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  links for 2007-07-11  
Posted 2007-07-11 by Tony Walsh
  ‘Ethan Haas Was Right’ vs. ‘Ocular Effect’  
Posted 2007-07-08 by Tony Walsh
It's a battle of the mysterious, rune-encrusted orbs! In this corner, the "Oculus", part of an alternate reality game for the Fallen TV movie, launched last year. In this corner, Ethan Haas Was Right, an alleged ARG component, launched this month. Having been a core design team member on the Fallen ARG, I can't help but notice the similarities between the original Oculus, and this latest spherical artifact, both in presentation and interactivity. I'm not against borrowing from prior art, but this all seems a bit soon and a bit... I can't think of the right word... derivative, maybe? Weird.
  Are Computer Games Really That Different From Non-Digital games?  
Posted 2007-06-25 by Tony Walsh
Michaël Samyn of Tale of Tales (maker of The Endless Forest) lists ten differences between computer games and traditional ones. How well do computer games and traditional ones contrast? It depends on your definition of "traditional."

I always enjoy reading the Tale of Tales blog, even if I rarely agree completely with the team's strong opinions. Given today's post, I think a tighter definition of "traditional" is needed--Samyn doesn't seem to have considered tabletop role playing games, but says in the comments section of the blog that all non-digital games are considered "traditional." Although I use the term "traditional" to refer to non-digital games, I feel it would be useful to break this down into subcategories "classic" (e.g. Chess, Mah Jong, Solitaire) and "contemporary" (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer 40k, Magic: The Gathering, LARPs, ARGs). Faced with contemporary, rather than classic non-digital games, computer games aren't as unique as Samyn argues.

Continue reading: Are Computer Games Really That Different From Non-Digital games?
  The Suspense is Killing Me  
Posted 2007-06-21 by Tony Walsh
I had a conversation just like this two weeks ago.
  Perplex City Implodes  
Posted 2007-06-05 by Tony Walsh
This is a pity: Not only has Dan Hon left Mind Candy, maker of the successful ARG Perplex City, but so have a slew of other former staffers. Dan's brother Adrian has moved on from the Perplex City team, as has Andrea Phillips, Naomi Alderman, and David Varela. Obviously the game's second season is indefinitely postponed. I can't imagine things ended well (David Varela's post indicates the team was let go), but I do know that a group of this caliber will easily find a new project to work on, assuming they're all in the same boat.

[Update: Thanks to readers for pointing out I'd given David the wrong surname. Apologies for the error, it's been corrected.]
  Go, Game!  
Posted 2007-06-04 by Tony Walsh
Go, Game!
Obey the phone. It is never wrong.
Today I rampaged through the Mission District of San Francisco with a team of intrepid adventurers partaking in the Go Game, a technology-driven, urban puzzle-hunt with hints of live-action role playing and alternate reality gaming. Six teams of roughly five players each took to the streets, receiving mission instructions from a WiFi-enabled phone, and documenting their follies with a digital camera over a 2 - 3 hour period.

Tasks included a mix of clue-driven scavenging, interaction with non-player characters, and creative performance. My team, for example, had to recreate a famous moment in history with 30 seconds of video footage. We chose the splitting of the atom. Reviewing the footage collected from all teams at the end of the game was good fun.

Overall, I enjoyed the game, particularly since I haven't had a chance to tour San Francisco since arriving last Friday. I found the technology aspect a bit cumbersome, though. One of the co-founders of the game told me that play via any mobile phone is planned, which would really expand the possibilities for the Go Game, although I think the ideal situation would be to play with pay phones or voice calls on mobiles as an option in addition to text. Currently the game is played via text-based instructions and responses, which has its charms, but proved a little clunkier than I'd hoped. If they're going to stick with technology, I'd like to see a locative aspect added. Here's to the continuing evolution of the Go Game, which I understand is also available in my home town of Toronto.
  Catch Me in San Francisco  
Posted 2007-05-30 by Tony Walsh
On Friday I'll be trekking out to San Francisco for a week to lend my mentoring skills to the BAVC Producers Institute for New Media Technologies. In addition to guiding documentary filmmakers towards digital, non-linear and/or cross-media platforms and formats, I'll be part of a panel on June 2, and will be also be presenting on June 4.

