Thursday, July 11, 2013

Delving into the world of ARGs and Transmedia

Since things are slow in the world of ARGs (I really have no interest in Disney's The Optimist), I've been reading and exploring different blogs, websites, books, articles, and resources that focus on ARGs and transmedia. I'm very interested in bringing these approaches to my classroom in the fall, using ARGs and/or transmedia approaches to teaching in both my university classroom and in the public schools (I work closely with public school language arts teachers).

To be honest, I am pretty underwhelmed by what I see out there. This is not to say that I can do any better! I've run a couple of ARGs and it's not easy, especially without money and/or a team. Current ARGs seem to be either very grassroots and often poorly designed (for some reason I can't "get into" so many of the games out there. No compelling narrative OR web design as far as I can see), or they are very corporate and heavily sponsored. These are so slick they seem to run on rails and are no more interesting to me than watching a sitcom or reading a magazine. Entertaining and diverting in their own right, but they don't feel like "alternate reality" to me.

I keep turning to the ghosts of ARGs past for inspiration when developing projects for my students this fall. Does this mean that the time for ARGs is past? Or are they still so much in their infancy that there is not yet a consistent model that we can count on?

I realize that ARGs and transmedia projects are not always one and the same. I'm still learning about both of these fields and I look forward to encountering more of the creative and innovative thinking that I've seen in past games.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Card Keepers Hiatus

Hi everyone! I sincerely apologize for having to shut down the Card Keepers ARG. I'm just too overwhelmed to keep running it smoothly this summer. In addition to staying home with my two young children all summer, I'm also teaching summer school online and trying to finish a book that is behind deadline. I've also decided, for various reasons, that summer is a terrible time to both write and play ARGs.

The Card Keepers is a really special and important project to me, and I have BIG plans for it. If you enjoyed playing Part I this past spring, I promise there will be better things to come. I have fallen in love with the characters, the story, and the world in which it all takes place. There are threads to many of the stories that have yet to be told and played-out. I'm excited to develop more around present-day Anna, Aiden, M, Julia, Morgan, Anna's father, etc.

Clearly I bit off more than I can chew this summer and the prequel and Part II were horrible, sloppy, uneven, etc. I promise I won't let that happen again.

My plan is to step away, work on my other responsibilities, get caught up, regroup, and then after I've had a break from it for some time, revisit this ARG and these stories and figure out where I want to go from here.

There will also be a spin-off ARG, "What Happened to Penelope Corwin?" that will begin sometime in the fall (it was originally set for Monday, June 17th, but that's clearly not going to happen).

If you're interested in being a part of that ARG, go ahead and send an email to:

You can also check out the website at:

Finally, when I get a chance I will keep blogging here about ARGs in general, my past, current, and future projects, and my creative process. If you want to keep tabs on everything you can follow me on Twitter:

Thank you so much for playing. I can't tell you how much your participation has meant to me. My favorite part of running ARGs will always, always be interacting with the players.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Shifting Focus

While my current projects are active I don't want to discuss them or bring too much meta into the picture, so for now I'm shifting the focus on this blog from a PM's blog (where I discuss and answer questions about my ARGs) to a blog in which I discuss and explore different aspects of ARG creation, transmedia storytelling, the writing process, and the educational uses and applications of these.

This blog is here for my personal musings on these topics, but I hope it can also be a touch point and resource for anyone interested in transmedia storytelling. I plan to include articles, links, resources, and other helpful materials.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Card Keepers ARG: Q & A Part Two

More Q&A! (thanks again for the emails):

Q: How do you balance work, life, and running ARGs? 

Not very well, ha ha! This question does not have a short answer, so I'm planning an entire blog post about this.

Q: Who was the woman Clara sought out on campus? Was she Winter?

The scene with Clara took place while Clara was at college, before she came home and appeared in Anna's story, with Martin tagging along. The woman she seeks out is not Winter. More about this "mystery woman" will be revealed in Part II, with a few teasers in the Prequel Challenge.

Q: What made you decide to do this ARG?

I was really inspired by one of my favorite novels, The Eight, by Katherine Neville. It's sort of an ARG in novel form before there were ARGs (it was published in the late 80s). I've always been intrigued by the type of storytelling in that novel and once I became familiar with ARGs I came up with the idea for The Card Keepers as a sort of story within a story about a real-life and metaphorical "game," which The Eight portrays as a Chess game. I used Tarot because I have an ongoing fascination with it and wanted to learn more about it along with my players.

Q: Are you planning on turning these stories into a book?

I'm currently writing an urban fantasy novel that has similar story elements, but it's quite different, as novels have a different form and serve their audience in a different way. There are, however, a few characters who appear in both. If I ever finish it, I'll be sure to let you know.
Q: Is there an IG explanation for why Winter would bother with ciphers?

Yes, I set this ARG up to be a game within a game. If you remember the first email sent out, the Card Keeper objectives are:

1. Seek
2. Gather
3. Puzzle
4. Solve
5. Create
6. Understand
7. Teach

Winter was purposefully treating the players like students and like they were playing a game. Her purpose was (and is) to hone their critical thinking skills through solving puzzles and riddles and participating in various challenges.

She presented Anna's story alongside this game as a way for the Keepers to keep their eye on the big picture, their ultimate purpose for playing along and sharpening their thinking skills (and the "ultimate" purpose and overall big picture has not yet been fully revealed)

Q: There were times when TINAG was threatened.

