Thursday, September 18, 2008

WK5 (9-18) - Collaborative Storytelling

Thus concludes our look at the Three origins of ARG:
Social Networking (Tools)
Real World (Immersive) Elements
Collaborative (Interactive) Storytelling

Historical ARG game presentations start in 2 weeks!

HW: Finish TINAG and BR books for discussion next wk! (Grads be prepared to enlighten us on the other two too!) Email me your second project topic if you haven't yet. Also feel free to read and play the “find the ARG elements” game by finding the ARG elements in the UTD alum's speech.


Segosher said...

I'm playing an ARG with my 7-year old son. For him, TINAG is no joke. I confess that I'm really enjoying this ARG all the more because it is so real for him. He is wide-eyed and crazy about finding clues. He's also convinced that he belongs to a world renowned family, of a particular branch of spies and snake charmers. I could go on... the game is really cool but how far do I let this go? Is this warped?

webula said...

Nitin Patel Analysis of:Beyond Reality – A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming
& This is Not A Game

The introduction to “Beyond Reality: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming” reminds me of a scene from the Matrix when Neo receives a message from his computer “Knock Knock” and hears a knocking in the “real world” on his apartment door. He then follows the advice given to him by his “unreal” adviser in the computer world to “follow the white rabbit,” a girl with a rabbit tattoo in the real world. The book explores how this “Alternate Reality” comes to be, and shows us how the real and unreal worlds are blended together in ARGs.
There are four sections to the book:
Section One describes what ARGs are ad gives examples of them from HG Wells “War of the Worlds” through the AI game machine, “The Beast” and past adventure “Choose your Ending” books, as well as “The Heist”, “Perplex City” and “Iluvbees.”
Section Two explores the grand daddy of all ARGs “The Beast” part of the Spielberg Movie “AI.” We gain a deeper understanding of the Game from its “Cloudmaker” origins where Cabel Sasser created a web based discussion group to find out who Jeanine Salla was (Robot Therapist!). This group grew from 150 members in 48 hours after formation to 7400 members by the close of the game. This ARG, a collaboration between Dreamworks and Microsoft Corporation, was the first ARG to truly encompass all elements of an ARG as it is defined today. The book provides detailed notes and screenshots that lead the reader through the history of the game and successfully allows us to interact with and get involved in the plot and puzzles of the story line, even though we are accessing this as second hand closed information since the game has already run its course.
Section Three involves direct participation in an ARG - Route 66. We embark on a virtual journey across the USA, from the East Coast ot the West Coast in the tradition of Jack Kerouacs “On the Road” or the fictional character Martin Blackford. We see Martin’s website which begins our game, and through various clues, make a connection to the Cadillac Ranch and we discover what the “travelers” really are. We make a breakthrough, seeing how the main website changes every time a major email or communication comes down the line. Finally in the endgame we see how everything we have been playing through connects up and gives us a final solution and conclusion.
Section Four gets into the nitty-gritty of how ARG’s are constructed and what drives the players to complete the quest. We see how critical thinking and collaborative play drive the games. The intersection of real-world and virtual world is also important. We discover three major elements of analysis: 1.What’s the point of the game? 2. How does the author of the game achieve his goal? 3. What effect does it have on us as players?
We learn how the wise puppet master thinks and become puppet masters ourselves. We go through a really detailed web creation tutorial that provides us with technical knowledge of how to create catchy, clear and concise webpages. We also gain a greater understanding of how to use style and content as well as various “real” and “unreal” forms of delivery such as email, faxes, phone calls, television, web pages and forums to deliver content to the players.
This Is Not a Game by Dave Szulborski – is divide into Three Parts.
Part One covers Alternate Reality Games in Theory. Here we find out what constitutes a game and what is not. We learn the distinction between a Game and an Interactive Story. We also begin to see what the process is in Interactive authoring. We find out the four elements of ARGs:
1. The Definition of A Game:“play is something “consciously outside ‘ordinary’ life” or as Salen and Zimmerman say “A game is a system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules that results in a quantifiable outcome.”
2. The Rules and Winning Conditions – The Puppetmaster determines these mostly, but it is also defined and evolved by the players themselves.
3. The Game Mechanics and Components – This to is set by the Puppetmaster, but is subject to change and modification as the Game progresses and the dynamics of interaction change.
4. The Game Space- ARGs have no defined playing field or game space.
Part Two is about Alternate Reality Games in History. We look at preARG history. Choose your own adventure books, where the reader determines the outcome of a story by making a decision for the character become the next step in “video gaming” where graphical puzzles were added to point and click games. “Myst” is the highpoint of these puzzle adventure genre video games. “House of Leaves” by Mark Danielewski is mentioned as a first print digital spillover success.
Dave gives us an in depth look at “Ong’s Hat:Incunabula.” Unger’s game steps were an excellent precursor for today’s ARGs:
1) Create an interactive medium that immerses the public in an addictive, tantalizing story but keep the content restricted to certain personality types. Reveal concepts and ideas that generally represent your beliefs.
2) Along the way, feed this portion of the public information which may or may not be true about the story. (Filtration of the idiots)
3) Those that breach the truths and untruths may pass to the next level of information. Introduce more directed and personal information. Once again reveal accurate and inaccurate information. (Further idiot filtration)
4) As this select group narrows, inject information that more specifically reveals their personal belief systems, ideals, and goals.
5) f the users ideals, beliefs and goals have been properly modified by the process or the user already fits the mold,those persons are then accepted into the ‘fold’.”

