There have been many fictional and historical games throughout industry history, but I've never seen one like this before. Throw out all game conventions, and instead substitute the dynamics of social media interactivity, layer in all the leaderboards, point systems, powerups, and story branching conventions of countless games beforre, and you have Media Wars, a free to play game that will persist on the Internet for the next full year. I found this game soon after it was launched, in mid-January of this year, so what I can report is based on my personal extensive play.
How do you play? You drive the game with your intelligent posts, Likes, Dislikes, Follower networks, Buzzes (a form of Twitter), and Opinion Poll and Final Votes. Everything is tied together in an elaborate platform where three scenarios play at one, each running three weeks, and culminating in an ending that the player community chooses. Daily news articles, video broadcasts (exceptionally high production values), blog posts, emails, and Buzzes arre published for each story, with players able to argue about what is happening, persuade others to their beliefs, and gain power, prestige, and game currency in the process. Their final votes drive story outcomes.
Why do you play? This is probably the most unique aspect of Media Wars, because it's a contest between the player community, lured in by a white hat hacker group, and pitted against next-generation terrorists who started this simulation to train their agents, until the hackers decoded it on the deep web and leaked it to the world, That's where you come in, because each story is filled with lies, misdirection, bogus news, and enemy agents who are trying to keep the public unaware and drive outcomes toward their desired agendas.
What I've found particularly unsettling is that the introductory scenario about cyber hacking by this terror group was launched when CENTCOM was hacked, the next stories involved airliner shootdowns right after the Malaysian disaster, and right now I'm seeing stories unfold about terrorist shooter teams terrorizing Europe while social media tries to figure out the next attack targets. It's uncanny how the game events are coming true in the real world, but would have had to have been produced months before, It's actually kind of spooky how Media Wars is revealing a fictional world that could be ours just weeks from now.
This game also has a public wiki at wiki.mediawars.co, and on it I see dozens of character bios, photos, and game summaries of what's happened so far, along with the promise that this game world involves a cast of thousand and stories about everything that's relevant to our lives today. So, if you're bored with orcs and elves and spec ops shooters and want to express your opinions and actually shape the future (of at least a game world), this might be something you'd like to check out. It's a next-generation Alternate Reality Game, and I'm having a blast playing it.