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SGS Feature: 'Jane McGonigal On ilovebees, ARGs'

In today's main feature written for Gamasutra sister site Serious Games Source, we present a summary of Jane McGonigal's Serious Games Summit keynote address in which she rec

Jason Dobson

April 4, 2007

2 Min Read

In today's main feature written for Gamasutra sister site Serious Games Source, which deals with games created for training, health, government, and other uses, as well as their cultural effects, we present a summary of “The Future of Collective Play at GDC 07,” a keynote address presented by alternate reality game creator Jane McGonigal during the recent 2007 Serious Games Summit. In this excerpt, writer Ren Reynolds offers an overview of McGonigal's presentation, during which she recounted how players banded together and “self organized” in trying to solve the now famous alternate reality game ilovebees, developed and run by 42 Entertainment for the launch of Microsoft’s Halo 2: “The problem that the ilovebees players believed they had at this time was the meaning behind the table of numbers and times. Their other problem was time. One of the web pages in the ilovebees online universe contained a clock, and it was counting down. McGonigal explained that the players self organized into three groups, each of which collected their hypotheses under different ‘interpretive frames,’ in this case: Literal, Relative and Numerical. Each group then created their own thread on a message board that had started to attract a lot of game related traffic. The groups even crafted mission statements. The solution that finally emerged from all of this activity was that the numbers were the GPS coordinates for pay phones. As there was a single correct interpretation of the data within the game world, as is typical with this type of game, this meant that only a small set of the players were right. The worry here is that the ARGs alienates the majority of the player base. McGonigal explained that in the case of ilovebees this did not happen, for these players “failing to solve does not mean failing to make a contribution” as such ilovebees was, for McGonigal, a truly “inclusive” game where every participant felt they had played a part. A critical part of ARG design that supports this type of inclusive behavior is what McGonigal termed “meaningful ambiguity,” which was archived in ilovebees with data that had “specificity, order and volume.” This is suggestive of meaning but there is no ostensible limits placed on meaning or the forms of feedback..” You can now read the full Serious Games Source feature on the subject, including more comments from McGonigal regarding ilovebees, as well as how alternate reality games in general can be used as tool to engage large numbers of people in “collective intelligence tasks” (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

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