Last Friday I attended a Channel 4 Talent Inspiration Session on ARGs as part of the Hello Digital festival in Birmingham. Speaking were Dan Hon, Alex Fleetwood and Hazel Grian, although the day was designedly informal and was meant to encourage dialogue between us, the assorted noobs and delegates, and them, the experts, and to a large extent it succeded. Out There
I've written before about ARGs on The Digitalist, and obviously no one could have missed THAT publishing ARG but the day was interesting to get some new perspectives on what has been happening. Alex Fleetwood discussed his Hide and Seek festival, something I was annoyed to miss early this year. The festival is one of "social games and playful experiences" and specializes in live, pervasive gaming. Most enticing of all was a game called Journey Through the Night. The premise of the game is that players have to get from Point A to Point B in London via a series of checkpoints; at the same time a bunch of people are chasing them and if a player gets caught they to are a chaser. Like "It" meets psychogeography via a benign version of Resident Evil, kind of. What appeals is the way a new dimension is added to the urban space- it becomes naraitivized, experienced as an adrenalin fuelled game space not the trudge home. He also gave a mention to the Sleeveface phenonmenon- I for one love it.
Hazel Grian was talking about work she is doing at the extraordinary Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol. In partnership with HP Labs (who are building some seriously cool technology with mobiles and GPS) they are pushing the boundaries of what media is and can do. Hazel has been involved in web projects like the sucessful Bebo drama Kate Modern and has now been working on pioneering ARGs like The Sky Remains, which took the extreme step of building in its own social networking site. The advice was: don't do this, use the SNSs that are out there already. Audiences are hard to come by, go where they are.
Lastly Dan Hon was chatting about some of the stuff they have been getting up to at Six to Start and before that the work he did on Perplex City. The quality of what is produced by Six to Start is never less than brilliant- I have been playing there latest offering with Puffin, a young Bond text adventure- and it's fantastically good fun. Dan and Six to Start have developed an excellent set of principles for ARGs- they should not need instructions, they should tell a good story, they should have some kind of commercial viability, they should be well and intuitively designed. This is ARGing looking to the big picture, gesturing towards the mass audience while keeping the quality high. Legendary ARG developer Jane McGonigal (whose latest ARG was the environmentally minded World Without Oil) cited Dan and Six to Start at this years SXSW as some of the most innovative and interesting ARG developers in the world so it will be interesting to see what happens next.
The Future of the ARG, haphazardly guessed at, in miniature.