To be completely honest, I'm not overly concerned with TINAG. ARGNet wrote a great article about this last year in which they unpack and discuss the origin of the phrase and its true meaning and application in ARGs. I will say that I do think strict adherence to it in certain circumstances is useful and interesting, but overall I find that transmedia storytelling is moving in the opposite direction. Almost every ARG I've encountered or played in the last year has a meta website, blog, or wiki and often has a Kickstarter as well. Some of these games are announced and promoted months in advance with registration interfaces, etc.

I'm never one to follow trends either way, but rather I choose to do what I feel best serves my audience and my story. I find that ARGs are a lot like different types of novels and television shows: players will find the play styles that suit their needs and tastes and choose to follow and play those games rather than others.

As both a teacher and an ARG creator, I relish and enjoy feedback and feel that it's important for learning and growing as a storyteller. However, as I've mentioned before, it is impossible to make every player, audience member, and student happy and I don't think that should ever be our goal.

Q: How much advance planning went into this ARG?

I've been planning it in my head for years, ever since wrapping up "I Was Charlotte Bronte." However, I really sat down and wrote out most of it and mapped out the game play last fall. I tend to write out the whole story and then outline the direction I think I want it to go, but I also allow the players and the IG characters to have some say in how events unfold and transpire. I love in-game interaction with the players, so my emails are never scripted.

Thanks again!

I'm currently writing up a few more general posts, one reflecting on the game overall and my experience pm-ing it, and some about ARGs in general and the work-life balance. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

OOG Blog

I've decided to remove all OOG posts from the Card Keepers blog and move them over here, then keep this as my OOG blog for any ARGs I am currently running or have run in the past. This is also a place where I discuss ARGs in general, my research into ARGs and transmedia storytelling, and my exploration of using ARGs as a teaching tool.

Meanwhile, I got a comment today on the Card Keepers blog from Tallulah Belle (since I'll be deleting those posts I wanted to move the comment over here):

"Hello Sandy, and thank you for a fantastic ARG experince. I have so many questions, of which many are ig (I’ll wait with them until after the final chapter) but some are oog. Like this: It seems Anna teaches at the same uni as you. Are the characters of this ARG based on real people? Also, even if you might not be able to answer this one: Winter has been a mentor to us all though this entire chapter. Can we hope to keep our relationship with her in the future? (ie I feel a bit sentimental, please tell us some things will remain :) ) From a personal viewpoint I would like to ask how you managed to keep a good flow in this story whilst being a professor and a parent at the same time (both which must come before the ARG)? How much did you write before you got the show on the road? As for the drawings, it was entirely our pleasure, both to create and add to the experience. (We might even go ahead and touch them up a bit and create a deck of our own!)
Thank you again for your time and effort, and am so looking forward to the next part."

Thanks Tallulah! This is pretty thought-provoking stuff, both the questions about balancing all of the different facets of my life as well as your comments about Winter. I will be addressing much of this in a series of posts on this blog, so stay tuned.

The Card Keepers ARG: Q & A Part One

I'm going to start addressing some of the questions I've been asked, but want you to know that you are more than welcome to keep asking questions, and also that I will respond to these more in depth via email to those who asked.

I am completely blown away by your kind and enthusiastic emails! Thank you to Ndemeter, Elethmei, S.P.I., Seadevil, and Pia Ward for the comments and feedback, the positive and the constructive.
Here are some of the questions that have been posed:

Q: Are you a man or a woman?

A: Ha ha! A couple of emails expressed surprise at my gender, which I find interesting. I am indeed a woman. You can read a little more about me here (and see my daughter who keeps me up at night):

Q: How do you know so much about Freemasonry?

A: I made all that up. Just read some stuff on the internet.

Q: Do you read Tarot yourself?

A: I do actually read Tarot! I got a deck about five years ago and have since acquired two more decks. I'm trying to learn more but have done quite a few readings and have been told I have a knack for it.

Q: Were you originally intending to break this ARG into chapters? If so, did you intend to end the chapter where you did?

A: Yes, I originally intended a series of "seasons" (and still do). You'll see that my first post about Anna was titled: "Part One: The Deck." I was actually going to end this chapter with the death of Anna's mother in the house fire. However, something happened as I was writing that scene (those of you who write will understand this) and Katherine Collins set the fire on purpose and then walked out of the house. I was really not expecting that! So we haven't heard the last from Katherine Collins ;)

I honestly thought that I was wrapping it up gradually and effectively and have learned from your feedback that it was all rather abrupt and unexpected, so my sincere apologies. I'm really still learning how to do this, and pacing is pretty tricky. I really struggled with pacing throughout, as most of you commented on.

Running an ARG is a lot like teaching! Some students breeze ahead and I try to keep them challenged and stimulated, while others fall behind. It's difficult to keep everyone engaged and happy. I need to learn to strike a happy medium.

However, I've also learned from being a teacher that it is completely impossible to make everyone happy, so that's something I will not try to do (it simply can't be done). Mainly, I write the stories I want to tell and thoroughly enjoy my interactions with the players.

I was deeply moved by the level of participation in this game, particularly the submissions from the Keepers and the drawings from Tallulah Belle.

I'll address more questions when I can!

The Card Keepers ARG: Thank you and Q&A

This is a post thanking everyone who played The Card Keepers. I had an amazing experiencing PM-ing this game and will never forget it. I'm currently writing up a longer post about the experience (and the players!) but wanted to give you a chance to ask questions. I will answer everything I can!

You can post questions in the comments section here, email them to me, or ask via Twitter or Facebook.
In addition to your questions I'd love to hear your comments and feedback. Thank you again!

Your PM,
Sandy Raymond