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  Why ‘Heroes’ is a ‘360 Experience’  
Posted 2007-04-23 by Tony Walsh
Fabric of Folly's Dan Taylor summarizes NBC's cross-platform offerings for its TV series Heroes, which extends well beyond standard "show site" material into genre-appropriate graphic novels and user-generated content. According to Taylor, "huge swathes of unofficial audience created content" outstrips official show content by over double (not sure how he's measuring"volume of content" though).

At least a few user-generated ideas seem to feed back into the series as series creator Tim Kring says in an official video clip. The fact that fan input is captured and responded to (even if not in an obvious way) is probably one reason why the levels of user-generated content are so high (this seemed to work for LOST, too). Another reason has to be that NBC is actually permitting fan fiction and other derivative works to flourish rather than fire a barrage of lawyers across the community's bow.

Continue reading: Why ‘Heroes’ is a ‘360 Experience’
  Toronto’s Xenophile Media Racks Up The Nominations  
Posted 2007-04-16 by Tony Walsh
Toronto-based cross-platform TV company Xenophile Media has been nominated for a few awards recently, including a Interactive Emmy last month (PDF) for The ReGenesis Extended Reality Game - II, a Banff World Television Award for the Fallen Alternate Reality Game yesterday and a CNMA Award for The ReGenesis Extended Reality Game - II today. Additionally, lovely and talented Xenophile co-founder Patrick Crowe is up for a CNMA nomination for Producer of the Year. Xenophile's ARG co-productions have already accumulated a few awards, including a SXSW Web Award earlier this year for Fallen. The ReGenesis series of games scored a Gemini Award and a Banff TV Award in 2006.

I've had the opportunity to work with Xenophile on the ReGenesis series of ARGs, and the Fallen ARG as a game designer and writer. Congrats to the team at Xenophile and their fine collaborators, such as My Pet Skeleton, which brought the Oculus to life.
  Play ‘Cruel 2 B Kind’ In Your City  
Posted 2007-04-13 by Tony Walsh
Local ARGitecht Lindsay Mills sends word of a Toronto-based session of live-action game Cruel 2 B Kind to be held May 4, 2007. The "benevolent assassination" game was co-created by veteran designers Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost, and involves launching random acts of kindness against others. Hopefully other players, but since no information is given about one's assassination targets, it's a bit hit and miss, resulting in a spectacle worth signing up for even as an innocent bystander.

Lindsday says that on May 4, "sign-in starts at 7pm, game is from 7:30-8:30pm. It's free to play, all that's required is one cell phone for each team with txt/SMS capabilities because it's how teams send in their kills for points." The Toronto edition of Cruel 2 B Kind is intended to help promote the upcoming ARG-like TorGame event, planned for launch later this year. Other Cruel 2 B Kind locales this spring include Santa Monica, Seattle, and Gothenburg.
  TorGame 2007 In the Works  
Posted 2007-04-05 by Tony Walsh
TorGame, a grassroots group of Toronto-based creatives, is gearing up for a second year of ARG-like play on the city's streets. I was involved a little bit in the early and late stages of the group's Waking City game, which launched late in 2006 with around 100 players grouped into 20 teams. A handful of the participants blogged and photographed the proceedings. For many players, this was a first encounter with ARG-like play--a mashup of live-action role play, puzzle-hunts, and urban exploration. I have a feeling TorGame's second year will be even better than the first.

TorGame is holding a meeting on April 12, 2007 at the Lillian H. Smith Library for those interested in getting involved.
  The ‘Static’ Experience:  Location-Based Audio Drama  
Posted 2007-03-26 by Tony Walsh
Theater-savvy Torontonians will be treated to the launch of Static this week, basking in a "multi-media, interdisciplinary experience" that brings a combination of audio drama, theatrical vignettes, dance performance and interactive installations to York Quay Centre. Via MP3 players, Static's audience tunes into the thoughts of a central character for a tour around the venue, absorbing the event's sights and sounds.

I hope to be able to attend a performance, as I suspect Static may synergize well with alternate reality gaming, pervasive electronic gaming, and live-action gaming. Even knowing as little as I do about what Static has in store of me, I can imagine how an experience like this could easily be made more game-like. Not that I think theater is necessarily improved by game-play, just that I can't help but look at a cross-media experience like Static and think of gaming.

