Transmedia Storytelling Berlin

[box type=”info”] Dieser Artikel ist ein Crossposting von www.transmedia-storytelling-berlin.de. Zur Zeit wird an der Seite jedoch noch fleissig gearbeitet, sodass sie vorraussichtlich ab dem kommenden Montag (29.08.2011) mit all ihren Informationen öffentlich zugänglich sein wird.[/box]

Jeder von uns trägt ein kleines Universum in sich, das manchmal auf den richtigen Auslöser wartet. Hin und wieder reicht schon ein bisschen Kometen-Staub aus, an anderen Tagen müssen erst zwei Sterne aufeinander treffen um sich zu vereinen und die Geschichte des Universums freizugeben.

"Gebrüder Grimm" - gemalt von Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann (gemeinfrei)

So gibt es seit der Entwicklung der Sprache Menschen, die es schaffen, ihr kleines Geschichten-Universum anderen zugänglich zu machen. Die Gebrüder Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm forschten schon um 1806 auf dem Gebiet des Geschichten-Erzählens. Sie zogen dafür durch das Land, ließen sich die verschiedensten Geschichten erzählen und fassten diese in ihrem Werk “Märchen und Sagen” zusammen.

Die auf das Papier gedruckten Worte verzückten bereits damals den einen oder anderen Leser. Seitdem hat sich die Tradition und die Berufung des Geschichten-Erzählers weiter entwickelt. Heute wird eine Geschichte nicht mehr nur über ein Medium erzählt sondern über mehrere. Die Medien sind dabei eine Art Vehikel, die ihrerseits die Bühne der Geschichte bereiten. Sie werden zum Teil des Universums, in dem die Geschichte erfahren werden kann.

Transmedia Storytelling Definitionen

Henry Jenkins fasst das bereits im Jahr 2007 in einem Artikel seines Blogs “Confessions of an ACA-Fan” wie folgt zusammen:

[learn_more caption=”Transmedia Storytelling 101″ state=”open”] “Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”

Henry Jenkins[/learn_more]

Der Begriff Transmedia Storytelling wurde bereits zum Ende des alten Jahrtausends geprägt, aber damals wurde die Diskussion nie öffentlich weitergeführt. Erst als Henry Jenkins 2003 seinen gleichnamigen Artikel in der Technology Review veröffentlichte, änderte sich dieser “Schwebezustand” des Begriffes. Trotzdem dauerte es fast ein weiteres Jahrzehnt, bis der Begriff als feste Größe zum Beispiel auch von der Producers Guild of America anerkannt wurde. An diesem Durchbruch ist neben vielen anderen auch Jeff Gomez (Starlight Runner) beteiligt gewesen.

Trotzdem sind wir hier noch lange nicht am Ende der Definition und damit der Diskussion über Transmedia Storytelling angekommen. Es gibt noch viele offene Fragen und natürlich muss die Definition einer großen, angesehenen Organisation wie der PGA nicht unbedingt das glänzende Gold sein, nach dem alle streben.

Brian Clark von den GMD-Studios fasst in einem ausführlichen Facebook-Artikel und nach vielen Diskussionen seine Eindrücke der Definition der PGA und ihre Auswirkungen so zusammen:

[learn_more caption=”Reclaiming Transmedia Storyteller”]In any field, practitioners develop a specialized jargon that conveys either the complex nuance or razor specificity necessary for people to talk about what they do with each other. It is good for everyone to be involved in the debates about those kinds of terms of art on at least some level, as the dialog advances new ways of thinking about the work you should also be buried in.

At this phase in my career, I’m less interested in the Platonic ideas of what the labels should be, and far more interested in discussing why we’re suddenly having a hard time having a discussion as a community of practitioners and creators. We need to be able to discuss this without people taking that as a rebuke of their work or, conversely, worrying more about their own promotional positioning than the health of the movement.

That’s also why I decided to publish this on Facebook of all places: to remind us that we’re friends and peers who know each other: that’s why the discussion is worth having and why we should be capable of having it. Tag the people you talk about and reference to remind yourself of that: discover some new people in your community you didn’t know from those tags. Embrace that we’re not faceless board handles, we’re flesh and blood and full of passion and complex ideas and clumsy words.

Because not everyone is entering the conversation with the same personal experiences, I feel the need to set the stage and explain how I think this tension has emerged over the last few years

JENKINS AND THE UNFINISHED DEFINITION

The seeds of this gulf were sown by Henry Jenkins, who was largely responsible for the current popularity of the term “transmedia”: many of us have been friendly critics of the term since the beginning, but as an academian Henry has always encouraged that debate and been clear that the definition was an emerging thing. At Futures of Entertainment 4 at M.I.T. I was on a panel right after Henry where they asked us to react to his presentation, and I remember saying that it seemed like I was interested in optimizing exactly the opposite factors as Henry. The tensions of ideas advanced discussions.

