Archive for December, 2010

Dateline Mar. 6, 2003: New York Times Write Up on ARG

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Charles Herold, the Game Theory columnist for the NY Times, published a really positive piece on the Alternate Reality Gaming community entitled, “It’s Just a Fantasy, but Real Life Is Always in Play.”‘, ‘The article gives a brief history of the genre, links to several members of ARGN and even gives a spoiler solution for the map puzzle from [ L3].

Judging by how prolific Mr. Herold is, he seems to be a big fan of computer games and adventure gaming in particular. I checked his [ bio] and found numerous reviews for adventure games. Mr. Herold publishes articles in the Game Theory column every other week.

Dateline Mar. 4, 2003: Is The Cart Pushing The Horse?

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Last year, video games outpaced the entire domestic revenue of Hollywood by over $1 billion dollars. With video games increasingly being tied to blockbuster movies, the implications for alternate reality gaming are enormous.

We’ve already had a few near misses with [ Tron 2.0], [ Minority Report] and [ The Ring]. The two direct hits (A.I. and Alias) were both well received with the A.I. Game, The Beast, estimated at having over one million players.

[ Push, Nevada], the critically acclaimed commercial failure from ABC was one of the first cross-promoted, gender bending efforts. Even though the 10,000 active players were a pittance compared to the size of a typical TV audience, the level of activity online was nevertheless impressive. I think Hollywood finally realizes that the crossover effect between cinematic productions and the sophisticated games currently available are just crying to go together.

Take the pair of sequels to the Matrix scheduled for release this year. In conjunction with the movie release, the Wachowski brothers, who wrote and directed the movie, also wrote the game Enter The Matrix which was released this week. They shot an extra hour of footage specifically for the game. The game publisher, Infogrames, expects to derive 20% of their revenue from this one title.

What has all this to do with immersive gaming a.k.a. ARGs? “Entertainment is not about storytelling anymore. It’s about building universes where people can express themselves,” Bruno Bonnell, the chief executive of Infogrames, which will publish the game this spring, said at the launch party.

Today the games and movies exist as discrete elements. How long do you think it will be before they are one and the same? Add in the effect of online gaming and the opportunity to completely obliterate the boundaries between fact and fiction and the ability for content to warp dynamically to fit the situation and you have a medium for entertainment like something no one has ever seen.

CNN’s [ feature article] touches on this a bit, but I think they missed the real potential. The concept of the matrix where machines create an alternate reality for humans is disturbing in the context of the movie. Put some creative game designers in charge and insert the element of ‘immersion’ and I think we’ll be looking at the real reason interactive television might just have a chance.

The focus seems to be predominantly Hollywood licensing their properties for the game industry with a few notable exceptions, but I feel like the cart is pushing the horse. I fully expect the creative talents of game designers to drive their universes and worlds right into the hearts and minds of movie producers. When it happens, be prepared for an onslaught of interactive content both online and in packaged form.

Dateline Mar. 3, 2003: Ready For A Real World Safe House?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

If you like spy conspiracies and ever have the opportunity to visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you have to checkout International Exports, Ltd.

International Exports, Ltd. is a ‘front’ for a spy themed restaurant and nightclub called Safe House. Prepare to be immersed in the world of prohibition era spies and experience a club quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen outside of Hollywood. They don’t advertise or display their real name anywhere. You can only learn of it by word of mouth.

Once inside, you are greeted by a doorkeeper that requires a password before she lets you proceed through a secret passage hidden behind a bookcase.

The entire restaurant and club spans three separate buildings and is full of hidden passages, fake doors, secret panels and other accoutrements of a classic safehouse. Doors often open to reveal brick walls, while other doors are hidden behind sliding panels. One room is accessed by a spinning booth. Once your party is seated, a hidden switch causes the booth to revolve revealing another room.

Visitors are encouraged to arrive dressed in appropriate spy attire. Guests and management can monitor those that wander through the maze of passages. If you get lost enough, a member of the staff will approach you and help you find your way. There are three well hidden exits and a new member only hidden entrance is under construction.

