Friday, 17 December 2010

Gaming in 2011: Part 2

Phew, I've finally got around to thinking about the second part of my "Gaming in 2011" series, Alternate Reality Gaming. Now, in recent months the ARG boat has been rocked by the ripples of the return of Marble Hornets, and the rise of EMH and Tribe Twelve - these chaotic fictions have really grabbed the limelight when it comes to storytelling and intrigue, but there are a significant number of outstanding games running which DON'T concern our Slender friend and I am hoping that in the New Year we can cover a few of them and really give them the attention they deserve.
As in the previous post, I'm going to focus on the aspects of Alternate Reality Gaming which I am most excited about for 2011. Three different aspects, and one honourable mention:

Alternate Reality Gaming

The ARG scene is something I tend to flow in and out of, I will be obsessed for months (particularly if there is a good game going on) but then I will begin to drift away. I drifted away a few months ago (I think it probably coincided with the end of Season 1 of Marble Hornets), but recently I have drifted back and I am very glad I did. UnFiction, to me, is the home of ARGs. It has certainly been the way I have heard about most games, and the main way the majority of players interact and play. If you are at all interested in ARGs, I suggest you head over there right away and take a look around.

The first thing I am excited about for 2011 is Marble Hornets: Season 2. I've posted about Marble Hornets before, with the new Season coming out 2011 is going to be a very busy year for Troy Wagner and the team. In an "Out of Game" sense, I've been following Troys blogspot for a while now and its been interesting to see a little bit behind the scenes on what the guys have to face when they make the series, if you're interested his blog can be found here: Troy Wagner's Blog Machine (although, if you want full immersion, I would avoid it until the series is over). Season 2 is shaping up to be super-duper epic, with Entry #29 just released I would suggest purchasing industrial strength underpants, and watching it with the lights off and headphones on (although not too loud, I about blew my drums out through my bumhole). I'm probably going to lump Entries #28 and #29 into a post later tonight and talk about where the storyline is going fairly soon. Very very excited about this.

Secondly, I am quite excited about the latest offering in the Vanessa Atalanta/Ministry of Argon series, this time called Fifteen Days of Darkness. Last time I played a game by this PM he had me scouring google maps of London, attempting to misdirect operatives to allow a character to escape with some vital evidence. If you haven't had a chance to get in on one of these games, Fifteen Days is still playing (although we are reaching the end game) and we would really appreciate any help! Now, I must admit, I am not the best person to summarise the VA/MoA/Fifteen Days storyline - I came in at the start of MoA and came in late to the currently running game - which is why I am keen to get another player to write an article about it in the New Year. However, what I can tell you is that the games are incredibly well constructed, varied, sometimes impossibly difficult and immensely satisfying to solve.
During Fifteen Days of Darkness myself and other players have solved a series of puzzles meant to represent our breaking down the barriers in the mind of Jayden, the leader of The Order of Oberon. The OoO are a werewolf cult, with a focus on transformation. We have reached the conclusion that Jayden's ultimate aim somehow revolves around the "Flower of Life", a geometric arrangement of overlapping circles which represent numerous spiritual and mathmatical theorums. Our reaching this conclusion has allowed one of the series running characters Vladamir Sirin to hack into Jayden's mind and force him to speak the truth, just for one weekend. Hopefully, we made full use of this opportunity.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this game so far, and I have to admit MoA was the most thrilling ARG I have ever participated in. The PM puts an astounding amount of thought into the running of this ARG and it really pays off. I cannot wait for the finale of Fifteen Days and I am really looking forward to where the story will go from there.

Thirdly, there are a number of low-level grassroots games going on with small casts which really talk to me. The two I will focus on for the moment are: The Sound Guy and TheArtoftheOak. Sometimes I want the big, complex and flashy ARGs like Fifteen Days, but sometimes I just want to sit down and play a BLARG! Thats a blog-ARG, I just created the term - like it? The Sound Guy is the story of a normal British bloke, much like myself, who is into metal and wants our opinion on the sound quality of his recordings, unfortunately the audio is plagued by strange background sound which he can't seem to get rid of - lets just say, everything is not as it seems! One of the things which hindered the real blast off of this game is the fact that TSG hid the message so well! After a few weeks we have only just cracked the file and I'm hoping the game will blast off from there. I think the reason I like this game is because it is ballsy, often games are just stumbled upon, but TSG had the guts to just send his trailhead out to members of the community inviting them to take part. I'm looking forward to where he's going from here.
TheArtoftheOak is the story of Shannon, a simple girl who is into the paranormal. One day her friend reads a passage from the necronomicon, and, well, what do you think happens?! Shit goes down! Now Shannon is haunted by strange children in the night, the visage of Ingrid Cold and crazed stalkers. The blog has been eerily quiet over the past few weeks (holidays, finals etc), but I am interested to see how the PM marries these quite varied threads together - it could turn out that Shannon's friend has, well, just released all hell upon them! Poor gal.

Finally, the honourable mention. Slenderblogs/Slenderblags. The good and the bad, Marble Hornets and EMH have spawned numerous Slenderblogs which, more often than not, fall to the wayside due to overwhelming weariness from the Slender-community. The writers over at The Slender Review do a great job of keeping tabs on what's hot and what's not, if you'd like to really get the cream of the crop then head over there for some top notch reviews. My personal fave is Hiking Fiend, find the review HERE.

Its going to be a very exciting year for games in general. My social life is going to be baaaad....

For Gaming in 2011: Part 1 Click here
Michael Anderson @ ARGNet has written a really interesting article on ARGs in 2010, worth a look here.

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