Just days away…

It’s crazy here at ARGFest HQ as we finish pulling together all the bits & pieces of what is, most definitely, going to be an outstanding event!

The conference schedule has been finalized and is one heck of a program. Everyone seems to want to know what sessions we’re most looking forward to and, every time, our answers change! It’s that good.

Steve Peters is serving as this year’s Grand Inquisitor and, as such, he’ll be helping to keep the sessions moving and making sure that none of the hard questions go unasked. A definite challenge this year with 10 sessions & 25+ speakers covering everything from gender & engagement issues to more specific looks at television, casual games, and public play.

But the conference isn’t only sessions. We also have workshops & small group gatherings. So, whether you want to spend your time getting your hands dirty (creating a street game, building ARG props & artifacts, or learning about writing for transmedia) or meeting with people facing similar challenges or looking at similar issues as you, you can.

One of the more exciting parts of this years conference is the dotmocracy. Throughout the event, ARGFest attendees & those following along online will be letting us know how they feel about a dozen or more issues & ideas on alternate reality gaming & transmedia & public play. These will help start conversations and, possibly, debates. But more than that, they will be a great way to figure out where some of the current thoughts & trends in this stuff is and where we might be headed. (help us out by tweeting issues & ideas to be included. use the #argfest hashtag)

The festival schedule will be announced on Tuesday – but we’ll tease you with the fact that we’ve got a handful of some of the most creative games we’ve ever seen. And we’re not entirely sure why, but it looks like someone thought this was a job seminar and not a games festival and so, if you’re looking for a job at some company called Socks, Inc, you just might get a chance to apply! And, in this economy, who’s not looking for a job or something to fall back on?

And, of course, there are the parties! This year, they will all be held at the W, in a room with amazing views of Atlanta & Piedmont Park.  The Booze & Shmooze on Thursday, sponsored by No Mimes Media & Fourth Wall Studios, is designed for meeting old friends & making new ones. It’s the first parties and, if history holds, will come with a surprise or two. On Friday is our Keynote Dinner which will not only come with some amazing food, but some inspiring thought as Maureen McHugh gives the keynote address. Saturday Night, after a day of play, we gather again at the W for fun food & good times.

It’s going to be an amazing four days and we cannot wait to see you!

If you haven’t already registered, you’ll want to do that before Wednesday (prices jump at the door). And, of course, if you or your company would like to sponsor us or one of the events – get in touch!

Sponsor ARGFest today & get some great advice!

Are you or your company looking for help with alternate reality gaming, transmedia storytelling, or experience design? Great! Brooke Thompson, the ARGFest Chair, has graciously agreed to donate her time in exchange for ARGFest sponsorships. For as little as $1000 (a Silver level sponsorship), you can get her to help you out – whether you’re wanting to learn more about what all of this means or needing her to take a comprehensive look at your existing plans. If you’re local to Atlanta, she’ll come by your offices and spend a day (or more!) with you to help you get on the right track. if you’re a bit further away, that’s not a problem – she does almost all of her work remotely and if you’d like her to stop by your offices, she will, but you’ll have to cover her travel expenses, too.

This is a great deal – with a sponsorship, you’ll get a bit of promotion, a couple tickets to the event next week, and, of course, you’ll be helping to support ARGFest and all of the great knowledge that comes out of it. But, it’s only available for a short time, so get in touch today!

Brooke has nearly ten years experience with alternate reality gaming & transmedia storytelling and has worked on award-winning projects for major studios & television shows, corporate & military training/teambuilding, and a number of independent projects. In addition to chairing ARGFest, she serves as the chair for the International Game Developers Association’s Special Interest Group on Alternate Reality Games. You can learn more about her at her website, www.giantmice.com.

Maureen McHugh to Keynote ARGFest

We are extremely pleased to announce that Maureen McHugh will be delivering the keynote this year. Maureen is an award winning science fiction writer who, for almost a decade now, has been exploring what it means to write in a transmedia environment. She has been a writer and/or managing editor behind some of the most popular and critically claimed experiences to date including I Love Bees (Halo 2), Why So Serious (The Dark Knight), and Year Zero (the Nine Inch Nails album of the same name).

