Unfiction: Alternative Reality In and Out of the Web

Found this article paper (was printed in this month’s ACM Interactions) on creating web-based story games.

Otherwise known as unfiction games.

Perhaps the first popular unfiction game was Blair Witch project, where a site was created to be deliberately ambiguous about the line between fiction and reality. Then, The “Beast” project. Do you remember the brief buzz before the “AI” movie came out in 2001? It wasn’t about the movie, which disappointed many, but about the large web of interlinked sites that had been created to promote it, offering a slice of life in 2142. And most recently, I Love Bees was a succesful tool of promotion for the Halo 2. This article was written by the creator of Exocog, which promoted Minority Report.

The article provides some useful tips for designers of this genre: * How much interactivity? Blair Witch (1995) was basically static. Exocog websites included a blog, evolved over several weeks, and also included features such as a forum, a webring which real sites could attach to, and publishing research proposals sent by real users. “I Love Bees” took it further, calling public telephones and, according to the article, “found ways to build player-generated e-mail, even individual telephone calls to players, into the game”. * The line between fiction and reality is tricky. The article cies the Godsend movie promotion, which contained a website about a fictitious cloning institute. The problem was that many people googling for cloning thought it was real, which led to bad press. So they suggest it’s important to consider how people get to the site and how realistic the content is. * How to measure business value? We all know advertising is tricky to measure. The internet was supposed to make the connection more clear, but games like this probably warp things again. So the authors ask open questions such as whether the efforts are worthwhile, and how to decide on how much to do.

It’s interesting that most of these games, when uised for promotion, have focused on movies or games. Unfiction could equally be used to promote a product or an idea.