Continue reading: The ‘Static’ Experience:  Location-Based Audio Drama
  Evangelize an Evolving Game Form with IonARG  
Posted 2007-03-20 by Tony Walsh
The Initiative on Alternate Reality Gaming was formed by a group of ARG developers, players and community members late last year. Aiming to evangelize, archive, and support the still-evolving genre, IonARG went public at ARGFest 2007, and has put out an open call for volunteers.

The IGDA formed an ARG special-interest group back in 2005, occasionally rubbing the ARG community the wrong way, so I can't help but see the IonARG's formation as a reaction to this (no judgment intended). It will be interesting to see how the two organizations interact--on the surface, it seems as though there's substantial overlap in agendas. I'm not sure yet if this means the groups will compliment each other or compete. Here's hoping that if the two groups don't end up playing nicely together, a little healthy competition will have productive results.
  Puzzle Me This  
Posted 2007-03-19 by Tony Walsh
Ever since I got involved in alternate reality game design I've been keeping a storehouse of unused puzzle fragments and mechanics--the idea being that I can dip into my magical treasure-chest on short notice and pull out something good to develop or refine. Sources include newspaper clippings, scans of antique books (Roman-era encryption, anyone?), top-10 lists, factoids, URLs and my own scribblings.

Building this repository is lonely work, though, as a puzzle is essentially "lost" in the wild the moment its shared with anyone else. If it's a one-solution trick, then it's used up the moment players get their hands on it, but if it's more of a mechanic (i.e. a method of devising or solving a certain type of puzzle) it probably has a longer shelf-life, despite the novelty being ruined upon release. It really sucks not being able to bounce my storehouse of ideas off anyone else, not just for sanity-check purposes, but because it's hard to tell if some of the ideas are original. I've got a doozy of a contemporary code system burning a hole in my pocket, and I'm dying to know if it's been done before.
  And the Award Goes To…  
Posted 2007-03-12 by Tony Walsh
I'm pleased to report that the Fallen Alternate Reality Game won a SXSW Web Award last night in the Experimental category, a win not only for those involved (Xenophile Media, Matt Wolf, ABC Family) but for the genre at large. I was fortunate enough to have been involved in the project as a game designer and writer, joining over 100 other contractors and collaborators in a frenzied, globe-hopping enterprise. Rock on, extended team!
  Luncheon With the Stars  
Posted 2007-03-10 by Tony Walsh
This year's SXSW is turning out to be even more social than last year--not that the panels aren't interesting, just that the impromptu get-togethers are more engaging (as is the way with conferences, apparently). Today I had the pleasure of lunching with this morning's ARG panel, specifically with fellow Torontonian Evan Jones, displaced Brits Dan Hon and Alice Taylor, the wise Brooke Thompson, and the crafty Brian Clark. Fruity drinks FTW! I'd met everyone in the posse previously except Alice, who turned out to be as clever, punchy and charming in person as her writing suggests. Yay!

Over lunch I learned that "The Ocular Effect," (aka Fallen alternate reality game) a project I worked on last summer with Toronto's Xenophile Media, has been nominated for a SXSW Web Award in the "Experimental" category. Luckily Evan Jones (creative director), Thomas Wallner (co-producer), and myself (game designer) are all here in Austin in case the stage needs rushing.
  Notes: ‘Attack of the ARGs!’  
Posted 2007-03-10 by Tony Walsh
SXSW panel Attack of the ARGs--it's a full room, standing-room only. Check the official listing for more info on the participants, my very rough and abbreviated notes follow:

Moderator Alice Taylor: "Where do you see ARGs going?"
Brian Clark- Last weekend was the ARG fest in San Francisco, included filmmakers behind the Lonely Girl series [notes how the series spawned ARG interest and its own unofficial--then official--game].
Evan Jones- Interested to see some of the mainstream-level ARGs emerge; there is an audience that wants to engage in a story on a much briefer level.
Brooke Thompson- More TV shows will adopt ARG play... we will be seeing how games can help people work, find places in their cities, interact with others... ARGs will spread out to include serious gaming.
Brian Clark- There are more people watching the scene than participating in it.
Dan Hon- It's hard to get into a game that's 2 years long and already in progress. We've been looking into TV. What do TV shows do to help viewers catch up halfway through the season? We're looking into episodic gaming; bite-sized chunks; short-run games.

Continue reading: Notes: ‘Attack of the ARGs!’
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