Credits aside, Maureen has an incredible grasp how to write and deliver a story across mediums in a way that draws people in. She understands how to work with designers, producers, and technology in a way that brings a story to life for the audience without the technology or complexity becoming a barrier. It’s a tricky balancing act and one that few can do as well.

We hope that you will join us on Friday, July 16 for what is sure to be an evening filled with insights & fun stories from the trenches.

Connecting the dots

Have you heard of a dotmocracy? It’s a pretty cool concept… you write an issue or idea on a piece of paper and folks can fill in a little bubble indicating how much they agree or disagree with the statement. It’s not only a great way to get a feel for how a group is thinking about things, but it starts conversations. And it’s something that we’re going to be doing at ARGFest this year.

We’ll have posters up throughout the conference where you can add your thoughts and even elaborate on them if you want. Friday, right before the last session of the day, we’ll quickly flip through the posters and let everyone know some of the results, talk about some of the controversies (or lack thereof), and see how we compare with the folks participating online. After the Fest, we’ll post the results for all to see.

Tbe thing is… we need ideas & issues to put on the posters. That’s where you come in! Tweet your ideas, using the #argfest & #dot hashtags, and we’ll put the best dozen or so up for the dotmocracy. Don’t tweet? Then leave a comment!

Here are a couple examples to get you started:

  • There will never be a mainstream ARG.
  • All media will become transmedia.
  • Puzzles are pointless!

ARGFest – a festival of games, stories, and live events

If you haven’t already heard, this year ARGFest will have it’s first true festival – for two days (Saturday & Sunday), we’ll be showing off street games, location-based games or storytelling, ARG live events, & more. By bringing together a critical mass of projects, we’ll be able to attract attention to some of the outstanding things happening in this space. As a bonus, it makes it all the more exciting for folks to come and play & experience if they know that there are a variety of things to do.

We have a number of different spaces available – inside & outside, green spaces & urban places. We’re looking for all sorts of projects, for example:

  • Street games, big games, &/or urban play
  • Location-based games, storytelling, & applications
  • Augmented reality games & applications
  • ARG live events
  • Creative projects we’ve not thought to include in this list!

We will also have space and time available to show off case studies and/or for interviews.

Submissions are due TUESDAY, JUNE 15! A fairly game specific submission form can be found on our Festival Submission page, but don’t let that stop you if you have something else in mind. Contact us with any questions or if you need additional time.

The Official ARGFest T-Shirt… designed by you?

Woo! It’s time once again where we reach out to you to help us come up with the official ARGFest t-shirt. We’d do it ourselves, we even have a design ready, but it’s kind of embarrassing. We can put together an amazing conference and we’re getting pretty good at the festival thing, but a t-shirt? So beyond us. You guys, though…you guys are awesome! Plus, you have motivation: you want a t-shirt you wouldn’t be ashamed to wear. And it comes with some pretty cool bragging rights as well as the opportunity to see your design being worn by some of the coolest folks around. Don’t believe us? Check out the photos from last year’s ARGFest – the t-shirt Rowan designed shows up in a good number of them!

So, here’s the deal – you’ve got about a week to put something together and send it to us. The committee will fight over which they like the best and a winner will be chosen. If, for some reason, we cannot decide, we’ll throw it out to the community for a vote. We’ll let you know and tweet all about it (in 140 characters or less).

Here’s what we’ll be looking for…

  • A fun design that will be printed on the front of the t-shirt
  • A design that can be printed in 5 colors or less – remember fewer may be better (and cheaper!)
  • Something that mentions ARGFest 2010 (July 15-18 is optional… as is Atlanta, but feel free to work it in)

Here are a few themes if that helps you get started….

  • We’ve got the whole Think! Play! Do! thing going on this year and, obviously, triangles.
  • We’ve also been using “2 old 2 play with these?” along side various childhood toys like big wheels, tricycles, jump ropes, kick balls, pogo sticks, etc in some promotional items. It’s fun and definitely plays with the festival theme. A t-shirt might twist that around with you’re never 2 old 2 play.
  • The Atlanta skyline isn’t all that bad looking and there are some nice landmarks like the Coca-Cola museum, the Varsity, the Georgia Aquarium, and the Fox Theater that show up all the time. Also, the Georgia peach.
  • We’ve got the festival this year which is all about playing outside, playing with place, and/or location-based entertainment… so there might be some possibilities there.