These five steps seem to encapsulate everything that an ARG sets out to achieve.
“The Beast” is analyzed in depth. This classic AI movie spinoff became an entity of ots own, fueld by the “Cloudmakers” Forum. Lockjaw, Exocog and Change Agents are examined briefly. We look at the commercial element of ARGs. Chasing the Wish is talked about. Some other games such as “I Love Bees” (Halo) is looked at and we conclude with a look at the current and future state of Alternate Reality Games.
Part Three lets us explore Alternate Reality Games in Practice. It looks at actual Puppetmastering and the techniques involved in creating ARGs. We see how to create and run a Game. In conclusion Dave shows us how an alternate reality game should never admit that it is a game (hence the title of the book.) We see how big business is making ARGs part of their marketing and business plans. Microsoft spent over a million dollars apiece for two ARGs in the space of three years. Dave speculates that very soon, there will be direct profitability in pay to play ARGs. He also touches on the Social Engineering aspect of ARGs, and how “collective intelligence” and “smart mobs” will be the driving forces for the ARGs of the future.
Hyperstition is explained as fictional work that takes on the appearance of reality, such as the Blair Witch Project. “Nuograms” (secret knowledge revealed through a puzzle), “mythos” (cumulative knowledge from multiple sources) and “unbelief” (constructive escape from integrated thinking) are the three key ingredients in Hyperstition.
And finally, we see how ARGs are so much more than games. “Players remember the time that they have spent interacting with ARGs as a valued part of their lives.” These treasured memories, elevate the ARG into something akin to a special instance of “personal revelation and transformation.” Participants also forge strong and lasting social connections with other members of the online community.

After reading both books, as a budding ARG Puppet Master, I can honestly say that I gained a greater appreciation for the intense amount of creative energy and continuing maintenance required to keep an ARG game going. The inventor must already have an idea of an impetus and a final conclusion before he even begins to set up a game. Then, the players must be constantly motivated and stimulated to continue playing the game to its eventual conclusion. You have to make the game challenging enough to keep people interested, but not so challenging that players just give up because they feel that the game is too difficult. Also, you need to constantly use a combination of different media and delivery methods to get essential game furthering knowledge to the players. You also need to have some “plants” and a forum or two to help players untangle the plotlines when game play gets stymied.
All in all, a challenging but very exciting medium to be involved in right now!

Leslie said...

I posted this originally on 9.18.08, but had a blogger error code and then forgot to here it is-

I think I might be getting the hang of this blog thing as I see that many conversations we have had over the week as we ran into each other are now posted here, ie. not feeling comfortable yet about posting on sites, which is my concern also, so I am glad we are clearing that up.
Regarding the rave- Sherrie, I laughed out loud when you described what the spectators were seeing and hearing (and yes, I remember Bandstand)!
And very interesting webula- I have had some similar thoughts but not about sound tracking your life- we’ll have to talk-
Here is some other info for you guys on interactive ideas or projects people are doing that you might also be interested in-

Yellow Arrow- is a “global creative community making a new M.A.A.P (Massively Authored Artistic Publication) of the world”

Dialtones- A Telesymphony- “large-scale concert performance whose sounds are wholly produced through the carefully choreographed ringing of the audience’s own mobile phones”

Sky Ear-Sky Ear is a one-night event in which a glowing "cloud" of mobile phones and helium balloons is released into the air so that people can dial into the cloud and listen to the sounds of the sky

Zen Almasri said...

This sounded pretty sweet at the beginning of the semester but I dont think that the ARG's I played had any collaborative storytelling. From all the presentations on Currents Games we've seen it seems like Collaborative Storytelling is gone.

Andrew Stallings said...

Doc confused me. I claimed in my final presentation that Quantum Code did not have collaborative storytelling. (In my opinion it didn't even have a story) But he disagreed.

So is collaborative storytelling

A) Players influencing the story
B) Each players receiving a unique experience. IE interacting with the characters 1 on 1.