Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Something I remembered...

Years ago (5 years ago, actually) a marketing campaign for Stephen Spielberg's AI made use of the web in a way that was really, up to that point unheard of. Beyond posting a trailer and cast-site, a small team at Microsoft created, instead, a cloak-and-dagger ring of fake websites designed to both create interest in the movie's themes and characters, and, well, delight hoards of geeks who were anxiously awaiting the film's premier.

I don't remember how I found out about this, but I am a SUCKER for puzzles, secret links, easter eggs, etc. so, I started searching around.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about what the AI guys did:

The movie had an unusual publicity campaign consisting of a new type of "game" involving approximately 30 interlinked websites. This type of game has since become known as an alternate reality game (ARG). The A.I. game did not have an official name, but became known as The Beast by its most ardent fans, the 7000-strong team who called themselves the Cloudmakers. The Beast was wildly successful as a game, attracting a much more devoted audience than the game designers had expected. It set the tone for future ARGs, and defined much of the genre's terminology.

In the game, the interlinked websites purported to be sites for a number of organizations (universities, businesses, and personal home pages) set in the fictional world of the movie in the 22nd century. Hints to the websites' existence were contained in posters, trailers and other movie publhttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=35674314icity materials.

By studying the information on the sites, a story set in the world of the movie involving the murder of one Evan Chan became apparent. Solving various puzzles and hints, some involving email, physical meetings in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, telephone calls and telephone answering services, allowed the unlocking of more websites which gradually revealed the story of whodunnit and why.

It was fascinating. A complex web of company sites, family sites, fake government sites - all leading one to the next...if you could figure out the connection.

Visit The Cloudmakers and go through "The Beast" links on the side to see the old sites. Check the writing on each - they're very true-to-form. The biomedical sites sound incredibly real. The family sites are great self-publishing clones. And there's even one that opens up your email program and attempts to send a message.

Anyway, an awesome example of knowing your audience, and taking the web in a new direction.


Blogger Alena said...

That is insane. I wouldn't even know where to start!

11:51 AM

Blogger Roger said...

thats great.. fits awesomly for the audience. the 22nd century has some pretty sweet looking websites. I wonder if something like this would work now... either if it was done again for a different similar film or if it was introduced for the first time... I wonder due to the evolution of the web user.

1:39 PM

Blogger Kendra_B said...

i don't know that it's really been done again for marketing purposes to that success. (Although i've heard that Alias the TV show has one going. Or did....) Now, though, there's a whole community of online gamers who play stand-alone alternate reality games like that. Check out: Lockjaw and Second State.

8:17 PM


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