Really, though, we’re open to most anything as long as it doesn’t violate any sorts of copyright restrictions or wouldn’t make our mothers cringe. So have at it!

Send us your designs before June 20th. And be sure to let us know what color t-shirt it should be printed on, unless you don’t mind us making that choice.  Below are the color options that we’ve decided are best and/or most likely to be worn by folks.

Getting your hands dirty – ARGFest Workshops

Yesterday, we teased you with the afternoon workshops. Today, we tell you all about two of them and, hoo boy, are they good ‘uns!

Writing for Transmedia is a writing workshop facilitated by Maureen McHugh of No Mimes Media. If you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Maureen, you’re in for a huge treat. Not only does Maureen know how to write and tell truly captivating stories (she’s won awards for both published works and transmedia), but she knows how to teach whether its in a classroom or in a casual conversation. So, when she was excited about the possibility of doing a writers’ workshop, we were overjoyed.

The workshop will be spread out over the two days during the afternoon workshop blocks (90 minutes each day, so this is a 3 hour workshop). You will have the opportunity to write an asset for a hypothetical transmedia production and get some instruction and feedback from other taking part in the workshop. There will also be discussion about writing for transmedia and how it’s different from other forms of storytelling.

Space is limited to sixteen participants and you must be registered for the conference. To apply you will need to send a writing sample to argfest@unfiction.com. If there are more than sixteen applicants there will be a waiting list and you will find out where you are when you check in with your registration on Thursday. To learn more about the workshop and Maureen, check out the Writing for Transmedia session page.

Now, if the workshop fills up without you, don’t worry, there will be plenty of other things going on. Another very hands-on activity will be a sort of mini game-jam. If you are not familiar with the game jam concept, essentially you walk in with nothing and by the end of the weekend you have a working playable prototype of a game. Now, we don’t have a whole weekend, so there’s not going to be much complex designing and programming going on. Instead, you will be creating simple street games in small teams that can be played during the festival. If you’d like you can utilize location-based technologies, but you could do a super low-tech variant of tag if you choose. It’s up to you and your team. The only requirement is that the game must be playable by Saturday morning for the festival. No pressure there! To help you get started there will be a theme, but you won’t know what it us until the workshops begin. It should be a lot of fun – both in the creating and in the playing.

This is shaping up to be the most creative ARGFest ever, even with the dozen or so panels & presentations. Thinking! Playing! Doing! It’s more than just a theme, it’s who we are. It’s who you are! Have you registered yet? ‘Cause you’re going to kick yourself if you miss it this year. You know you will.

ARGFest Afternoon Schedule!

Curious as to how you’ll be spending your afternoons at ARGFest? Here’s a hint… it’s not going to be in a conference room!

Ok, that’s not fair, part of it will be. And, if you want to, you can spend the entire day in there. We can say that you’ll learn a lot and do alot, but we can’t tell you what because that’s up to you. Seriously.

Each afternoon will start off in the main conference room with a panel. On Thursday there’s a great panel all about casual social games (things like Farmville – because you can’t have a conference these days without talking about Farmville. It’s a rule!) and what we, in transmedia and alternate reality gaming, can learn from them. It’s not that we want you to go out and create a new Farmville (please don’t!) but there is an appeal to these super social and super casual games that can not be ignored and there are some great lessons here for us.

The panel starting off Friday afternoon is what sets ARGFest apart from every other transmedia sort of conference out there… it is a panel of enthusiasts who have played a number of ARGs and explored transmedia because they enjoy it, not just because they make it. It’s not a job for them. It’s how they choose to spend their down time. We’ll be able to learn from, and perhaps, share in their joys & frustrations as they tell us what they love & hate and what they want to see more of & would rather see disappear. They’ll challenge our ideas of what it means to create and play in this space. It’s going to be an outstanding session and we’re really thrilled about it.

It’s already sounding pretty good, right? But hold on, we don’t settle for good. We want amazing! And we know you do, too.

Two days of listening to people talk is hard work. If you’re not careful and if you don’t shake it up, all of those great ideas get muddled. Plus it’s kinda hard to focus after lunch unless you’re doing what you want and something that excites you.