My community of creative peers and I found something fascinating about the discourse around the term (a discourse we were dragged into by having our work labeled posthumously as transmedia). Transmedia instead of multimedia implied a distinction of creation that we also tried to highlight, and Henry’s focus on “it isn’t just adaptation” and “it is an adjective that describes something else” were appealing new distinctions that added to the conversation.

PGA CREDIT

The tone of that conversation began to sour after Jeff Gomez worked to establish a “transmedia producers credit” at the Producer’s Guild of America, which cemented a definition of qualifying work that is confusing at best and exclusionary at worst. One of its core flaws (IMHO) is that it abandons Jenkin’s distinction of “it isn’t just adaptation” – in fact, the credit definition talks about “3 or more storylines” because in the Hollywood system, the transmedia is almost always a bolt-on adaptation of a primary IP that the producers don’t get to influence. I understand why it is what it is, and in general don’t find it massively relevant (it’s the requirements to get into PGA, not to be a transmedia producer), but it has sparked passions.

More worrisome to me is that the proponents of the PGA credit haven’t reacted to the criticism the way Henry did: they have intertwined their professional ambitions with the PGA definitions in a way that treats that discourse as inappropriate criticism, which turns friendly criticism into something less friendly. After mentioning the growing issue on this in passing in the comedic setup of my presentation at Power to Pixel, I was shocked by how defensive the tone of PGA credit defenders were – I was literally asked, “So, do you not want transmedia producers to have health insurance?”

#ANTITRANSMEDIA

Of course, that doesn’t stop the community of discourse. Steve Peters started the trend of mocking the label on Twitter with the #antitransmedia hashtag and the simple reminders like “bacon is the new transmedia.” It became a template for criticism of speeches and blog posts about the topic that gained steam. As that dialog broadened, though, I began to realize that many of us were using that meme for totally different reasons.

Steve wanted to kill the label transmedia, in part because he feels that PGA credit definition is too restrictive. I, on the other hand, was really attacking the self-proclaimed gurus to point out how the phrase might have already become the new “viral” (and if you asked my personal opinion on the PGA credit I’d either describe it as irrelevant or not restrictive enough.) Others were probably just in it for the lulz. It was perceived, though, as a “backlash from veteran transmedia creators”.

It eventually became just that when Brooke Thompson published a series of blog posts that sharpened the knife to the conversation provoked by the PGA credit definition. Comments became emails, emails became phone calls and the cross-fertilizing of ideas that always emerges from a good community of discourse started to happen.

EAST COAST / WEST COAST TRANSMEDIA

At the same time, I’d been spending a lot of time thinking about this division through the lens of my long relationship with the independent film community and saw many similarities. In conversations, I started calling it East Coast and West Coast and pointing out that maybe transmedia was salvageable if it was a big enough bucket to include two radically different visions of what it was about instead of all agreeing to do it just one way.

The West Coast transmedia tradition is largely what Jenkins was studying, and that style might be best personified by people like Elan Lee, Jordan Weisman and Jeff Gomez. It thinks more in terms of franchises, it has struggles with the relationships with the owners of the industry, and starts from the perspective that creators won’t own the IP they are creating. They want to fix the studio system, or recreate a new kind of studio.

The East Coast transmedia tradition is quite different and emerges far more from the independent traditions of media through people like Lance Weiler, Michael Monello, and I. It thinks in terms of one story told across platforms, it has struggles with monetizing and financing, and starts from the perspective that creators own the IP they are creating. They want to extend an existing community into transmedia, or recreate a new kind of community.

Neither is wrong. Few practitioners or creators work exclusively in one sphere or the other. One is not more noble or pure or profitable than the other. But we’re all guilty of conflating the two together in ways that lead to moments where it might sound like the community is, for example, telling documentary filmmakers that they need to think more like franchisers if they want to get on the transmedia bandwagon and not be left behind as “storytelling changes forever.”

As much as I would have loved to be the Biggie to someone else’s Tupac, conversations with Monello in the wake of Brooke’s blog posts put a finer knife on our argument if we didn’t want to just recreate the indie / Hollywood divide all over again. So the two of us hatched a potentially meaningful new way to talk about these issues … a way that also leads to some really controversial debates we hope to spark.

THE TENSION BETWEEN CREATING AND OWNING

The indie / Hollywood and divisions are just two potential configurations of the relationship between creating something and owning something – there are dozens others for just a handful of industries off the top of my head. When we as practitioners assume that everyone else is caught in or aspires to that same model of creation/owning we hit dangerous soggy ground that creates divisions.

Mike and I talked about all the different configurations suggested just by our own two resumes of work. As creators and entrepreneurs, we understand that there’s a difference in our entire approach when we’re one of the primary storytellers of the IP like “Blair Witch” or “Nothing So Strange” — we’re shaping our own stories to live through multiple ways of interacting with them. When we’re not the primary storytellers, when we’re given a smaller bucket that we’re allowed to work in and charged with some other goal like marketing, we might use the same production strategies but definitely not the same storytelling strategies.