The spot opened in 1966 and remains popular with both locals and visitors. Your Safe House in Milwaukee is located behind the stately office of International Exports Ltd., 779 N. Front Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202, downtown, in the shadow of Milwaukee’s City Hall, near the intersection of north Water and east Wells Street.

Dateline Feb. 28, 2003: Chasing The Wish Goes Live in a Big Way

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

It’s often said be careful what you wish for. The wishes of the greater ARG community were fulfilled with the official launch of Chasing The Wish late last night.

[ Chasing The Wish], so long anticipated, delivered as promised last night with the following email:

Please, even though you don’t know me, I pray that you will take the time to read this message. I’m in trouble and have no one else to turn to.
A mutual friend suggested you as somehow who might be able and willing to help me, and said you were someone who was good at solving mysteries and researching things on the web. You see, my wife and daughter are dead and it’s all my fault. No, not like you’re probably thinking;
I loved them and would never do anything to hurt them. But there’s been a terrible accident. And now they’re both gone. But you see, I know this sounds crazy, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I was promised everything would be OK but it’s all gone terribly, terribly wrong.I can’t explain here but if you are willing to try and help, I’ve hidden some information at my website, I had to hide it because people are looking for any excuse and evidence they can find to prove me crazy.
In fact, that’s why I’m sending you this now. I’m actually being committed to some kind of mental facility, tonight, against my will. The doctors have come a couple fo times to the door and I’ve ignored them but I’m certain they will be back any minute, with the police probably to gain them access. They think I’m crazy because of what has happened and what I know. But I can’t explain here; I’m not sure if the court orders they have allow them access to my e-mail or not.

Take a good look at my site; sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.
There’s a journal of sorts there that I’ve hastily thrown together in the last few weeks,
even before the accident. Things haven’t been good for quite a while now.

If you decide to help, I may need someone to access my e-mails, as I may not be able to and I’ve tried to contact some people lately whomay be able to help me besides you. I’ve set-up a form of access . . .
Damn, someone’s at the door. I have to go. I must send as many e-mails as I can, quickly. Please help me. This isn’t right. I promise, somehow I can explain it all to you but you must help me first.

Dale Sprague

The journey starts at [] and looks to be a thoroughly compelling and vast experience. Players have already identified six in-game websites and one real website that was initially considered in-game (yours truly fell for it :/). There are also numerous email addresses, phone numbers, puzzles and more.

A concise summary of the story so far along with a short trail can be found on unfiction. Diandra was kind enough to post a Getting Started message for newbies to help those unfamiliar with this style of gaming get off on the right foot.

The game is expected to last about six months. At last count, almost 40 people were actively chatting in the respective #ctw channels of [ Collective Detective] and Unfiction.

Game On!!

Dateline Feb. 19, 2003: Geeks Without Borders

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The flood of favorable press for the ARG community continues! MSN picked up a story yesterday for their “Inside the Internet” column on Slate. The columnist promptly received a mysterious phone call.

Columnist Steven Johnson published an article yesterday that specifically plugged both [] and [ L3]. The article, entitled Geeks Without Borders was published on the MSN ‘zine Slate.

Johnson writes, “Most forms of entertainment are defined by their edges: the outline of the Monopoly board or the dimensions of a movie screen. To enter the world of the game or the story, you enter a confined space, set off from the real world. Play-space doesn’t overlap with ordinary space. But Go and L3 don’t play by those rules. Go colonizes an entire city for its playing field; L3 colonizes the entire Web. These are games without frontiers.”

It seems that soon after the article was published, Mr. Johnson received a phone call from Stephen Lake! According to Mr. Johnson, “It was a little spooky, to say the least, though the guy was perfectly friendly on the phone. He had one addition to the piece: he’s not calling L3 a work of immersive media or pervase [sic] gaming; it’s a ‘collective gaming experience.’ Sounds fine to me.”

These brief mentions are the latest in a slew of favorable articles focusing on the genre of alternate reality gaming. Steve Peters, of ARGN, posted a list of other articles at Unfiction.