So! We’re shaking it up and throwing panels & presentations out the window for a big chunk of the afternoon. Instead, you can participate in workshops led by some of the most talented people in the field or a mini game jam where small teams will be challenged to create games & events for the festival. If you’d rather not get your hands dirty, you can join various birds of a feather gatherings and spend time getting to know and talking to people thinking about & dealing with the same issues that you are. While all of that is going on, the conference room will be devoted to this crazy organic session with topics & panelists coming and going… who sits on the panel & the topics that are discussed will be up to you (with a touch of help from a moderator if necessary).

We’ll all come back together in the conference room for the final presentation of the day before breaking for the evening’s activities – the Booze & Shmooze cocktail party or the keynote banquet.

So that’s your afternoon… some talks, some panels, and a lot of fun!

Follow the rabbit and… save a soap opera?

As tempting as it is to dangle a session in front of you every day until they’re all revealed, there is so much going on this year that it’d take forever! Heck with six presentations and four panels already on the schedule, that would take us well into June and then we could start in on all of the games (have you submitted one yet?).

So, today we will tell you about two oddly related presentations. Both are case studies looking at a similar problem – engaging an audience. Yet, one shows how transmedia can be a solution to an increasingly disengaged audience and the other shows how one company has solved the problem of increasing engagement by getting an audience right from the start. Of course, both presentations have a lot of other things to bring to the table, but when it comes right down to it, they’re about bringing in, engaging, and keeping an audience.

First up… Can Transmedia Save the Soap Opera? Of course, we, the committee, had the same reaction that you are probably having… soap opera? really?! is saving the soap opera a real concern? And seeing as this is Brooke’s very own presentation, we were all a little worried that we’d have to approve it. But once we read the description, she didn’t even need to threaten us with more work. We liked it! and think you will to. Brooke is going to take a brief look into the history soap operas and their declining ratings before ripping them apart to find their strengths & weaknesses. Then she’ll show how those strengths & weaknesses can be used to transform a soap opera into a transmedia experience (or, maybe, make your transmedia experience better). Along the way, we’ll learn about things that soap operas have done to extend their stories off the small screen and find out whether or not they’ve worked.

The other one is Patrick Möller’s Follow the Rabbit presentation. Patrick works with vm-people and together they have produced some of Germany’s best alternate reality games. Yet, no matter how successful these games are, they keep hearing from people that they want to be able to get involved from the start. And that’s not unusual! Anyone who has run any sort of live experience has heard that same complaint. So Patrick is going to talk to us about some of the benefits of (and challenges to) getting people involved right at the beginning and staying connected as the game progresses. In the process, he’ll show off Folge-dem-Kaninchen.de (that’s German for Follow the Rabbit) which is a new site by vm-people where players can register to learn about ARGs before they start and, if they choose, provide various means of contact information so the games can surprise them by reaching out into their world in various ways. So far, two games have launched from the site and we’ll hear about what they’ve learned along the way.

We’re working on putting together the schedule page with more information on what all is happening when. In the meantime it’s just straight links to the session descriptions. We’ll see if we can finish it before the last session announcement is made. It’s a race! Who do you think is gonna win?

A hint of what’s to come…

This year’s conference schedule is, in one word, amazing! So far, we’ve got six presentations, four panels, a couple workshops, and a little bit of insanity on the schedule. There are practical and hands on discussions dealing with designing, writing, and producing transmedia, alternate reality games, and public play. We’ll learn about some of the big issues facing us and how to make games that are more accessible, more appealing, and more inclusive. And, for the first time, we’ll hear from both the people making these things and the people playing them.

We’ve got a huge variety of programming types, too! Some of the most experienced folks in field will be giving presentations & case studies, taking a part in panel discussions, and leading workshops & small group gatherings. It’s going to be interactive – the audience won’t get away with just sitting there, oh no!, posters set up throughout the conference will encourage discussion on ideas & issues and allow you to help us figure out where we, as a genre or industry or group, are and where we are headed. And, if it works, the last session of conference will be an incredibly fun and inspiring round-up of our thoughts.

As we confirm our sessions and speakers, we’ll make more specific announcements. Check back soon or follow along on twitter for the latest announcements. We’re in the bio & pic collecting phase, so it won’t be long now!

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