Transmedia Gaming Experiences


I am a huge fan of transmedia and alternate reality gaming. The interactivity of watching something on TV, doing something on your computer, going somewhere and having a shared experience, or physically creating something and having it all fit together in one big puzzle is a really intriguing experience. I’ve participated in a few of these, like the Dunder Mifflin Infinity campaign, or the on-going Dharma Initiative recruiting for Lost. Not to be limited to TV, NIN also had an interesting transmedia experiment with their last release.

The first transmedia experience (and still the most exciting to me) was a game called Majestic. My dad saw it somewhere and it was subscription based, so he purchased it for me thinking I would enjoy it.

It was AWESOME.

Majestic was one of the first ARGs ever created. It was released online in 2001, and I played it from its release until it was discontinued in 2002. It was unconventional to expect people to pay to play a game that blurred online and offline experiences to a point where it felt like you weren’t even playing a game anymore, and it was so ahead of its time that most people just didn’t understand it.

The game was centered around a government conspiracy (of course). It used every form of communication available at the time – phone, IM, email, website, etc, to communicate with you and give you clues that you would put together and solve. I remember it being quite difficult at times . The game definitely didn’t hold your hand. One such puzzle I solved I vaguely remember having to do with looking at maps and putting together a wide variety of clues, some coordinates, and other research. Quite involved and sophisticated for a pre-Web 2.0 game.

Being 13 at the time and completely obsessed with X-Files, I was even more drawn into the secrecy and mystery of randomly having the game instant message you and carry out a conversation, or call you (yes, it would randomly call you at all times and talk to you!) The fact the game unfolded in real time also added to the allure. It was a casual gaming experience, but it didn’t SEEM like it because of how it happened. You didn’t set down a controller and say OK, I’ll play again tomorrow. The characters in the game said they would call you at a certain time tomorrow.

I remember once figuring out a phone number from a clue and calling it, and being completely enamored with the fact the Internet had provided me with this gaming experience that had now transcended into my real life, with me calling and carrying out an automated but very convincing conversation with a bot that sounded like a government agent.

Are there games out there that quietly intrude into your daily life like Majestic? I would love to do this again. I think with the way communication has evolved now, the opportunities to create a completely enveloping transmedia experience are numerous.

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