New Media/New Meaning: Multi-Platform Technology, New Media Innovation and Documentary Storytelling
10am - 11:30am, Saturday, June 2 at KQED, 2601 Mariposa Street at Bryant, San Francisco
Panelists include: Ted Cohen, TAG Strategic (moderator); Chris O'Dea, MobiTV; Tim Olson, KQED Interactive; Rahdi Taylor, Sundance Documentary Institute; Josh Felser, Sony/Grouper; Anthony Marshall, Current TV; Scott Kirsner, Cinema Tech; Tony Walsh, Clickable Culture; Meghan Cunningham, Magnet Media, zoom-in online; Ben Batstone Cunningham, alt-zoom studios.

Game Development and Marketing Tools for Producers
10:30am - 12pm, Monday, June 4, location unknown.
I'll be presenting on selected video games and game forms, virtual worlds, and alternate reality games, showing how each has been used as an outlet for non-linear storytelling and (in certain cases) for marketing a specific property. Most likely I'll be covering serious games, newsgames, Second Life, and Ocular Effect, at least.
  ARG For Kids: ‘Central Institute for Exploration’  
Posted 2007-05-02 by Tony Walsh
C.I.E., an alternate reality game aimed at 8 - 12 year-olds, is currently in development by Rocketfuel Productions of Edmonton, Canada. The producers' official blog doesn't give a release date for the game, but it does paint an elaborate picture of what's to come:

"The C.I.E. (Central Institute for Exploration) follows the inner workings of a secret kids-only agency dedicated to exploring the past, present and future. When four C.I.E. Agents suddenly go missing, it’s up to the audience to work together to unravel a series of clues transmitted via mobile phones, blogs, podcasts, and video. Blending technology, science, real-world locations, interactive storytelling, and online community, C.I.E. activates kids (ages 8-12) in an alternate reality experience like no other."

According to Telefilm Canada, one of the project's funders, C.I.E.'s web site will be launched next January (it's currently visible and broken here), with an animated TV series planned for launch in 2 - 3 years.

Continue reading: ARG For Kids: ‘Central Institute for Exploration’
  ‘World Without Oil’: Alternate Reality Game With a Conscience  
Posted 2007-05-01 by Tony Walsh
World Without Oil asks what would happen if we ran out of oil on April 30, 2007. The month-long alternate reality game, aimed at raising awareness of and promoting discussion about oil dependency, solicits the input of "all web users" in creating content. According to the official press release, the game was funded by PBS, and was produced by Writerguy. The project's "participation architect" was ARG rockstar Jane McGonigal, who says in the press release "Alternate reality gaming is emerging as the way for the world to imagine and engineer a best-case-scenario future... If you want to change the future, play with it first."

It's great to see this tangible example of productive play in motion. There's even an educational hook for teachers, providing suggestions for class activities and assignments--even for those educational environments with limited access to technology. I can see the game being a good way for schools to get involved, but I wonder how many participants outside of a formal education session will have the time and skill to create enough compelling content. As of April 30, about 400 people had signed up to play, so even if a fraction of that player base are good storytellers the game could be a raging success. Good luck to all involved, and congratulations to the teams behind the curtain for contributing to positive social change.
  ‘ReGenesis Extended Reality Game’ Wins International Emmy  
Posted 2007-04-23 by Tony Walsh
‘ReGenesis Extended Reality Game’ Wins International Emmy
Xenophile snags International Interactive Emmy award. Pictured from L to R: Thomas Wallner, Catherine Warren (Bell Fund Board Member), Keith Clarkson, Patrick Crowe. Photo: Gary Hayes.
A belated huzzah is due to Canada's Xenophile Media for their ReGenesis Extended Reality Game (II), which won an International Emmy award for Interactive Program (tied with Zinc Roe Design for Zimmer Twins). The game was produced in association with Shaftesbury Films, in parallel with two seasons of their ReGenesis TV series roughly between late 2004 and early 2006. The interplay between the TV and cross-platform game elements included numerous hooks, including seemingly-user-generated plot-twists, synchronized live events, and a gripping web/TV simulcast at the end of the second season.

I worked with Xenophile as a game designer and writer on both seasons of the game, collaborating closely in particular with Creative Director Evan Jones (now of Stitch Media), writers from the show, and Kolody Inc. (a Toronto-based creative firm which did a fantastic job of visual and functional design on the project). This is the latest in a series of recent accomplishments for Xenophile, and surely not the last. Congrats, gang!
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