIT: The discussion forum for Daughters of Freya has been set up here.
Every once in a while, the staff of ARGN are approached by people wanting to share their talents and ideas with the ARG community. When Michael Betcherman, a co-creator of emailmystery.com approached us with an opportunity to experience the mystery of The Daughters of Freya, I jumped upon the chance to try something a little out of the ordinary.
ARGers, when not in the midst of a game, usually spend their time honing their puzzling skills by creating or playing puzzle trails and dunking their pens into the ink well of the internet to find some similar puzzle game. Rarely do they find the chance to indulge themselves in the “other side” of ARGs, the more literary, story and character driven half. Michael and his co-creator, David Diamond, have tapped the proverbial beer keg of immersive story greatness that allows even the most hardcore, plot-driven ARGers the opportunity to flex their brainpower on something other than vigenere or the latest Dan Brown novel.
What’s becoming known as Immersive Fiction seems to be gaining popularity of late. While not really ARGs per se, works of immersive fiction often have enough ARG-ish elements to them to merit a second look, as they might definitely feed the need for those of you waiting around for the “next big game,” (and you know who you are!).
Web-based episodic entertainment is nothing new. There are websites and communities such as EpiGuide dedicated to the genre, and while websoaps and the like have been around for quite a while, some of these episodics have made an effort to become more interactive/immersive.
Past examples of this include Online Caroline, in which you ‘make friends’ with Caroline, a Bridget Jones-ish character who gets caught up in a humorous nefarious plot. The narrative takes the form of emails and pre-recorded webcam vignettes that utilize information you’ve provided about yourself or opinions you’ve given Caroline. She’ll even bug you if you don’t stop by the site for a few days. This database driven personalization made Online Caroline very unique, and resulted in the reader feeling intricately involved in the story. As far as we know, you can still experience Online Caroline for yourself, which takes a minimum of 24 days to play out, and is free.
Looking for something new? A few current examples of Immersive Fiction include Gaelph and The Daughters of Freya. Gaelph is the story of a little girl who, by consequence of some ancient prophesies and circumstance, is exiled from her childhood home. So far, the story has provided some ARG-ish puzzles for the readers to solve in order to continue the story. Gaelph takes place in real time over the next few weeks/months, and is free. (discussion at Unfiction)
The Daughters of Freya by Michael Betcherman and David Diamond is a unique new mystery novel told through emails exchanged between characters in the story delivered straight to your inbox, just as if the they had copied you on the emails they’re sending to each other. The story revolves around Samantha Dempsey, an investigative journalist who gets an assignment to do an article on a Silicon Valley sex-cult, and as with any good mystery, includes sex, murder and intrigue.
Readers receive a few emails at random times every day over the three weeks that it takes for the mystery to unfold. The Daughters of Freya is $7.49, but you can receive the first 3 emails for free.