The State of the Industry
Alternate reality games aren’t dead, but they have certainly evolved over the past year, as terms like “transmedia storytelling” and “gamification” have insinuated their way further into the developmental lexicon. In April, the Producer’s Guild of America added the “transmedia producer” credit to their Code of Credits, swiftly followed by the formation of the rival Transmedia Artists Guild in July, which aims to provide a support structure for creators. Prominent figures in the entertainment industry including Anthony Zuiker, Tim Kring, and Guillermo del Toro have all publicly committed themselves to transmedia production. Meanwhile, Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk on gamification as a means of leveraging our penchant for play for social good has reignited interest in serious games.
Jay Bushman does an exemplary job of articulating the industry’s formative state in his article about his time as a Cloudmaker, a name affectionately adopted to describe players of the genre-defining alternate reality game for the film A.I.. Bushman notes that the state of the industry can be analogized to the film industry circa 1926, before the release of The Jazz Singer manifested the argument for talkies. As Bushman explains, The Jazz Singer “was not the first film with sound, but it was the first one to make its benefits obvious and to show that sound was the way forward.”
ARGs as a Promotional Tool
Alternate reality games still earn their proverbial bread and butter as a promotional tool, and this year has seen a number of stand-out projects.
ARGs in Film
This year, the film industry relied on tried-and-tested formulas to leverage alternate reality games as film promotion. Following up on the immense popularity of the Cloverfield viral, JJ Abrams has released a series of cryptic clues hinting at the story for his newest low-budget project, Super 8. While Cloverfield‘s game centered around Tagruato Corporation’s Slusho beverage, Super 8 has introduced Captain Coop’s Rocket Poppeteers brand popsicles. Similarly, in order to capitalize on the popularity of Wired’s Hunt for Evan Ratliff, Repo Men staged a month-long manhunt for four volunteer runners charged with protecting artificial organs known as “artiforgs.” Ciji Thorton and Usman Akeju were caught at a roller skating rink in Lanham, Maryland, while Will LaFerriere and Alex Gamble survived the full month.
Early December marked the end of the Flynn Lives alternate reality game, a multi-year promotional campaign building up to the release of Tron: Legacy. 42 Entertainment handled the campaign’s lengthy run in a manner reminiscent of its award-winning Why So Serious campaign for The Dark Knight by releasing large batches of content every few months. A highlight for the campaign occurred at San Diego’s Comic-Con, where the development team transformed a nearby warehouse into the End of Line club from the film for a special night of festivities. Players were frequently rewarded with collectible coins, posters, pins, t-shirts, stickers, badges, and postcards for interacting with the story: many of these items hid clues that advanced the story. Flynn Lives leveraged its Facebook integration to allow players to showcase the numerous online badges awarded for reaching particular in-game milestones.
ARGs in Television.....
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