Asek Core ARG
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Asek Core ARG



The highlights of the Asek Core ARG produced with Flint Dille through UCLA.

The highlights of the Asek Core ARG produced with Flint Dille through UCLA.



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Asek Core ARG Presentation Transcript

    The Experience
  • 2. The project
    The ASEK CORE Alternate Reality Game was an experimental ARG developed through UCLA’s media lab with the collaboration of trans-media veteran Flint Dille.
  • 3. The goal
    To develop and launch a 3 week online game experience that would culminate in a 2 hour Real-World experience on campus.
    Following a classic ARG structure the game was to unfold across various platforms including websites, blogs, facebook, forums, emails and text messages.
  • 4. The challenges
    Selecting a theme for the game, developing the characters and story around it and creating the numerous assets required to tell the plot across multiple platforms in less than 7 weeks.
    Going live:
    Creating a successful rabbit hole to recruit players and interacting with them on a continual basis through email, facebook, message boards and text messages.
    Establishing clear online game mechanics.
  • 5. The Rabbit hole
    The approach was to recruit players through flyers posted across campus.
    The first version using a mysterious “Live the Game” tag line showed little results.
    The second version specifically asking for Beta players drew more attention but the most successful one was the “Zombie alert” flyer later defaced with a “Stop the Game” message.
  • 6. Introducing the asek core
    The link found on the flyers lead the players to the asek core website where they were asked a series of strange questions to “ascertain their asek core validity”.
  • 7. The Questions
    Who did you root for in 'Terminator'?
    Of all of the video game characters you’ve played, which one liked you the best? Why?
    Have you ever used cheat codes to advance your game play? Do you feel guilty about it? Why or why not?
    Do you believe a computer can be held responsible for a crime? Under what circumstances?
    An image exists at the bottom of this page. What do you see in this picture?
  • 8. First contact
    Players who answered the questions received an email from the mysterious asek core.
    The email also contained the first puzzle.
  • 9. The forum
    As players were trying to solve the asek core’s puzzles they were contacted by a “fellow” player named Macloud who had set up a forum to beat the game together.
  • 10. Tapping into the Hive mind
    The forum became a central location for players to discuss theories and share clues or new elements of the plot.
  • 11. Enter Allyson Aurora
    Allyson is your regular student who likes to hang out with her friends, chat on facebook and blog about her daily life. She exchanges Valentine’s wishes with her boyfriend Brian and teases him about spending too much time playing “the game”.
  • 12. But all is not well…
    Something strange happens to Brian while playing “the game” and one of Allyson’s friends captures the moment on camera.
    Brian disappears and Allyson is now concerned that something happened to him.
    She posts the footage on youtube warning people about the game and asking them for help.
    But someone seems to be after her…
  • 13. Enter the players
    Allyson goes into hiding.
    She contacts the players on the message boards urging them to stop playing the game before they also get “brainwashed”. She asks them to send her an invitation on facebook but only if they can solve an enclosed riddle to prove that they are human and not part of the game.
    But who is behind the game and what really happened to Brian?
  • 14. So the Game begins…
    As players are lead to various blogs, websites and videos they uncover the mystery behind Brian’s disappearance.
  • 15. The characters
    Allyson Aurora: a girl on the run
  • 16. The characters
    Brian Collyns: the missing boyfriend who was playing “the game”.
  • 17. The characters
    Macloud: a “fellow player” on the message boards.
  • 18. The characters
    Edgar Wright:
    a Doctor with a dark secret
  • 19. The characters
    Robyn McFaddin: an inquisitive journalist
  • 20. The characters
    A mysterious “friend” who appears on Brian’s wall.
  • 21. The characters
    and … the asek core ??????
  • 22. The plot
    The internet gained consciousness.
    Its goal is to control humans to “better their lives”.
    It discovered Dr. Edgar, a scientist who devised a brain-driving device.
    With the help of this device it turned humans into “flesh puppets”.
    It now uses “the game” to draw more humans into its web.
    It already turned Brian into one of its agents.
    Now it is after Allyson who is trying to stop the game.
  • 23. The twist
    But how trustworthy is Allyson?
    Why did she secretly meet with Dr. Edgar?
    Is she part of the asek core?
  • 24. The clues
    Clues were found in emails, websites, eCards, profiles, images and blogs.
  • 25. The tools used
  • 26. Online
    Character accounts
    Secret Facebook group
    Gmail and yahoo accounts
    Gmail voice
    Google earth
    Dedicated websites
  • 27. Real-World event
    The team had to work with a minimal budget ie find creative solutions to bring the cygents (humans controlled by the AI) to life. We used flashlights and headsets to create our brand.
  • 28. Real-World event
    Physical items were used as clues in various locations.
  • 29. Real-world event
    Nearly 40 players showed up for the final confrontation.
    Players had to text in answers to the onsite puzzles to receive further instructions from the asek core while avoiding the cygents. 
  • 30. The resolution
    In the end the players rescued Allyson and Dr. Edgar, retrieved a secret password to return all the flesh puppets to normal (including Brian) and defeated the asek core.
  • 31. What worked
    Zombie flyer: It was the most successful version of our rabbit hole.
    Intriguing story premise: a game that goes wrong, cygents and flesh puppets, a missing boyfriend and a girl that needs to be rescued.
    Extremely flexible team, quick implementation of the various assets.
    Presence across multiple mediums brought the story alive.
    An active forum to keep players engaged.
    Corroborative evidence in the form of external links.
    Players loved the cygents.
  • 32. What didn’t work
    Needed to have the story and assets in place before going live: missed opportunities, inconsistencies in the messages.
    Troll on the message boards: needed to patrol them and potentially ban disruptive players
    Privacy concerns: had to walk a fine line between TINAG and scaring players off.
    The mechanics for the interaction with the cygents were not clearly defined.
    Inconsistent location based puzzles: some worked well, others didn’t (math, sudoku)
  • 33. Lessons from a writing perspective
    Think of how a story can be best told across various mediums and which medium to use for which story element (a blog, a facbook update, group notification, message board post, email, video…)
    Learn to develop a multiple personality disorder because that’s what it will feel like when you keep logging in and out of various accounts, responding to yourself or to players as various characters.
    Players will try to contact you when you least expect it. Example: I was logged in as Allyson, responding to messages she had received when a player realized I was online and started messaging me.
    Fine line between being responsive and not losing the TINAG factor:
    The many levels of a character: in one of the message board discussions a player posted a message for Macloud, stating he was his brother Fox. I went along with the joke, thinking this would be part of Macloud’s personality but one of the players perceived this as breaking the illusion.
  • 34. All is well that ends well
  • 35. Links for a first hand experience core website (Rabbithole) (article on Dr. Edgar’s research) (Edgar Wright website) (Allyson’sblog) (Dr. Edgar’s blog) (Robyn McFadden’s blog) (forum) (asek core phone message) (Brian’s eCard) (google earth file) (UCLA neuroscience article) (“Why I’m hiding” footage) (“Stop the game now” footage)
  • 36. Turn inturn onPlay hardlive the game
    The Game isn’t over….