According to Wikipedia, an alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and uses transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions.
My friend Alex Grunenfelder and I created an ARG called eXistenZ as a surprise game for our friends in February 2014. It was based on the David Cronenberg film by the same name, which is a twisted story about a strange new virtual reality game (a game within a game) that involves organic living game pods and sexual bioports. The ARG was also influenced by David Cronenberg’s recent project called POD. Alex and I later attended ARGfest-o-Con 2014 in July and were then invited to speak at the Portland Film Festival about our ARG in August 2014.
Our ARG (involving about 30 players) started with a mysterious text message from a Toronto number, inviting people to a Beta Test of a new AR (Augmented Reality) game on Feb 25 2014 by Antenna Research (the game company). We set up fake company websites (antennaresearch.ca) and social media profiles and even a fake employee named Allegra Geller (Facebook, Twitter). We set up an interactive phone system that could auto text and robocall people. And we 3D printed game objects like a 3D printed gun made of human bones and human toes with secret messages inside the bones, which themselves were inside gooey organs and plasma in Chinese takeout boxes.
The game got hijacked by a terrorist group called the Realist Underground, (a front for a competing game company called Cortical Systematics) who recruited players, making them go to various businesses (we involved the staff) in Vancouver to pick up game objects and interact with other players. The final game night on Feb 25 was in a secret location, the address revealed at 12noon that day, which was a creepy warehouse on Main St near the Ivanhoe. The space was like a scene from Saw. Players were confronted by a disgusting game pod with three bioports on a table with bloody surgery tools. Three players wearing surgery masks and latex gloves were instructed to lube the bioports with vaseline and then stick their fingers inside, triggering a surreal multimedia experience, which abruptly ended when our friend Tom Wynn (Realist Agent) pulled out his bone gun to shoot the pod and then rip its spine out. The pod squealed like a pig and then died, and the game was over. The Realists won.
Below are some photos and videos from Flickr (not in chronological order). Here is the full set.
One of the players of our game (Angela) wrote a Storify of her experience of our game, which is a good synopses: