Interactivity is a key element when it comes to successfully spreading web content, which is why the ARG or transmedia experience — which works across platforms to create a narrative that the user has to discover on his or her own — has become a much more visible part of the landscape. Enter a recently launched ARG created specifically for the web series community, one that celebrates it.
Created by producer Jenni Powell and No Mimes Media, Webishades launched earlier this month via an article posted on Tubefilter. That article included a link to the Webishades website, which had secrets to be unlocked with phone calls, emails and ads on websites for series including The Guild, Squatters, Compulsions and The Temp Life. “It was a lot insidery, but that was part of the fun of it,” Powell said via phone.
To be honest, I completed the Webishades challenge in about ten minutes, because I cheated. And while I cheated — with some help from the ARG forum Unfiction, where previous players have documented the complete path to victory — that low level of commitment is deliberate.
Webishades is part of No Mimes’ recent string of 10 Minute ARG projects, which are created to be self-sustaining in perpetuity. “People don’t do stuff when we want them to, necessarily,” No Mimes managing director Benham Karbassi said via phone. “So we want to give them the opportunity to do it when they want to.”
So far, by Karbassi’s estimations, “a few thousand” people have checked out the Webishades website, with “a few hundred” following up on the phone call. But every component of the Webishades experience is automated, and as long as the participating web series don’t remove the clues from their websites, the game will be playable for the foreseeable future.
Not that there’s a lot there, to be frank — Webishades doesn’t have much in the way of story, instead operating as a promotional engine for the shows involved, and the reward is relatively Spartan. “It’s not as narrative as other ARG games,” Powell said. “It’s very different because it’s advertisement-based: ‘Here’s this fun fake product, let’s talk about it.’ That’s more of the game. We could have blown this out more, but it was just a fun way for us to work together.”
One of the complications is that Felicia Day, who in the project’s original iteration played a much larger role, was cast in a multi-episode arc on the SyFy Channel series Eureka this summer, meaning that her involvement had to be scaled back dramatically. “As you go, you have to be really flexible — that’s why ARGs are so fun to design,” Powell said. “You have to be on your toes the entire time.”
No money exchanged hands in this project, with everyone instead donating their time to put the elements together (with the exception of performance fees for actors in the Webishades commercial). That’s because Webishades isn’t intended to be a moneymaker; in fact, a Crackle representative, during a call with Powell and the No Mimes team, directly challenged No Mimes as to why they were doing this project — because it was just going to cost them money.
Karbassi’s reply at the time was that it would be great advertising for them, and also give them access to the web series community. Which seems to have paid off, at least in regard to the latter point: The number of series which participated in the project does represent an impressive range of the talent currently making web narrative. And while the numbers are low on players who have fully engaged with the project, those Webishades ads do remain on all the respective sites. The game is still on.
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