It is a re-emphasis on what many of us thought the “trans” in transmedia was trying to convey, based upon the dialogs that Henry Jenkins had sparked – that the act of telling a story through multiple media (especially with the addition of interactive media) was inherently different than the old models of thinking about storytelling like adaptation and extension.

TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING VERSUS ITS METHODS

Mike and I found it useful to start talking about “transmedia storytelling” as the label for when you’re creating a story as the primary storytellers and intending to tell your story across multiple channels. In the same way people might come to Mike or I because we have experience in some particular discipline (like publishing or filmmaking), they might also come to us to tap our experience as transmedia storytellers. When they do, but we’re not among the primary storytellers, then we’re showing them how to utilize the methods of transmedia storytelling (in the same way we might show them the methods of filmmaking or the methods of publishing.)

Here’s what gets me excited about this distinction: it illuminates what we have in common by looking at the different ways we work by separating the issue of creative control from the issue of ownership. Mike didn’t cease to be the transmedia storyteller of “Blair Witch” when the sold the rights to Artisan, because he was still among the primary storytellers with creative control. Conversely, Gregg Hale and David Goyer were definitely transmedia storytellers of “Freakylinks” even though it was a Fox Television production … up until the moment they lost control of the television show (then they were just using the methods.)

Sometimes that knife also cuts in surprising ways that we think raise interesting debates that we haven’t fully explored yet. For example: if you’re working for an entertainment IP you’ll tend to have less creative control than if you work for a non-IP brand. Mike and I think, for example, that “The Art of the Heist” represents transmedia storytelling and not just its methods, even though it was a work-for-hire creation at an ad agency’s request. Audi didn’t have an existing IP that it was asking to have adapted or extended, it was asking for a new story utilizing multiple channels and we were among the central group of storytellers creating that.

We aren’t just inventing this from whole cloth, either: those of you that have had any art theory will recognize the same distinction as “art versus craft,” which has been deeply useful for creators in every other form for discussing the act of creation.

THE CONTROVERSAL PILEMAKING

Mike and I realized that this debate got even more interesting if we started it by pointing at our own work that we could say, “this is not transmedia storytelling,” because you could then say, “and by extension it means all these other things I didn’t make also aren’t transmedia storytelling”. Mike and I can both point to huge chunks of our resumes that are “marketing utilizing transmedia methods” (as an example) that we’re quite proud of even though we weren’t “transmedia storytellers”, so we don’t propose these labels as value judgments, just as an important distinction that can be added to the debate.

One example from Mike: Campfire’s campaign for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is not transmedia storytelling, it is marketing utilizing transmedia methods. The original storyteller of the book that HBO is adapting has strict limits on what that adaptation can do: the IP restrictions mean you can’t just tell new stories set in that universe, because you’re not part of the primary storytelling team (or if you can, the stories are “non-canon” in the context of the main story.) Not your story, you’re not the storyteller. So by extension, “Why So Serious?” is also not transmedia storytelling, it is marketing utilizing transmedia methods for a film adaptation of the original storyteller’s IP (a comic book). Similarly, you can argue that “Star Wars” is not transmedia storytelling; it is franchising utilizing transmedia methods (since the “canon” of the six films cannot be violated by the extended universe, but the extended universe might conflict with each other or be rewritten by future canon.)

The construct is also useful for asking, “Who was the storyteller, and were they a transmedia storyteller?” From the above examples, could you call David Goyer and Chris Nolan the transmedia storytellers of “The Dark Knight” that “Why So Serious?” is one part of? Did George Lucas become a transmedia storyteller with “Star Wars” or is a better label something like “transmedia franchiser”? Is Steve Coulson a transmedia storyteller on “Game of Thrones,” or is he a “transmedia marketer”?

CREATIVE CONTROL IS THE ISSUE

Whether you’re practicing East Coast or West Coast transmedia, the issue is about creative control: if you don’t have control over the design of the story and its distribution channels, you’re simply not able to reach that higher bar of telling that one story across numerous channels and you’re back to extending or adapting. You’re not a transmedia storyteller, you’re doing something else while utilizing the methods of transmedia. This is a common dilemma for creative professionals, and there’s all kinds of strategies for maximizing creative control in different industries that are adopting parts of the palate that was created by transmedia storytellers. Both the spread of adoption and the innovation of multiple valid paths for cultivating creative control are desired outcomes for everyone involved in this debate.

If creative control is the unifying goal, then we should reserve the phrases “transmedia story” and “transmedia storyteller” to when it passes some tipping point towards having an important creative voice in the core story rather than just when someone has helped adapt or extend someone else’s story onto a new platform. And I say that as someone who frequently is adapting or extending someone else’s story … or whispering in the ear of the primary storytellers about the things they could do as storytellers beyond just extending and adapting.

