For our Big Games class, my group is going to build an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that presents an unfolding narrative told through fragmented video and hidden puzzles on the web. Our ARG encourages crowdsourcing techniques among players to inspire them to help a fictional character solve a serial murder case wrapped up in a government conspiracy :-)

My classmates and I were inspired by the alternate reality game, “The Beast“, created by Microsoft in 2001 to promote Steven Spielberg’s film with Dreamworks “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence”, which spurred the creation of the Cloudmakers group on the web that persisted long after The Beast game was finished. The setup for our game was also inspired by the book Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson.

In our alternate reality game, players will enter the game through a series of short video clips found around NYC in QR codes that tell the story of Amy Toloni, a forensic toxicologist recruited by the NYPD to consult on a mysterious serial murder case. However, only shortly after being asked to provide assistance, Amy is suddenly dropped from the case, and all evidence has disappeared as though the murders never happened. Unable to forget about the case and with all the signs pointing toward a conspiracy, Amy launches her own investigation. But when she finds herself being followed and her apartment broken into and trashed, she realizes she must recruit help, and leaves behind the video clips of her story for ordinary people to find, in the hopes that they will become intrigued and find ways to assist her. Players will interact with Amy through existing social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, and online forums, where Amy will leave encrypted information about what she has managed to uncover thus far about the unfolding case. It will be up to the players to put the pieces together and help her solve the mystery — which may reveal truths that no one could have ever imagined.

The project is both an experiment in storytelling through fragments, and a foray into the world of alternate reality games and how to construct artificial experiences that seamlessly blend into players’ own realities. We want to convey the “This is not a game” mentality by creating a fictional person who seems as real as possible. We will accomplish this both by proliferating a holistic online identity and by telling her story in an engaging and familiar way. The game is intended to be played over a long period of time, depending on how long it takes players to unlock clues and solve puzzles.

The game will consist of the following:
– A series of 8-10 video clips that tell one longer narrative, uploaded to different YouTube/Vimeo accounts with entirely different names, and hidden throughout the city using QR codes
– Different physical and electronic artifacts related to the subject matter of the game and its main character, distributed throughout NYU and across the web on different web sites
– A fictional character, Amy, whose identity is propagated online through a personal website, blog, Facebook account, Twitter, etc.
– A series of posts on forums related to aliens and government conspiracies by Amy
– A pre-made set of puzzles and challenges that will be issued to players by Amy once they begin interacting with her in real-time

Oh yeah, and if you were wondering about the name of our game — A.L.T. — we named our character Amy L. (short for Lucia) Toloni whose initials spell out “A.L.T.” So, we thought “A.L.T. the A.R.G.” sounded kinda catchy.

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