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BBC: Multi-Platform Alternate Reality Game Launches; More Criticism

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The BBC has launched an alternate reality game (ARG) to support a Radio 1 music festival this weekend. The game centers on Paul Denchfield, supposedly a BBC new media freelancer fired after suspect messages began appearing in his output, who has been using a blog, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and other video sharing networks for the last month to document his effort to uncover an apparent mystery.

Tongues started wagging in the blogosphere that the episode was an elaborate marketing campaign for the Big Weekend festival, now Radio 1’s publicity head Nick Caley has confirmed it’s all just a charade designed to drive engagement: “This is a truly modern, thoroughly live multi-platform game. Far from being passive listeners, the British public become important, influential players right at the heart of the story’s action. It’s the first of its kind for the BBC, bringing alternate reality games into the mainstream.” ARGs thread gameplay in to real-world, everyday settings; gamers will points or prizes depending on real-life actions. BBC staff met ARG researcher Justin Hall prior to the game’s launch last month.

Criticism: Another BBC alum has added to this week’s criticism of the corporation’s current pace of innovation. Ben Metcalfe, a BBC developer of six years who left in June 2006, said much of the problem stems from tighter government regulation imposed in the wake of the Hutton Report surrounding Iraq war reporting. He criticized top-heavy management and forecast the iPlayer VOD project “will fail”. BBC director of future media and technology defended the corporation’s record of innovation earlier this week.

3 Responses to “BBC: Multi-Platform Alternate Reality Game Launches; More Criticism”

  1. Something that hasn't always been made clear is the involvement of Mind Candy, makers of Perplex City, in this whole project.

    Mind Candy came up with the concept, storylined it, produced all the video content, set up and maintained Paul's blog, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Googlegroup, SMS & MMS accounts and emails – and interweaved it all with a story set in Perplex City.

    The BBC were, of course, incredibly enthusiastic and involved from the start, providing excellent production skills and access to a huge audience. Interactive producer Hugh Garry, in particular, deserves a lot of credit for his bravery and willingness to push things as far as possible.

    We're very pleased with the way it worked and how it has all turned out. It's been a great opportunity for Perplex City to cross over into the mainstream, and hopefully it introduced many thousands of people to the concept of ARGs and Perplex City.

  2. Robert Andrews

    The "first-of-a-kind" claim is from the BBC itself. Jamie Kane and Wannabes were a little different – more about immersive *drama* narrative than a *game* that weaves its way in and out of *real* lives. Think PerplexCity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perplex_City) rather than interactive Emmerdale (http://www.mad.co.uk/Main/Home/Articles/243c06b12e9d4675950f5c948e5f1661/ITV-plans-further-interactive-dramas-after-Emmerdale-hit.html). Neither did the examples extend across so many off-site hosted services.