THE NEED FOR DEBATE

This piece is already too long, but I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of the conversations I’ve been a part of recently and would like to have more broadly. So Mike and I have made the commitment to push this debate forward, not just informally and in the digital space, but as the thrust of a crystalizing debate in our conference presentations. It provokes the right questions that lurk beneath the surface of the divide growing among us, re-hinges it against Henry Jenkin’s original provocations, and (frankly) makes the usefulness of transmedia methods much easier to understand for our friends and collaborators focused on the beautiful expressions of some other medium with a long tradition behind it.

What we don’t need, though, is the navel gazing of inventing some new label or abstract definition. We should test our debate against the goal of, “Does this enable new ways for us to talk to each other about our work?” Transmedia might still be an imperfect term, but my mischievous tweets of #antitransmedia don’t fix that or improve the way we use it, and neither does the definition of the PGA credit. Instead we could provoke a debate about something we actually all care about: creative control. If we’re actually a sustainable community, that means we’ll get to have that debate together forever … but it will get richer and more nuanced with time, and split off into multiple different camps of interpretation, and all the other wonderful things that go with a vibrant art form.

That’s what I’d really like, wouldn’t you?

Brian Clark[/learn_more]

Wie Brian Clark in seinem Artikel herausstellt, geht es also eigentlich bei all den Transmedia-Diskussionen und -Definitionen doch eher um die Frage des “Wer hat die Kontrolle und Rechte über das Kreative?” wodurch die Diskussionen in ein anderes Licht gelenkt werden.

Transmedia Storytelling Berlin

Doch was hat das nun alles mit Transmedia Storytelling Berlin zu tun?

Wir möchten gemeinsam mit Euch ein neues, großes Universum eröffnen. Im Mittelpunkt unseres Universums sehen wir Diskussionen und Vorträge, Wissens- sowie Kontakt-Austausch und ihr könnt uns auf unserer Reise in die Tiefen dieses Universums begleiten. Wir werden uns dazu einmal im Monat in einer Location in Berlin treffen und dort nach einem Impulsvortrag von etwa 15-20 Minuten über das entsprechende Thema austauschen. Dabei besteht für jeden Mitreisenden die Möglichkeit, viele neue  Leute so wie ihre eigenen Universen kennen zu lernen. Wir freuen uns auf einen regen Austausch.

Embrace the Chaos

Das Chaos ist ein Zustand vollständiger Unordnung oder Verwirrung. Damit ist es das Gegenteil des griechischen Begriffs Kosmos, der für die Ordnung steht. Und obwohl diese zwei Begriffe grundsätzlich gegensätzlich sind, so brachte Albert Einstein sie bereits in einen gemeinsamen Zusammenhang, indem er feststellte: Nichts kann existieren ohne Ordnung – nichts kann entstehen ohne Chaos.

Am 2. November findet ein eintägiges Seminar in New York statt, das versucht die Teilnehmer ans Chaos heranzuführen und sich darauf einzulassen. Es richtet sich in erster Linie an ARM Produzenten, Kreative und Theoretiker auf dem Gebiet des Advertising, der Medien und des Game Designs. Durch die verschiedenen Teile des Seminars führen zum Beispiel Brian Clark (GMD Studios), Rachel Clarke (Buzz Marketing), Ken Eklund (Writerguy), Brian Enigma (ARG Security), Adrian Hon (Six to Start), Evan Jones (Stitch Media), Mike Monello (Campfire Media), Mark Ostrick (Ostrick Productions), Dave Szulborski (Immersive Gaming), Sean C. Stacey (Unfiction), Brooke Thompson (Giant Mice) und Lance Weiler (Head Trauma).

Neben der Einführung in die Thematik eines ARGs erfahren die Teilnehmer hier auch über den Nutzen eines Alternate Reality Games im Marketing-Bereich. Und für viele Verantwortliche wird sicher auch das Thema der Erfolgsmessung interessant sein, genauso wie der Aspekt, wie man mit Risiken umgeht.

Das Seminar folgt also ganz seinem Namen “Embrace The Chaos” und wird zudem von den UnForums präsentiert, der größten ARG-Community im englischsprachigen Raum.

 

Eldritch > Schmeldritch | Puppetmaster-Chat

Anfang April trat ein Medium in das Leben einiger Menschen und veränderte es grundlegend. Es handelte sich dabei um B.A. Saint Feline, die auf ihrer eigenen Homepage B Seeing U ihre medialen Fähigkeiten anbot. Doch die Kontaktaufnahme mit den Auserwählten verlief anders. B.A. Saint Feline schickte ihnen Umschläge mit unterschiedlichem Inhalt: eine Münze auf der das Abbild einer schwarzen Katze zu sehen ist, ein persönliches Anschreiben, aus einem Buch von H.P. Lovecraft herausgetrennte Seiten, Bilder und verschiedene andere Sachen.

