Ming the Mechanic:
Alternate Game Realities

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Alternate Game Realities2004-10-25 17:54
17 comments
by Flemming Funch

Wired has an article about the I love Bees game. Which is apparently close to being done, and I haven't played it. But it is very interesting as a phenomenon.
I Love Bees is the latest and perhaps most ambitious of the growing genre known as alternate-reality games. In it, widely dispersed players coordinate to find and answer thousands of ringing pay phones all across the United States and provide correct answers to recorded questions.

When all the answers have been supplied, the latest episode in an internet-based War of the Worlds-esque radio serial is unlocked and made available to its rabid fans.

"I think it's a new form of interactive entertainment that is still in its infancy," Steve Peters, who runs ARGN, the leading clearinghouse for information and discussion about alternate-reality games, said of I Love Bees. "It's a new way of storytelling. We've had novels and movies, and these things kind of blur the lines of fiction and in some ways invade the real world."

For those who obsessively play I Love Bees, the point is to take part in the creation and distribution of the radio drama. To do so, players log onto the game's website each week to find the latest clues and a list of the pay phones that will be called."

The site lists the GPS coordinates for each phone and the time it will be called. More than a million unique visitors have come to the I Love Bees website, the game's designers said.

Six main characters from the year 2552 prepare for a great war in the storyline. Each time a player correctly answers a pay-phone question, he or she is treated to 30 seconds of new material. Over the course of the game, the plot unfolds, revealing a menacing alien army that threatens 26th-century Earth and only intervention from the past can help.

The most exciting element of the game for some players is the possibility that they will get one of the rare live calls in which the drama's actors talk to whoever answers the phone and then incorporate the conversation into the show itself.
That's the interesting part, that the realities bleed together, and the game encroaches on one's everyday reality. There have been other attempts of that, where a game will call people's phones, send them SMSes, e-mails, faxes, etc., acting as if what goes on in the game is happening in the real world. Which of course means that it kind of IS happening in the real world. Another step towards realities becoming more virtual, and virtual realities being more real. Is it good, is it bad? Well, it is inevitable for one thing. And it can be fun. And it will make us gradually have to re-think what is reality.


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17 comments

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