Exploring the Many Worlds of Transmedia

Posts Tagged "ARG"

The World’s First Alternate Reality Game

The World’s First Alternate Reality Game

By on Dec 7, 2013 in Featured |

Transmedia storytelling has recently been gaining popularity with the development of the “online world” as well as our cultural shift towards digital entertainment. For the most part, storytellers and novelist everywhere have done a phenomenal job with creating lifelike and relatable adventures for us to enjoy from afar, taking solace in the knowledge that our only job is to continue reading. But, what would happen if that was not our only job? What happens if your failure to act in some way lead to the death of your favorite character? Imagine. A story that changes based on choices with limitless outcomes that your must pick in order for it to progress. Take that a step further. Throw in several thousand other readers whose decisions carry equal weight alongside your own. You are faced with problems that you cannot solve without their help. Even you choose not to act, that still impacts the narrative, even without your knowledge. It becomes difficult to differentiate between reality and fantasy doesn’t it? Stories like this are currently in existence and have been for a number of years under the title of an Alternate Reality Game or ARG for short. An ARG is a form of digital or transmedia storytelling that is largely interactive with the readers or “players.” ARGs tend to be somewhat consuming, blurring the lines between both reality and fantasy by attempting to convince players that “This is not a game,” a term coined and abbreviated “TINAG.” Many people tend to think that the TINAG is something that is something that is morally questionable, as it purposely misleads the players, yet at the same time something that is necessary for gameplay, as most books or video games do not “break the fourth wall” so to speak.   As all of this is such a complex concept, it is completely understandable to wonder, “Who exactly came up with this massively complex and deep story structure?” In order to answer that question, one must look back a full twelve years to the work of such names as The Cloudmakers, The Puppeteers, and Haley Joel Osment.   The year is 2001 and A.I. Artificial Intelligence is the year’s most anticipated Sci-fi film. Steven Spielburg fans watched in eager expectation while the...

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Why so Mysterious?: The Prevalence of the Dark ARG

Why so Mysterious?: The Prevalence of the Dark ARG

By on Dec 7, 2013 in Featured |

Dark, mysterious ARGs are everywhere. Mystery elements make sense for the genre. It’s only logical that an overtly mysterious ARG campaign incites more natural intrigue and attract more participants than most other methods. Thus we see the cryptic messages, the non-descript websites, and other various, vague clues repeatedly utilized in most ARGs, especially in their early stages in search of players. The natural rise of this trend is simple enough to understand: a good mystery is an easy way to attract people. Often accompanied with the mystery elements of ARGs however, is a thematically dark narrative that seems overly-concerned with appearing as such throughout the game’s progression. As noted in a now-dated 2007 article by Michael Andersen on the state of the genre, “‘Dark’ ARGs seem to be crawling out of the woodwork.”  Sometimes these narratives tackle legitimately dark subject matter, such as “The Human Pet”, a YouTube-censored story of kidnapping and torture, others such as the Dark Knight “Why so Serious” campaign were less serious in subject matter, but still featured dark tones and imagery. A large majority of ARGs tend to follow a dark narrative or are created around pre-existing dark material such as Bioshock’s “Something Under the Sea” campaign simply because it is the way of the genre. There are numerous examples of ARGs that forgo this cliché, but there is no doubting the prevalence of dark-themed ARGs and their status as the stereotype of the genre. The stereotype is perfectly, succinctly assumed as such: “The concept is simple: put clues and hints scattered on fan sites, ads, or anywhere really, that will lead you to more clues. Eventually you will unravel a deep, dark mysterious story.” That’s the model used time and time again. Why is this? And why are the mysteries so dark? It feels as if every ARG begins mysteriously to engage an audience, but then can’t escape that vague, somewhat dark feeling the mystery creates once players have started playing. This is not necessarily the primary issue, however. Few ARGs actually walk in to dark territory without an initial intent to do so, and some even head in an opposite direction. The pronunciation book/Bear Sterns Bravo campaign, for example, began with highly, mysterious, cryptic YouTube videos,...

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Looking Back On “I Love Bees”

Looking Back On “I Love Bees”