Nach dieser Kontaktaufnahme stellte es sich heraus, dass B.A. Saint Feline ihre Visionen immer wieder über die Craigslistveröffentlichte und sich daraus ein roter Faden ergab. Hinzu kamen einige Hinweise, durch die auch die Webseite der Eldritch Errors gefunden wurde, die ebenfalls ein zentrales Element dieses Alternate Reality Games darstellen würde.

Nun ist das ARG zu einem vorläufigen, von den Puppetmastern beabsichtigtem Ende gelangt, das seinen Höhepunkt in einem Live Event in Atlanta fand. Direkt vor Ort entdeckten die Teilnehmer in einem öffentlichen Raum eine Festplatte, ein Ticket sowie drei verhüllte Statuen. Neben diesem Event gab es zudem weitere Craigslist Beiträge, die dem Geschehen als Epilog dienten.

Was sonst noch so alles in den letzten 6 Monaten geschah, kann man auf der Story-So-Far Seite der Eldritch Errors nachlesen. Und auch das BSUWiki ist sehr guter Anlaufpunkt, um weitere Informationen zu diesem ARG zu erhalten.

Mit diesem vorläufigen aber nicht finalen Ende haben auch die Puppetmaster den Vorhang ein wenig geöffnet. Zum einen kann man im sich Puppetmaster Blog Schmeldritch einen sehr guten Eindruck von der anderen Seite des Vorhangs machen. Zum anderen fand vor kurzem der Puppetmaster Chat im IRC-Channel#stfeline statt. Die anwesenden Puppetmaster Brooke ThompsonBrooke Thompson – Giant MiceJackie KerrNicko Demetero und Brian ClarkBrian Clark – GMD Studios plauderten dabei auch ein wenig aus dem Nähkästchen und gingen auf die Fragen der Spieler ein.

Das erste Buch ist damit abgeschlossen.

Links:

 

ARG! The Attack of the Alternate Reality Games

Wie auf ARGNet zu lesen ist, hat Dan Hon von der ARG Panel Diskussion des diesjährigen SXSWDas South by Southwest Festivalwird bereits seit 1987 veranstaltet. Es beinhaltet Konferenzen und Veranstaltungen und ist vor allem im Bereich Musik und Medien zu einem festen Bestandteil im Jahresablauf geworden.

Das South by Southwest Festival wird dabei mit SXSW abgekürzt. Festivals mit dem Thema “ARG! The Attack of the Alternate Reality Games” eine Abschrift in seinem Blog Extenuating Circumstances veröffentlicht. Alice Taylor, Vice President des Bereichs Digital Content von der BBC, moderierte die Diskussionsrunde, bei der unter anderem auch Hon (COO von Mind Candy), Brian Clark (Gründer/CEO der GMD Studios/Indiewire), Evan Jones (Creative Director/Producer at Stitch Media) und Brooke Thompson (Giant Mice and ARGNet) teilnahmen.

Bei der Diskussion wurde über eine ganze Menge besprochen. Von der immer noch voranschreitenden Verbreitung der Alternate Reality Games bis hin zur Vertiefung, wie Budgets geschaffen werden gibt es in der Abschrift viel Informatives nachzulesen. Herzlichen Dank an Dan, der die Abschrift in seinem Blog zur Verfügung gestellt hat.

 

15 Fragen an Brooke Thompson

BrookeWer sich ein wenig in der Welt der Alternate Reality Games umschaut wird ihren Namen bereits gelesen oder zumindest gehört haben.

Bekannter ist sie jedoch unter dem Namen imbri, unter dem sie auch in den Unforums zu finden ist. Ohne vorab zu viel von ihren Antworten vorweg zu nehmen, stellen wir ihr diese Woche die 15 Fragen…

 

1) About when and how did you get in touch with ARGs?

Back in the spring of 2001, I was pointed to the Cloudmakers Yahoo! Group while working on a study of online communities. It immediately fascinated me, not because of the game behind it, but because of the way in which people from all over the world were coming together to work through a complex series of problems. The ARG was intriguing, but I had deadlines to meet for my research and graduation. After those were met, I found myself with a bit of free time and headed back to Cloudmakers community to see if I could make a bit more sense of what all was going on. It must have been fate that shortly after that a message was posted suggesting that the players form a group to create their own game. I joined the group not because I wanted to participate in the creation process but because I wanted to observe it. I figured that it would offer some great research potential – how do online communities differ when they’re solving a fictional mystery and when they’re creating that mystery. Though, things never work out as planned and within a few weeks I found myself as one of the core developers. Once the game went live, I was hooked and my career path was forever changed.

2) Did you take part in some ARGs as a player, too? Which?

This is a hard question to answer. I’ve observed a number of games and participated in a few of them. However, I would say that only Last Call Poker has taken me completely away from the observer role and made me an active player. Part of it was that I had more time to get involved, but most of it was the story combined with the live events and special favors. I really became immersed in that game.

3) In which ARGs have you been Puppetmaster/BHTS and what was your job in those?

I’ve worked on a number of games, though most were for private clients as corporate training exercises. Publicly, I’ve worked on Lockjaw and Metacortechs as a designer & writer and on Who Is Benjamin Stove as a writer.

