While going through some older files I found this case study for an ARG that I ran in 2007.
CINEMATIC GAMES: The first version of the cinema ARG started with a number of mashup screenings of my newest feature film HEAD TRAUMA. Version 1.0 was a collision of music, movies, gaming and tech. Here is a story that Current TV did about the release.
INCREASING THE REACH
For HOPE IS MISSING the goal was to create a social media driven ARG. We wanted the game to have various levels of interactivity. For instance, someone might just watch the web series and do nothing more – others might choose to dig deeper.
HOPE IS MISSING consisted of four web films that were loaded with hidden clues. The videos were released on stage6, myspace and xbox. By design we wanted to make the ARG (alternate reality game) accessible. In order to do so, we created layers of interactivity that allowed viewers to go as deep into the experience as they wanted.
The Interactive Layers:
1. just watch the videos
2. read the forums
3. dig for clues
4. capture and share clues
5. create their own worlds – blogs, wikis, forums, and chat rooms
Richard Chambers is searching for his fiancee named Hope who has been abducted. Hope returned home after receiving a series of strange late night phone calls from her mother. In the brief conversations her panicked mother is convinced that people are in the house and trying to kill her. After each call Hope phones the police but when they arrive they find nothing and Hope’s mother has no recognition of making any calls or the incident.
After Hope returns home she uncovers her mother’s strange nocturnal behaviors and realizes that her mother is not alone. Hope begins to dig deeper in an attempt to pull her mother out. But then Hope mysteriously disappears – abducted by a hooded figure – her last moments are captured by a surveillance camera.
As the date of Richard and Hope’s wedding approaches he becomes frustrated with the way the police are handling the case. He is determined to marry her on Oct. 20th. But as things are lucking grim Richard receives a strange package in the mail. Inside the package are a number of tapes that show Hope, a strange letter and a return address that only says Deep Throat. Richard reaches out the video sharing sites and social networks in an attempt to spread the word.
THE TAPES ARE RIDDLED WITH HIDDEN CLUES
We created four web episodes with the goal of releasing them leading up to the Warner Bros VOD release of HEAD TRAUMA. Each webisode was riddled with clues. There where audio clues that had backwards masking and subliminal frames that contained ciphers of varying degrees of difficulty. Once solved the clues lead to numerous hidden sites, blogs, social networking profiles and other media. They are what as know as rabbit holes in the ARG community which is a nod to Alice in Wonderland.
The HOPE IS MISSING ARG took a decentralized approach to releasing the game elements. ARGs typically will have many hidden sites and digital assets. For instance the 42 entertainment ARG for the THE DARK KNIGHT, the newest Batman film, has 10 different sites (as of 11.24.07). In order to increase our reach we gathered a number of partners and releasing outlets to help expand our reach.
As the game unfolded we leaked clues detailing a number of secret HEAD TRAUMA drive-in screenings. In order to find the the locations players remixed a collection of media through http://eyespot.com. As they remixed, certain combinations of footage unlocked hidden clues. These clues provided information about screening locations and point to additional hidden assets.
One of the subtle builds of the game was to blend the storyline of HOPE IS MISSING directly into the VOD promotion of HEAD TRAUMA. As a reward to players we offered a number of free screenings. The screenings were held in Milwaukee, San Francisco, San Raphael, and LA.
I was at the LA screening and over 70 people attended. The audience was a mix of people, some who were playing HOPE IS MISSING, others who discovered the location through friends that were playing, and some had simply stumbled upon the location and saw a movie playing.
The audience was a mixture people. There where those who were playing HOPE IS MISSING, others who discovered the location through friends that were playing, and finally some who had stumbled upon the location and saw a movie playing. During the screening audience members used their mobile phones to interact with the film’s characters. Then after the audience left, the movie followed them home. A couple days after the screening we called and texted everyone with a number of game related messages.
PLAYERS HELP TO SHAPE THE GAME
As players cracked the clues they were lead to hidden media, sites, blogs, and social networking pages. In some cases clues were multi-leveled and required keys in order to crack them. Often these harder clues would lead to a special call-in number that allowed the first 96 players into a special conference call. The calls included players and a number of moles from the game. During the calls players discussed clues and their theories around the game.ARGs are driven through community interaction so it is common to have moles or people within the game who assist with story or in some cases game direction. Players often help to shape game-play and in the case of HOPE IS MISSING we experience an interesting range of interactions as players created their own blogs, wikis, and forums around the game.
THE STATS AROUND THE GAME
Some of the videos break into the top 10 most watched clips on the Web – Vidmeter 10.18.07
*Player interactions based on aggregation of forum posts and video comments across known outlets (myspace, stage 6, eyespot, etc.) – does not include player generated sites, blogs and forums.