By on Dec 6, 2013 in Featured |

I remember being obsessed with the development of Halo 2 in 2004. As an avid Halo fan, I would check the website of the game’s developer, Bungie Studios, almost every single day to get updates about the game’s progress.  However, even though I remember reading about it, I never paid much attention to the underground promotion for the game called I Love Bees, and alternate reality game, or ARG.  I remember people discussing it, but for whatever reason I just never looked into it.  Now after studying alternate reality games I’ve decided to look back on what I missed back in 2004, and hopefully learn something new about the almost ten-year-old game. I Love Bees was a promotion for the extremely anticipated Xbox exclusive Halo 2 in 2004. 42 Entertainment, tasked with creating a story independently from Bungie, spearheaded the project.  42 Entertainment also worked on the ARG, The Beast, which was designed to promote Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence. The plot of the ARG was about an AI that crashed on Earth and had to survive by transferring itself onto a server, which turned out to host a bee enthusiast’s website.  The AI, named Melissa, must survive and repair itself while fighting a mysterious program that would turn out to be a Covenant AI trying to find the location of Earth.  The ARG reveals a story of characters within the Halo Universe trying to help Melissa stop the Covenant’s attempt.  However, they ultimately fail and the Covenant invades Earth.  While this storyline is not considered canon, references to it are featured in other forms of Halo media such as the graphic novel. I Love Bees first appeared in the first trailer for Halo 2, which briefly showed the ARG’s website, www.ilovebees.com, at the end.  Visitors to the site would, at first, see a bee enthusiast website, but upon further inspection discover that the website had been hacked by an artificial intelligence.  Beyond this initial clue, players were left to fend for themselves.  They eventually discovered that the goal of the ARG was to find payphones, indicated by GPS coordinates featured on the website, all across the United States and wait for a call that was set to go...

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Reality Ends Here: Educational Fun

Reality Ends Here: Educational Fun

By on Dec 5, 2013 in Featured |

ARGs (alternate reality games) are a transmedia genre that are typically run to promote a greater idea or event (e.g., Why So Serious) or for simple fun.  What isn’t common is to see an ARG run for educational purposes.  Reality Ends Here, originally created as Jeff Watson’s Ph.D dissertation project, was designed by Watson, Simon Wiscombe, and Tracy Fullerton, all associated with the USC School of Cinematic Arts.  The game has been run for every freshman class since its creation in 2011.  It combines aspects of alternate reality games with card game mechanics to give students a new, different, and exciting way to begin their time at USC.   The game begins when the “Reality Committee” communicates with students during orientation and given a set of puzzles to solve.  Once those are completed, players can find a secret office where they are sworn in with an oath and given a deck of cards to begin their game.  Students must combine cards to generate creative prompts for media projects, known as Deals, and then create a project based around those prompts.  Their projects are scored by the Reality Committee and given points to be tallied up online.  Students get the opportunities to make new friends very quickly as alliances immediately begin to form, to explore themselves both creatively and academically, and to potentially meet with industry leaders and alumni. The game brings an interesting concept to typical ARGs – putting it in an academic setting for the sake of being academic.  Being a school for the cinematic arts, running this kind of ARG at USC makes perfect sense.  It begins the students’ educational journey into film and media studies through participation in a game that encourages them to be creative and be team players.  They are learning aspects about working in film and media before they even begin to take their classes at the university. Henry Jenkins interviewed the co-conspirators of the game and posted it on his blog, showing that this game was important enough and big enough to constitute the attention of one of the top transmedia analysts.  In the interview, Watson mentions that his goal in creating the game (and in his doctoral research) was to connect theory...

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Slender Story

Slender Story

By on Dec 3, 2013 in Featured |

The Slender Man is a horror internet phenomenon that have spread throughout the internet by ARGs and now beyond into the movie and gaming industry. Slender Man is a mythical creature depicted as a tall, thin, humanoid figure wearing a black suit and red tie and has a bank pale face. According to the legend, it can stretch or shorten his arms at will and has tentacle-like appendages protruding from his back. Its height is depicted in between six and fifteen feet tall. Depending on the interpretations of the myth, the creature may cause memory loss, insomnia, paranoia, coughing fits known as “slendersickness”, photograph and video distortions. Slender Man has a number of abilities as well. It has the ability to camouflage, most notably the business suit which signifies a person of high status or rank and can blend in from a distance. It also can camouflage well among trees too especially when using his tentacles/multiple limbs ability. It has the ability of mind control, relationships with children whether by brainwashing, kidnapping or stalking them, fire or pyrokinesis, body mutilation, and selective visibility or the ability to choose who sees. The Slender Man has many connections or similarities to other mythological creatures. It has characteristics similar to faeries from traditional folklore, which have wings and vary in size and be kind, mischievous or even cruel. These traits that faeries and Slender Man have in common are they’re known to kidnap children, to disguise themselves and other things, to eat people, to cause disease to whomever makes contact, put people in a trance or under their control, visible only to certain people, teleportation, and trick humans into some sort of trap. There are other regions in the world that probably added or inspired to the Slender mythos. German lore has the poem, Schlankwald which translates approximately as Slim Forest, which describes a forest guardian who takes children and hunts who invade wooded territory.  Another is Der Grossman or The Tall Man which is described as a fairy of the Black Forest who takes away bad children who entered the forest at night, and stalk them until the child confessed their wrongdoings to a parent. From Eastern Europe, The Tall Man is...

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