4) Which ARG do you like best and why?

That’s like asking someone who their favorite child is. They each have their own personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Though, Last Call Poker did capture my attention unlike any other. Though it didn’t achieve the player base that I thought it deserved (millions and millions!), it was a very well designed game that took into account so many different player types – those that enjoy the social aspects were given as much thought and consideration as those that enjoy the puzzle or story aspects. Additionally, it was designed in a way so that you could get satisfaction from the experience if you had ten minutes to devote to it or forty hours.

5) Which was the funniest/nicest happening while doing/playing an ARG?

So many things come to mind, every game has moments to remember. The things that I tend to remember most are things that we, as designers, had little to do with. The spontaneous parties in the player chatroom for Lockjaw, the photoshopping of characters in Metacortechs and Who Is Benjamin Stove. Seeing the players so actively engaged with something that you had a hand in creating to the point where they are creating their own content and fun is my favorite part of any game.

6) Are there any memories to happenings that you wanted to forget about?

I don’t like to forget things, even the bad ones, as there is always something to be learned from it. And, with every bad, there is some good to be gained. For example, in Metacortechs (a game in the Matrix universe that was a bit attractive to hackers) our server was compromised through a relatively simple exploit that we had overlooked. Fortunately, they didn’t really know what they were doing and we were able to patch it quickly – no harm came to the game and there was never a risk to any confidential information (such as email addresses). However, in doing so, they learned that we were the team behind it. Until that point, most of the players were still debating on whether it was an official game for the series or whether it was fan-fiction. So, while we were all quite upset at first that the mystery of who was behind it was solved, solving it let the players move beyond that debate and become more fully engaged with the story.

7) How do you explain ARGs to your family / friends / relatives and how do they react?

I usually start of by explaining that it’s a new twist on storytelling. Unlike television or radio or even the horror story told over a campfire, in Alternate Reality Games, the story has been broken up into lots of little pieces and scattered around. They pieces might be video clips or text or audio files. They might even just be an object. They may show up online, on your voice mail, or even at that really cool statue in town. So, together with all sorts of people, you go out and gather all of these pieces and put together the story. And, the coolest thing about it all is that while you’re putting the story together, you actually have influence on it. So, you might be able to chat with a character or affect whether a character lives or dies.

8) Which 3 things does an ARG really need to have, to be a good ARG in your opinion?

The first and most important thing that an ARG needs is a story. Without a story, the ARG cannot exist. The next thing that an ARG needs is good communication between the players and the developers. The third must have is a solid game design that helps to keep players engaged with the story while facilitating the communication between the players and developers.

9) Do you have a favourite character from an ARG?

Wow, so many good characters to choose from. I think that my favorite was Brutus who was, actually, a house AI in the Beast. He had such a great sense of humor and compassion. You know, for a house and all.

10) What are you currently working on? (if you may tell us/are allowed to tell us 😉 )

Oh, I wish I could tell you all about all the exciting things going on right now. I will say that, if everything goes as planned, it’s going to be a very busy and very fun 2007.

11) Which puzzle from past ARGs do you like best/was real fun? Can you tell us why?

My favorite puzzles are those that truly offer a lot to the story, both in their design and in what they reveal. I also like complex puzzles and those that bring the community together, yet could be solved on your own. And, while I create dozens of smaller puzzles, puzzles that do all of that are my goal. And, of those puzzles, the Seven Sins puzzle in Lockjaw was my favorite.

Lockjaw dealt with the questions of immortality and ethics (business, medical, human). We had developed a web browser for the game that, presumably, all of the characters and a number of the players used. The browser had a built in AI named Mephista. She saw every page that everyone who used the browser saw and, within the story, she dumped certain information into a central server. So, clearly, someone or something was aware of nearly everything that was going on (although players weren’t fully aware of this until the end game). Additionally, we had several characters out for revenge and looking at all of the sins, no matter how simple and mundane they might be, that the other characters were committing.

In order to show that in the game and to add to the depth of all of the characters, I created a puzzle deeply rooted in the mythology and symbolism of the Seven Deadly Sins. Each sin is associated with a color, an animal, and a punishment in hell. Additionally, each sin is paired with a corresponding virtue. For example, envy is associated with green and represented by a dog. If you’re guilty of envy, you will be punished in hell by being placed in freezing water. The contrary virtue of envy would be charity – combating the jealousy of others by giving to them. I used the great painting The Seven Deadly Sins and The Four Last Things by Hieronymus Bosch not only because it’s a cool painting but to help clue players in to the idea that the theme of the puzzle was the sins.

So, the puzzle…

It started off rather simply. Players would be taken to a page with a colored background, an image, and a submit box. Every time you returned to the page, the color of the background the image would change. Every time that you made an incorrect guess in the submit box, it would kick you out to various pages online. At first, it seemed very random. But it wasn’t long before players identified the images as being a part of the painting. That gave them the seven sins reference. But they still weren’t sure what to put into the submit boxes. The kickouts offered the clues.

