Jeanine Salla the Sentient Machine therapist (i love bees)

London Phone boxes

A Puppetmaster flung back the alternative reality game universe today. I've always heard of it but not really looked into it. I am currently getting involved in the ilovebees.com game, which started with the Halo2 trailer. But I may have hit the ARG market too late because the big guns are starting to take notice. Yahoo, However the social aspects are kinda of being talked about at Smartmobs and blogged of course.

So what is this all about? Well for a histroy lesson its worth checking out unfictions introduction. It talks about the first major game which was AI's Beast. And Majestic by EA was ment to bring forward a new movement in the game industry but was closed down due to September 11th. Thinking back, nokiagame was my first contract with this genre of gaming. Its not the same, but drove my attention to unfiction games.

Ok so whats the big deal your thinking? Isnt this like Flashmobbing some of you may be thinking? Well I think this huge and untapped as of yet. Yes it can be used for marketing and advertising but I've already got a idea up my sleeve for education. And goodness think about the massive amount of stats one game could generate. I'm sure marketers would love a bit of that. Whats really odd is that it has not hit this side of the ocean hard yet. Most of the games have been played in America and centre around american culture. Only I love bees has made its way across the ocean, but I do hear that there is plans a foot to change the situation – not to start rumours of course.
From a gamers point of view the tools are there to be much more organised. I do believe the unfiction forums is one of the first I've seen with RSS per topic and per post. There using IRC, Wiki's, Email and Forums to get sorted on games, while the game rules are being bent in anyway possible. Number 8 is very interesting indeed, being a selfcailmed hacker of some sorts. The ability to reverse engineer files, turn over weak websites, cause transformation effects and ultimately peer around the curtain is too much of temptation. But the Unfiction community looks down on such underhand conduct, and weed out people who do so. I actually almost got involved in Project MU but I remember it being very american bias.

From a puppetmasters point of view, things are very interesting. They can use equal tools to the gamers to origanse themselves. But they need to use higher level security as the arms race for information is on. Also the presure to build bigger and better games must be huge. One of the things I thought about is relating the truth and the unreal. You could set a game in current times and use real permalinks with sites which are simular but unreal (i think there already doing this?) I also havent seen much in the way of Blogs being used? I can imagine teaming up with multiple bloggers to fill the blogsphere with unfiction news, forcing gamers to look inside rss feeds and special search engines like Feedster. I mean think about it, you could drop stuff into a picture and put it in Flickr and only the clued up would catch on. Talking of which, the internet has moved on and so could the games, why not use RESTful webservices where you have to fiddle with the urls to get what you want out?

I find the social aspect of the unfiction games very interesting and I love the way the gamers think out the box to outsmart the puzzles and puppetmasters. But equally the puppetmasters scour the internet to eves drop on IRC chats and follow threads on forums to see when puzzles are near to be finished and by who. They build up profiles and change the paths according to whos involved. Anyhow, tomorrow I will be joining the I love bees game tomorrow at 6pm to answer a call in Soho from our pupptmasters. I reckon it will be inside a cafe not in a phone box.

An account of the i love bee game I took place in today, from Flidget Jerome.

Today's axon hunters were Diandra, cubicgarden, Sarah, Rogue Element, bcriswell, Miles and myself. Cubicgarden should be along later with pictures.

Bcriswell had a GPS unit with him, and located the coordinate point on the triangular traffic island in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. There's no phones anywhere near there, so we're taking this to mean we're meant to go underground.

There's 14 phones in total in the row Rogue Element already reported about. Starting from the right, we're missing for sure the first, second and sixth in the row. We also lost control of the 4th and 13th for some of the time we were expecting Melissa's call.



So yes we failed, but the seven of us did a good job to cover the 14 phones which were public. Maybe next time…

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.