BTS: November 2007 Archives

On the Inside Looking In

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On October 3, I received an email from Brian Clark of GMD Studios entitled "A very strange introduction". In the email, Brian excitedly but tenatively pitched to me an offer to act in the tile role in the ARG he was currently writing/producing, Eldritch Errors. He mentioned that had he not read my myspace, which talks at length about what a geek I am, and my blog, which is a dream journal, he would've been more trepidatious about approaching someone in this manner. But am I ever glad that he did!

My first introduction to ARG's came in the form of research that I had done for a podcast [episode 29] that my husband, my friend, and myself put out. The concept was difficult to grasp, at first, mainly due to the fact that our gaming background has always been in roleplaying games. In RPG's, there is a clear line between "character" and "self", or at least clearer. When you are "in game" you are not you, but a character that you have created; and when the game is over, you go back to being you. ARG's are different, in this way, because while people maintain an "in game" and "out of game" understanding, their persona "in game" is really them, the actual person. Granted, in some cases it is an amplified version of themselves, but regardless, it makes the interactions complicated on a whole new level that is not touched upon often, and most times purposefully avoided, in RPG's. There is a whole set of philosophies that I won't even begin to get into that talk about the intricacies of the relationship between character and self, but they are well worth checking out for the interested reader.

Immersive experience designers make a big deal out of the fact their storylines and productions are dynamic or branching or adaptive to the audience's agency. In reality, that's frequently more lip-service than reality, with only minor details of an experience truly responsive to audience involvement. For Scream, we had a four part set of guiding principles:

  1. Whatever situation the protagonists find themselves in should feel like the one we intended, however complex the real planning is behind the scenes to make that happen.
  2. The diversion of storylines should be intense but brief, in terms of the overall length of the Book.
  3. Each of the potential divergent strands should feel equally exciting even if they are different.
  4. The Scream, a shared experience, is the climax, not the live event (which isn't a shared experience.)

cultist lures Internet users to remote cabin
We've always been fans of imagining the press coverage you want about a project, and then writing the press release as if it were the article the journalist would write. When you target that really well, journalists will occassionally just reprint your press release verbatim. At the very least, you can sometimes make it irresistible to play along. It might be time to start thinking about something similar for Eldritch Errors, which led us to start dreaming about the follow press release (that we'll probably never actually send):

Cultist lures Internet users to West Virginia wilderness -- strangers narrowly avoid becoming victims, return alive with their tale.

"The Scream Crew"

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First things are first: a bow in front of the curtain to the stupendously incredible crew behind Book 2 of Eldritch Errors. I've worked with a number of amazing teams on truly insane productions over the last couple of decades, but I don't think I've ever seen a team as fearless or as eager to push the boundries one more notch than this one. That goes doubly for some of the new faces joining our merry band, people who we look forward to playing more with in the future.

"Eldritch Errors: Scream in the Mountains" (September 2007 - November 2007):

J.D. Ashcraft (GMD Studios, producer & actor) / Hidden J.D., logistics & story development
Chris Campbell (GMD Studios, developer & artist) / web, art & prop development
Brian Clark (GMD Studios, creator/producer/writer) / story, Howard Philips, Arthur Lydney, "Exu," Peter Severn & audio development
Andrew Cowan (GMD Studios, technical lead) / web & server programming
Miguel Drake-McLaughlin (actor) / Devon Conrad
Mike Ferraro (GMD Studios, assistant producer) / props, locations & logistics
Jeff Himmelman & "H.C." (actors) / Spukhafte Fernwirkung
Tammy Kearns (GMD Studios, producer) / logistics & story development
Caroline Murphy-Himmelman (actress) / B.A. Saint-Feline
Jim Rhoades (GMD Studios, developer & artist) / web, art, video & music development
Brooke Thompson (creator/producer/writer) / story, B.A. Saint-Feline, Dr. Betty Riley, Sploit and the dreamers, web & art development
Dee Winter (actress) / Hidden Dee

Special thanks to: Greg Agostini; Cass Historic Railroad State Park; the warm people of Pocahontas County, West Virginia; and "Providence" -- each and every last one of you.