Each of the four images was themed and was paired up with a long list of kickouts. For example, an incorrect guess on the image showing the view of hell led to websites that dealt with punishment as well. Incorrect guesses on the other images led to pictures of animals, punishments, or sins. Once players figured out the symbolism behind the sins, it was a simple matter of pairing up the color (telling them which sin they were looking at ie green background meant they were dealing with envy) with the image and they knew what they had to enter – the name of the sin, the corresponding virtue, punishment, or animal. There were 28 correct answers in total. Each correct answer would send players to page with an image, poem, short story, or statement that fit the sin and which they could later pair up with characters in the game.

It didn’t stop there. The file names for each correct page seemed random at first with names such as 1heaesnu1.htm. It was what’s known in some cipher crowds as a columnar transposition, but that’s just a big fancy term for “line them up and read up & down”. When they were put in order (marked by the numbers on the beginning and end), a phrase which explained the character’s point for the puzzle appeared: Higher than the question of our duration, is the question of our deserving. Immortality will come to such as are fit for it, and he who would be a great soul in future, must be a great soul now. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Worship” The Conduct of Life.

In my mind, it really satisfied everything that I want to achieve in creating a puzzle. It could be solved individually – there was nothing extraordinarily difficult about it and all of the information needed could easily be found on Google. Yet, it was easier to solve as a group. Refreshing the page to get the right combination of color and image could be a bit tedious and so everyone could pitch in. It also had that awe factor – initially looking at it and seeing it change and thinking you could never make sense of it, yet it was relatively easy to do. It had the excitement factor with each little solution taking you a step closer and providing a bit of satisfaction. And, the motivation for the puzzle, they content of the puzzle, and the information that it provided all fit into the story. But it also led to more questions – who was doing this? why? how?

12) Do you have something like a “phrase”/”objective” which you follow while organizing and running an ARG?

I don’t have a specific statement, but every game has the same ultimate goal… putting the players first. Without the players, there would be nothing. Sure, the client gives me my pay check and that’s nice. I really do appreciate it. But, they give me the paycheck not just to create a game but to engage the audience. And, in games without a client, the money will only come if the players do. You have to put them first and I think more developers and games would benefit from remembering that.

13) Do you remember a situation, in which you wanted to give up anything? What happened?

I really can’t. Sure, we all have those days when nothing seems to go right, but then something happens that reminds you that you have the best job in the world.

14) Was there something like a favourite item from an ARG that you didn’t want to give away, but you had to, because the IG-Character had to?

I can’t think of an item, but I can think of a character… Moot

Moot was a Lockjaw character that the players just adored. We all did. We didn’t mean for that to happen, he was a last minute addition as a very minor character. All we knew is that two people in his little group of characters would have to die. When the players loved him as much as they did, we had to kill him. It made the scene of their deaths that much more impactful. I hated seeing him go. From a writer perspective, he was a gem. He only spoke in punctuation.

Lockjaw seems to be a theme in this interview. I imagine that’s because the five year anniversary is coming up. I cannot believe that it’s been so long.

15) How do you see the future of ARGs?

I have no idea. There are so many directions that you can go in with ARGs and I cannot wait to see where people head. Over the next year or so, we’ll see more people experimenting with various financial and delivery models – things such as the cards in Perplex City, the t-shirts in Edoc Laundry are just the start. We’ll probably also see more people looking at serial ARGs similar to Studio Cyphers. And, with Jane McGonigal’s influence, we’ll see more games taking advantage of play in real world spaces. We’ll also see a booming interest in ARGs in the “serious games” space and moving from corporate training games to education and even activism. But looking 5 or ten years out, it’s difficult to know.

Vielen Dank, Brooke, daß du dir die Zeit für unsere 15 Fragen genommen hast (PM).

ARGNetCast

ARGNetUnsere Freunde von ARGN haben auf Ihrer Seite einige Neuerungen unter- und angebracht. Das Design wurde leicht verändert und ist durch das obere, erweiterte Menü noch einfacher für ARG-Neulinge geworden. Außerdem wird ab sofort der Schriftzug ARGR durch ARGNet ersetzt werden, um den Namen der Seite stärker in den Vordergrund zu heben.

Neben diesen Design-Änderungen gibt es jedoch noch eine weitere Neuerung: den ARGNetCast.

Startschuß für den 1. ARGNetCast war der 23. Oktober 2006. Brooke, Sean und Jonathan hatten sich für die erste Folge bereits ein ganzes Sortiment an Themen zurechtgelegt, über das sie gesprochen haben:

Den Netcast könnt ihr Euch hier anhören: ARGNetCast Episode 1

In der zweiten Folge vom 29. Oktober wurden einige Themen der 1. Episode noch einmal vertieft sowie ein Rätsel der Woche vorgestellt und weitere ARGs und Themen aus diesem Bereich besprochen.

