Ever since the inception of the “alternate reality game”, the idea of telling a dynamic, flexible story through heavy interaction with players has grown in popularity. Given the “play once” nature of an ARG, if the resulting story is repackaged and distributed, could audiences at some point start seeking out a return on their investment?

Generally speaking, an ARG’s story stands on its own in historicity – in the players’ memories and documentation of in-game actions and interactions. One of the trade-offs to the flexible interaction of an ARG experience is that it is by nature playable only once. But what if the creators of an ARG, without the agenda of having it promote a brand or product for an existing IP, actually intend to package the resulting story as a product itself? In a sense, the final product would have a distributed authorship.

A new project called The Black Helix, which launched today from The Design Zoo, intends to do just that. Their project, funded, by the Northern Ireland Arts Council, asks players to “become part of an unwritten story”.

View trailer on Youtube

The Black Helix is scheduled to run for four weeks, beginning with a mysterious kidnapping, and culminating in a live “role playing event” — everything that happens in between (player choices, character interactions, perhaps photos and/or footage) will officially become the story.

Once the ARG is complete we will be publishing the story as what we believe to be the worlds first crowd sourced ARG novel/story. The player’s alias names, information, research and sub plots that develop over the period of the game, will all be integrated into the final story to create a unique transmedia book that all players will ultimately feel truly part of.

According to the ‘Zoo, the final publication will be available online.  The only questions that come to mind when formulating a crowd-sourced project like this is how issues such as player privacy or even resulting profits are handled when the creators of the content are now independent of the production organization.

Would players take issue with their personnas (online or real world) being used in the reproduced story, or will they welcome the opportunity to be immortalized?  Regarding the “realism” of an ARG, would it be feasible to provide a waiver to sign beforehand allowing yourself to be used essentially as a character in the final tale, without legal repercussions?  If this sort of final production becomes a trend, will the players begin seeking ROI?

The Black Helix does have a terms & conditions form for perusal, and the sign-up process asks for an alias which is “required to be part of the finish book”. As they say, IANAL. Nonetheless, I believe The Black Helix is a project worth keeping an eye on (or playing!).  I’m very interested to see how the final product will be packaged.

More project details available via Wikibruce.


Keep your eyes on this one!

UPDATE!

The Black Helix has launched. And with it, the kidnapping:

View footage on Youtube