42's 5 principles of arg

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Jordan Weisman, creative director/co-founder of 42 Entertainment says that the company grew out of the concepts and experiments that he started at Microsoft, where he acted as CD for the entire entertainment group, which included PC and then Xbox games. Here, he sums up the five ARG tenets he sought to explore, tenets that inform 42's work.

1 The concept of a hive mind. The generation we're speaking to now is so communications-obsessed and -enabled, we thought that if given a common emotionally charged history or mission, they would seek each other out and form into a cooperative to investigate and expose the story. We thought if we could get a couple hundred thousand people engaged in a project, various groups-with only one or two degrees of separation-would involve every skill base, every knowledge base on the planet. In reality, when that group formed (on the first ARG) and we had millions of participants instead of hundreds of thousands, not only did they represent every skill base and knowledge base, they didn't even need to go to degrees of separation-it was zero degrees of separation and they had every skill base. In retrospect, what we didn't realize was they had unlimited resources to devote to the subject-in terms of technology, canvassing, whatever was needed. It was very inspiring and daunting.

2 The experiment was to develop a narrative structure that was organic to the web. In looking at the web, I realized that it had been and still is used primarily for distribution of narrative formats that existed prior to the web-audio, video written word etc. There wasn't a narrative structure that embraced the chaotic and frustrating nature of the web. Stepping back and looking at it, I realized a lot of the daily experience of the web is looking through stuff we don't care about to find one thing we do care about. I likened it to archeologists who go through a lot of sand looking for a piece of pottery. After they find that shard they have an idea of how to find more, and if there are enough shards they can reconstruct the society that made the pottery. Similarly, in each of our campaigns we write very elaborate character-driven emotional stories, which is, in any entertainment format the key to everything. Then we create all the evidence that would have existed had that story taken place. Then we throw the story out and bury all the evidence in puzzles that are organic in the story. As the hive mind discovers those pieces and starts to crack the puzzle, they start to gather those bits of evidence. They start with a wide range of theories about what's going on and as they get more info they come to more consensus. Eventually, they've reconstructed our story, but now it's become their story because it's moved through the filter of these millions of minds-it's now a personal piece.

3 The 18-35 demo has grown up in a marketing-saturated environment and has developed a sophisticated set of tools for avoiding the vast majority of marketing messages. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the neon sign the faster they'll run the other way. So the premise here was, instead of shouting, go the opposite way and whisper-hide it. Finding it becomes an act of discovery-something they can feel proud of and are willing to talk about with their friends. It shifts entertainment presentation from exhibitionist to voyeuristic.

4 The idea of hiding in plain sight. The premise here is that after building this groundswell of revealed info, we could then embed in subtle ways bits of info into the company's normal overt marketing campaign materials without disrupting the messaging they're doing in their normal campaigns. In doing so we turned those other media elements from "must be avoided" into "must be dissected." For a very small amount of additional media dollars, it turns your large investment into something people will seek out.

5 Surround the audience in what we call the electronic sphere in which they live. All demographics at this point live in sphere of communications tech that travels with them all day long-we didn't want these campaigns to live exclusively on their computer screen, we wanted to reach out through every communications mechanism to surround them and allow them to immerse themselves as much as 24 hours a day if they chose to. Whether that was reaching out to the campaign or having the campaign reach out to them, it meant that the campaign took place on the web, obviously, but also on cell phones fax machines, SMS messaging, voicemail, clues in newspaper personal ads, billboards, flyers at live events and at clubs around the world-every medium we could touch.

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