ARGFest-o-Con 2011

Auch in diesem Jahr wird es wieder ein ARGFest-o-Con in den USA geben. Es wird vom 18. bis 21. August in der beschaulichen Stadt Bloomington stattfinden und die ersten Referenten stehen bereits fest. Doch was genau ist eigentlich ein ARGFest oder ein ARGFest-o-Con?

Es ist ein von der Community organisiertes Treffen von ARG-Spielern, (ARG-)Designern und Transmedia-Begeisterten, das inzwischen jährlich stattfindet. Seine Anfänge hatte es im Jahr 2002 als sich einige Freunde auf ein paar Bier in Las Vegas verabredeten. Inzwischen ist das ARGFest zu einer der wichtigsten Konferenzen für ARGs mit jeweils mehreren hundert Teilnehmern geworden, darunter auch führende Innovatoren auf dem Gebiet des Alternate Reality Gaming.

Die Konferenz bleibt dabei nicht immer an ein und dem gleichen Ort sondern findet jedes Jahr woanders statt. Die bisherigen Stationen waren zum Beispiel:

Las Vegas (2002)
Orlando (2003)
Vancouver (2004)
New York City (2005)
Chicago (2006)
San Francisco (2007)
Boston (2008)
Portland, Oregon (2009)
Atlanta (2010)

Als Referenten wurden bereits einige hochkarätige Namen veröffentlicht. So wird man unter anderem  Andrea Phillips hören, die als Freelancer bereits an Projekten wie der Perplex City, Routes, 2012 und anderen mit diversen Awards ausgezeichneten ARGs mitgewirkt hat und die den Begriff Transmedia bevorzugt.

Desweiteren wird auch J. C. Hutchins einen Vortrag halten. Der Roman-, Drehbuchautor sowie Transmedia Storyteller veröffentlichte seinen Roman-Dreiteiler 7th Son zunächst als Podcast und erzielte damit rund 40.000 Zuhörer sowie mehr als 2.000.000 Downloads. Der erste Band, 7th Son: Descent, wurde dann im Oktober 2009 gedruckt und erhielt sehr viele positive Rezensionen. Als Co-Author von Jordan Weisman erschien zudem das Buch Personal Effects: Dark Art, das weit über die bedruckten Seiten hinausgeht.

Auch Tony Walsh, Gründer von Phantom Compass, ist unter den genannten Refernten. Er hat bereits bei Projekten wie The Fallen oder der Extended Reality von ReGenesis mitgewirkt und berät Rundfunk-Veranstalter wie auch Filmschaffende und anderen Produzenten digitaler Inhalte, wie sie ihre Unterhaltung durch spielerische Elemente verbessern und interaktiver gestalten können.

Ebenfalls spannende Dinge für seinen Vortrag dürfte David Varela im Gepäck haben. Dem einen oder anderen ARG-Spieler ist er – ähnlich wie Andrea – auch von der anderen Seite des Vorhangs der Perplex City her bekannt. Darüber hinaus haben ihn Reebok (Secret Lewis) und Sony Playstation (Xi) in den letzten Jahren Design-technisch auf Trab gehalten, beides Projekte, bei denen Teilnehmer aus mehreren Ländern involviert waren.

Wer nun traurig wegen der Entfernung nach Bloomington ist, dem kann trotzdem geholfen werden: Wie bereits angekündigt findet vom 13. bis 15. Mai auch ein Treffen von ARG-Spielern in Deutschland statt – in Berlin, um genau zu sein. Wer also Lust und Zeit hat vorbeizuschauen, der sollte sich fix in die Liste der Teilnehmer auf Facebook eintragen.

Und wer weiß, vielleicht erwächst aus diesen Treffen ja auch irgendwann eine Fest-o-Con 😉

15 Fragen an Brian Clark

Rumors say: This isn't Brian Clark

Den Auftakt unserer neuen Interview-Serie macht Brian Clark.

Er ist Gründer und CEO der GMD Studios im sonnigen Orlando, Florida und beschäftigt sich seit 1994 mit seltsamen Experimenten – wovon man sich auch auf der Seite der GMD Studios überzeugen kann.

In den späten 60er geboren, taucht er immer mal wieder als FLMutant in den Foren und anderswo auf, genauso wie heute…

… denn heute stellt er sich den 15 Fragen der ARGReporter:

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

I’ve been practicing interactive narrative for quite awhile, so I aware of ARGs. I didn’t really become intensely interested in the community until they started showing up in a narrative about puzzle solvers we were doing for Sharp (“The Legend of the Sacred Urns”) and calling us “puppetmasters”. So in a way, since we had never had such obvert gameplay in our narratives, we’d never been branded as ARG developers before, but the similarities in perspective were incredible.

