Closer look at alternate-reality games

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Earlier, I wrote about a mystery movie trailer I saw before the Transformers movie. It turns out it may be a part of a complex game-based buzz-marketing technique called Alternative Reality Games.

The trailer reveals it’s for a 2008 Paramount film from wunderkind producer J.J. Abrams (“Felicity,” “Alias,” “Lost”), and virtually no other details, so we’re left wondering: What’s the name of the movie? Who’s the villain? What freedom-hating beast(s) — HulkGodzillaKong? the Cthulhu? Taliban evildoers? — would decapitate Lady Liberty?

Joshua Zumbrun writes about the mystery movie teaser that has gamers looking for Alternate Reality games.

Alternate-reality games, for those unfamiliar with the genre, are perhaps best illustrated with an actual example: Imagine you find a Web site. The owner says it’s been hacked and she asks the online world for help. People search the site and find corrupted data files, and a countdown to the year 2552. The site is like many small sites that run into tech problems and need help.

Except the site is fake. The woman is fake. Stay with us here: Her entire world is a fictional creation, a web of fake sites and fake blogs, with more and more mysteries slowly unraveling, as online participants decrypt codes in the corrupted data files. As it happens, 2552 is the year that an alien horde invades Earth in the Xbox video game series Halo. Indeed, the entire fictional world was part of an alternate-reality game called I Love Bees — promoting the 2004 launch of Halo 2 and deepening the mythology of the Halo world — created by a firm, 42 Entertainment, devoted exclusively to the creation of “immersive entertainment.”

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