A Look into the World of Transmedia Storytelling and Alternate Reality Games
2014/07/17
By : Molly Ebner / Do Art Foundation
In a search for similarity, one particular aspect of the human psyche stands out. This is our underlying desire for beauty, which differs from person to person. Regardless, we are all compelled to seek it out in life. And when we find it, a feeling of content resonates within.

Yet, when you examine the prominence of books, movies, and television shows, all of which offer an escape from one's own reality, you realize that a vast majority of our population finds beauty in the escape, in the adventure, and in the pure exhilarating excitement of fantasy. And, this is where Transmedia Storytelling and Alternate Reality Games thrive.

Transmedia Storytelling can be explained as the act of telling one universal and continual story through various mediums. Alternate Reality Games utilize the act of transmedia storytelling to actually create an interactive alternate reality that goes along with the story itself.

Through utilizing public space and recruiting teams of creative people from mural artists and graphic designers to writers and set designers, these forms of art are able to appeal to the public in an aesthetic and totally immersive manner. One step beyond admiring art; Transmedia Storytelling and ARGs let you become a part of the art yourself.

We got the chance to talk to the three biggest names in the game when it comes to this genre. We spoke with Ken Eklund, who considers himself to be a creator of "Serious Alternate Reality Games," we spoke with Yomi Ayeni, the self proclaimed "grassroots insane storyteller" about his creation of the expansive, immersive, and mystifying world of "Clockwork Watch", and finally, we spoke with Steve Peters, a legend in the Transmedia/ARG world, about his work in collaboration with huge companies and productions.

Ken Eklund has sought to create something beneficial from his passions in science and art. Art has been known to influence change through the act of creating conversation about important topics and also through the act of raising awareness about particular ideas.

"Scientists think that people make that decision logically, because that's how scientists make that decision," Eklund explains, "But the rest of the world operates on the level of advertising, which is that decisions are made at the emotional level, and art is where that story gets put forward."

In his first ARG, World Without Oil, Ken Eklund succeeded in truly transforming the way that people lived. The game asked players to live as if they were in a serious oil shortage. Through the use of news updates via a website and mock protests, the oil shortage was made to seem real.

Participants were asked to document their own individual lives through video, images, telephone calls and blog entries. All of these entries were submitted to the collective website which people could visit, examining how people of all different occupations and from all different locations were getting by without oil.

People made real life physical changes. Backyards were transformed into gardens and people started bicycling to work. Through the creation of a game, change was motivated about an important and relevant issue in a way that preaching could never succeed.

"I think the most important thing for me about an ARG is the idea of an Alternate Reality, which is not something radically different than where we are, but instead something that overlays the world as we know it," Eklund tells us. "For an ARG to maximize its potential, there's indeed this idea that it could actually be happening, there's a reality to it."

And that is part of the reason why his Serious ARGs are so effective, the ideas that he is proposing are not far fetched. Yet, while it is still considered a game, the act of getting involved doesn't seem as such a chore. And, all the while, this activity that you are getting involved in is creating change.

His most recent project, FutureCoast, featured voicemails leaked out of the future. People were given the chance to create their own voicemails, projecting their individual fears (and hopes) of the future of climate change into a single message. These voicemails were collected, organized, and posted on a website for everyone to listen to.

"I wanted to put together a situation where I could get climate change scientists and climate change skeptics to participate in the same thing without yelling at each other," Eklund explains. "This is a structure where there is room for them to both tell their own story. And that's what FutureCoast is about, not about what is the future going to be, but what are the possible futures that are ahead for us? And everyone can describe a possible future, so everyone has a right to be there."
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