Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

I'm not sure if I Love Bees, but I know Jane McGonigal does ...

Monday, November 08, 2004
The biggest reality augment thus far has come to a close. The I Love Bees promotional game ended a few days ago, so let the archiving, summing up and reflecting begin. As the Alternate Reality Gaming Network notes:
Ilovebees was developed by a team headed by Elan Lee and Sean Stewart, who headed up the first real Alternate Reality Game, The Beast, in 2001. Since then, they teamed up to form 4orty2wo Entertainment, and began production of Ilovebees in February. Ilovebees, which launched on July 16th, told the story of an A.I. from the future named Melissa who crash landed on a website server here in 2004. Over the 16 weeks of the game, players completed a series of web-based puzzles and realworld challenges to reveal a compelling story that formed a prequel to Halo2, following its characters through the weeks leading up to the invasion of Earth by an evil race of aliens known as the Covenant. The story was revealed in almost 10 hours of audio drama using some of the best voice talent and post-production in Hollywood.

Ilovebees broke new ground in it's innovative use of realworld distributed puzzles, stellar writing and sheer numbers of players. At it's culmination, the ilovebees site received as many as 500,00 unique visitors per day, making it by far the most followed Alternate Reality Game to date
The funny thing to my mind though, was that when I first wrote about I Love Bees, I said this:
What I really need is for Jane McGonigal to explain what's going on to me; is this another Beast and potentially the flashpoint for a persuasive formation of collective intelligence or just a really expensive Microsoft cross-media story?
For those of you who don't know, Jane McGonigal is one of those interesting people who lives in the symbiotic space where academia and gaming intersect. I wanted to hear what Jane thought since her writing on the previous most famous reality augment, The Beast, is probably the best existing account (she has also delivered the paper at the ACLA 2003 conference, which I was at and at which I was intreagued by reality augmenting games which I'd never previosuly heard about). Then the list of designers behind I Love Bees was announced and, low and behold: "Community Lead/Designer Jane McGonigal". So, it appears Jane has gone from studying the reality augments to creating them! Of course, I don't expect that distinction to be in any way meaningful: I look forward to the McGonigal Report on the insider perspective on massively multiplayer reality augmentation (MMRA - yes, according to Google, I just made that term up).

Incidentally, when checking out Jane's work on I Love Bees, I discovered she has been running a San Francisco Art Institute course at the same time called " Game Design as Art Practice" which explores many of the ideas Jane has been employing (check out the exciting syllubus). She also gets huge kudos for running both a central Blogger course blog, and getting her students to blog games. (I thought this post was particularly telling about the learning/gaming/teaching nexus!)

PS It would also appear that I Love Bees ushered in a far more successful product than The Beast. The NYTimes has an article suggesting Halo 2 will destroy existing game-sales records overnight (US time, of course).

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