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www.thelostring.com/ – A great website for the case study of the “The lost Ring” the ARG marketing for the Olympic games 2008.
The Lost Ring was an alternate reality game (ARG) initiated by McDonald’s, as part of their marketing for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. A co-production between McDonald’s, AKQA, and Jane McGonigal, the game was notable for its global scope: taking place across six continents, in seven lanugages, and running for six months (29th Februrary – 24th August 2008). It began with six amnesiac athletes with strange tattoos, and culminated in the “revivial” of a fictional Ancient Olympic sport – which the narrative described as having disappeared 2000 years ago before the events of the game.
http://www.whysoserious.com is a ARG game for the New Batman film The Dark Knight.
http://batman.wikibruce.com/Home – Guide to the batman ARG
Promotions for the July 2008 release of “The Dark Knight” appear to have commenced in earnest. The official movie website. for the upcoming sequel to Warner Bros Studios’ hit film “Batman Begins”, featuring the Batman insignia, recently directed visitors to I Believe in Harvey Dent. The website displayed an advertisement for Harvey Dent’s campaign for District Attorney. Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart in the upcoming movie, is better known as the villain Two-Face. Campaign posters have been reported displaying the same image in select major cities.
A handful of Joker playing cards were discovered in Meltdown, a comic book store in California, leading curious patrons to I Believe in Harvey Dent Too. This website displayed a defaced replica of the campaign poster. The posters were reported to be similarly defaced within 48 to 72 hours of going up in their respective cities.
Visitors to the defaced website were prompted to send emails to “tragicpast”to reveal the Joker’s grim visage for the movie a pixel at a time. Once completed, a message reading “See you in December” is displayed amidst a string of laughter. And while it is still too early to determine if this will be a full-fledged ARG or a simple viral marketing campaign, with over a year before the movie’s release, there appears to be ample opportunity for much more.
By Tom Whitwell
Alternative Reality Games are like video games, but in real life. Players get clues from websites, newspaper advertisements or voicemails, then go out into the world to find more clues and report back to internet forums and message boards.
Some are huge – WhySoSerious was a complex mystery, attracting hundreds of thousands of players, to promote The Dark Knight. Players were sent text messages telling them to collect cakes from bakeries all over the US. Baked into the cakes were mobile phones, which were sent further clues.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, Penguin Books ran We Tell Stories, an elegantly crafted game, which attracted around 30 players. At one point, six of those players arrived at a pub with gifts for a mysterious man who was sitting in the corner. Fortunately, he was part of the game. Unfortunately, his character was supposed to be French, but he couldn’t speak a word of the language. Here’s a 85-page forum post about the game.
Fascinated? Planning to be in New York at the end of this month? Argn.com (home of the Alternate Reality Gaming Network) has information about an intriguing Big Apple Hallowe’en game, Sea of Glass.
Among the terms essential to understand discussions about ARGs are:
- Puppetmaster – A puppetmaster or “PM” is an individual involved in designing and/or running an ARG. Puppetmasters are simultaneously allies and adversaries to the player base, creating obstacles and providing resources for overcoming them in the course of telling the game’s story. Puppetmasters generally remain behind the curtain while a game is running. The real identity of puppet masters may or may not be known ahead of time.
- The Curtain – The curtain is generally a metaphor for the separation between the puppetmasters and the players. This can take the traditional form of absolute secrecy regarding the puppetmasters’ identities and involvement with the production, or refer merely to the convention that puppetmasters do not communicate directly with players through the game, interacting instead through the characters and the game’s design.
- Rabbithole – Also known as a Trailhead. A Rabbithole marks the first website, contact, or puzzle that starts off the ARG.
- Trailhead – A deliberate clue which enables a player to discover a way into the game. Most ARGs employ a number of trailheads in several media, to maximise the probability of people discovering the game. Some trailheads may be covert, others may be thinly-disguised adverts.
- This Is Not A Game (TINAG) – Setting the ARG form apart from other games is the This Is Not A Game aesthetic, which dictates that the game not behave like a game: phone numbers mentioned in the ARG, for example, should actually work, and the game should not provide an overtly-designated playspace or ruleset to the players.
What are Alternate Reality Games?
An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.
The form is defined by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants’ responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game’s designers, Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities.
ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.
ARGs are growing in popularity, with new games appearing regularly and an increasing amount of experimentation with new models and subgenres. They tend to be free to play, with costs absorbed either through supporting products (e.g. collectible puzzle cards fund Perplex City) or through promotional relationships with existing products (e.g. I love bees was a promotion for Halo 2, and the Lost Experience and FIND815 promoted the television show Lost). However, pay-to-play models are not unheard of.
ARGs are now being recognized by the mainstream entertainment world: The Fallen Alternate Reality game was in the fall of 2007 awarded a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement for an Interactive Television Program. ReGenesis Extended Reality won an International Interactive Emmy Award in 2007 and in April 2008 The Truth About Marika won the iEmmy for Best interactive TV service. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts recognises Interactivity as a category in the British Academy Television Awards.