Den Netcast könnt ihr euch hier anhören: ARGNetCast Episode 2

Der Erscheinungstermin für die ARGNetCasts ist jeweils wöchentlich, wobei wir natürlich schon sehr gespannt auf den dritten Teil sind.

Picnic ’06 eröffnet

Picnic '06Heute hat in Amsterdam die Picnic ’06 ihre Pforten zu einer dreitägigen Cross Media Conference geöffnet.

Zwar gab es ganz zu Beginn der CMC noch einige Probleme, weil zunächst die Teilnehmerlisten nicht abrufbar waren und sich so niemand außer den Sprechern wirklich anmelden konnte, aber am Nachmittag war dieses Problem behoben und jeder bekam seinen Badge um auch zu den wichtigen Diskussionsforen Einlass zu bekommen.

Um 10 Uhr begann die erste Veranstaltung. In einer kleinen, gemütlichen, rund 70 Leute fassenden, Kinosaal-ähnlichen Räumlichkeit versammelten sich mehrere Hand voll Zuhörer, um den akademischen Ausarbeitungen der IGDA SIG Gruppe in deren Whitepaper zum Thema Alternate Reality Games zu lauschen.

Nach einer kurzen Ansprache durch Adam Martin übernahm Brooke Thompson den ersten Teil der Vorstellung und stand den Fragen der Zuhörer anschließend mit einer Vielzahl an Beispielen Rede und Antwort. Im zweiten Teil dieser Veranstaltung gab es einen Ausblick auf die leider nicht rechtzeitig in gedruckter Form vorliegenden Whitepaper, sowie eine Diskussionsrunde, in der einige Gesichtspunkte von Alternate Reality Games genauer beleuchtet wurden.

Am Nachmittag fand dann eine Podiumsdiskussion zum Thema Digital Cities statt. Hauptdiskussionspunkte und gleichzeitig auch Kritikpunkte dieser Veranstaltung waren unter anderem die immer noch viel zu geringe Bandbreite, die schleppende Verbreitung von freien Wireless Lan Netzen und die auf uns zukommende Veränderung unseres Alltags, durch die neuen technischen Möglichkeiten.

Picnic '06Im Zusammenhang der Picnic ’06 gab es übrigens ein erstes ARGonautentreffen. Imbri, SpaceBass und Giskard sind nämlich ebenfalls auf der CMC und am Freitag Abend werden wahrscheinlich auch Nola und Kender mit uns zusammen in Amsterdam einfallen.

Für ein ordentliches Picnic empfehle ich auf jeden Fall eine Decke einzupacken 😉

ARGFest Rückblick und Vorschau

Fotograf: KiwiDeaPi, Lizenz: CC 3.0

Das ARGFest NYC 2005 ist den ARGlern noch immer in guter Erinnerung, nicht zuletzt weil das dort unter anderem vorgestellte ARG Perplex City immer noch in vollem Gange ist.

Für alle, die nicht dabei sein konnten, gibt es nun eine Online-Veröffentlichung der ARGFest NYC 2005 DVD “How Do You Like Your Reality?”. Diese besteht aus zwei Torrent-Dateien (gehostet von GreyLodge), die von Dave Szulborski und Abacus Video Productions freundlicherweise zur Verfügung gestellt wurden.

Die beiden Video-Torrents enthalten die Präsentation, die während des drei Tage dauernden Events im Pennsylvanian Hotel gehalten wurde. Dabei wurden folgende Punkte vorgestellt:

  • Perplex City – von Mind Candy Ltd (unter anderem Michael Smith und Adrian Hon)
  • The Art of the Heist – das PM-Team (mit Mike Monello, Brian Cain, Brian Clark, Matt Fischvogt, Jim Gunshanan, Gabriel Georgeian, and Dave Szulborski)
  • MetaCortechs – das PM-Team (mit Steve Peters, Krystyn Wells, Brooke Thompson, and Sean Stacey)
  • There is No Such Thing as an ARG – Gast Referentin: Jane McGonigal

ARGFest Chicago 2006

Nun steht das ARGFest 2006 auf dem Programm. Der ebenfalls dreitägige Event findet an einem Juli-Wochenende statt, und zwar vom 21. bis 23. Juli in Chicago. Krystyn hat dazu ein Organisations-Wiki online gestellt, in dem jeder der will, dem Organisationsteam unter die Arme greifen kann, Übernachtungsmöglichkeiten suchen oder bieten kann, und vieles mehr.

Mini-EuroARGFest 2006

Wer nicht zum ARGFest Chicago 2006 kommen kann, der muss nicht ganz enttäuscht sein. Einige der europäischen ARGler planen ein Treffen in den Niederlanden. Ein genauer Termin dafür steht noch nicht fest und das Treffen wird auch kein mehrtägiger Event sein sondern eher ein gemütliches Zusammentreffen zum Informationsaustausch und natürlich auf einen Drink.