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

You could say I was a casual lurker of Bees. Long before that, my staff and I got mildly addicted to an early interactive piece called “The Rift” that Vivid Studios produced for Silicon Graphics in the mid 1990s and ended up being the poster children for “those crazy Internet people” after we started building bots to watch for puzzle updates.

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

I was one of the concept developers and creative leads for “The Legend of the Sacred Urns” for Sharp, “The Art of the Heist” for Audi and “Who Is Benjamin Stove?” for General Motors. I was also part of a collaboration last year called “The Voice” that was decidedly ARG-like but turns that metaphor on its head.

4) Which ARG do you like best and why?

I’m not big on picking bests. I don’t think “the perfect ARG” has been made yet, my own work included. So, honestly, when I think about the canon of work in the space title by title, the first thing that comes to mind about each one is some fascinating aspect of the work – Bees for loose collaboration, Regenesis for cross-media integration, Perplex City for productizing, Heist for real-world immersion, etc.

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

Lou will always be infamous for hiding in a porta-potty (will German’s even know what that is?) from Nisha during a Heist live event.

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

Must … forget … evil … cube … from … Heist.

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

I tend to keep it pretty brief in order to avoid confusion, something like, “they are interactive stories that the audience participates in together that unfold in real time”. In general, most of my family and friends already think of me as a “mad scientist” so the reactions aren’t that different than normal.

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

It all really starts with a deep immersive narrative. Assuming you can muster that, then to be a really great ARG it needs to be a narrative that the audience influences and leaves their fingerprints all over … and needs to accomplish that by giving the audience something to do together. Flexible storytelling with meaningful activity.

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

My answer is pretty obscure! In “Who Is Benjamin Stove”, the main character (Tucker Darby) has to deal with, among other things, his technologically-impared but socially-precocious mother. “Tucker’s Mom” was a recurring character in the community boards penned by Brooke Thompson with deliciously ironic … and then later heartbreakingly sincere … complexity.

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

Mad scientists tend to be a little tight lipped! We have a couple of projects in the pipeline that roll out this winter that I can talk about abstractly. The first is really an experiment in changing the way sponsors work with large corporate games in the U.S. by creating a persistent ARG platform that has regularly occurring episodes: rather than the ARG ending after a few months, instead there is always another episode just around the corner. The second involves a new approach to structuring ARGs that we’ve been playing around with that adopts some of the principles of object oriented storytelling with all that entails: objects and locations driving the storytelling framework, one where you grow to understand the owner of the objects and the locations they personalize. The two are quite different in texture and goals, but share the desire to stretch the fabric of traditional ARGs.

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

Surprisingly, I’m not a huge puzzle geek. What I tend to remember are the meta-narratives of the audience’s experience solving those puzzles.

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

We have a few mantras we’ve developed over the years. One of them is “how do we create more player agency?” Narratives on tight linear rails are rarely satisfying in immersive stories – the audience should rightly feel the narrative wouldn’t have unfolded at all without them. Another is “it’s working when the audience is entertaining themselves”.

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

That’s never more than a passing thought, really. Most of the time, when an ARG is live, the entire structure has a certainly among of looseness, constantly be re-written and explored and brainstormed, often in reaction to audience speculation. So in one way, you give up little things and change little details constantly … and remind yourself not to give up the big things.

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?

Wer ist Benjamin Stove ?We bickered and squabbled as a team during Stove about the actual crop circle painting. It became a joke internally about rewriting the story so that it didn’t go out. But it had to for the story to be complete as a journey.

15) How do you see the future of ARGs?

I think it is potentially a label in flux. It describes one set of ascribed rules for immersive entertainment, but at the same time is one of the principal conceptual breeding grounds for some unique concepts inside that bigger playground. Part of that concept is “collective intelligence” which is a collaborative model. Another part is “flexible narrative” which is a storytelling model. Another part is “platformless gaming” which is a counter-culture appropriationist movement. There will be continue to be a huge variety of experiments in immersive entertainment, and some of those experiments might stretch the strict definitions of ARG to the bending or breaking point while still ringing true to the DNA which emerged in this space.

Vielen Dank, Brian, daß du dir die Zeit für unser Interview genommen hast und damit unseren Lesern einen kleinen Einblick hinter die Kulissen gewährst. (PM)