By lance weiler, October 26th, 2007

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This past week, we concluded our latest cinema ARG experiment entitled HOPE IS MISSING. The design of HIM is covered in an article that I wrote for the current issue of filmmaker magazine. This post will focus on the results of the experiment. A more detailed case study surrounding the cinema ARG will be released later in Nov.

Layers of interactivity
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 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

Audience members became collaborators
Viewers were encouraged to share information with each other. They began to pull the clues from the videos and post them. They spent hours combing through the videos looking for clues and then decoding the various codes that they found within them.

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We received thousands of screen grabs via email as players sent their tips to the game’s main character Richard Chambers http://hopeismissing.blogspot.com.

Certain players even pulled audio from the videos and processed it to pull out hidden clues that were either backward masked or hidden within certain frequencies.

The game spreads
The game was designed to be a meme of sorts where the game-play would encourage the spread of its media. Players created their own remixes which unlocked hidden clues. These mixes along with the four episodes began turning up in various blogs, social networking profile pages, and video sharing sites.

In addition players started their own blogs, wikis, forums and chat rooms surrounding the game. On a given night it was common for there to be multiple chat rooms going with people discussing theories and sharing clues.

Secret Screenings
As the game unfolded we started to introduce clues that lead players to a number of secret screenings of HEAD TRAUMA. The screenings were held as mobile drive-ins thanks to collaboration with mobmov.org. In some cases players drove over a hundred miles to attend the screenings.

The numbers so far:

Over 2 million 2.5 million views across myspace, stage 6, xbox and other sites as of 11.7.07

Average play time of 8 hours based on an end game poll of 350 players – in some cases the hardcore players logged close to 40 hours.

It is hard to gauge the total amount of players of the game but based on page views to the multitude of hidden sites and media we estimate that there were close to 20,000 heavy players.

Over 4,000 emails from players

Over 500 phone calls to the Hope is Missing hotline

Links
http://www.hopeismissing.blogspot.com
http://www.myspace.com/hopeismissing
http://stage6.divx.com/Hope-is-Missing

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Posted in BTS arg audience community experiment gaming remix theatrical vidsocial web 2.0

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

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