Manoa ARG Launches In Second Life

by Pixeleen Mistral on 07/04/07 at 10:15 am

by Onder Skall — courtesy of Second Life Games

Following up on a tip left by Second Life Games reader Spysect (aka Eddie Hagoromo) a new Alternate Reality Game has been discovered here in Second Life. The website Discover Manoa! details a failed colonization attempt and a mysterious disaster. From the website:

The board has allocated a bonus of L$100,000 for the best data explaining what occurred during the final months of the Manoa Project.

Looks like the due date here is June 1st, so get to work! To get you started, you need to do three things:

1. Go over the Discover Manoa! and pick through not just the contents, but the HTML as well. In a typical ARG there’s something hidden there.
2. Go to Manoa itself and check it out. Really cool build; they dropped some coin on this one.
3. Check out the forums over at UnFiction where brilliant puzzle masters are unraveling the mystery!

That’s the fun part. Below the fold, a criticism. Stop reading here if you’d rather just have a good time.

Alright, I’ve used the term “Alternate Reality Game” here, but in all honesty this doesn’t qualify for that title. The good folk over at UnFiction are treating it like one, so I went ahead and used the term, but strictly speaking we’re way off.

The fundamental concept of an ARG is that the players need to be able to allow themselves the fantasy that this is all real and that playing the game will change things in the real world. Anything that’s obviously fictional, like a virtual world, has to be given some kind of context in the here-and-now. The people organizing the game never reveal themselves before the end (if they do at all). These are games where reality has shifted into fiction. That’s what makes them so compelling.

So in this case, obviously, not really an ARG because…

* The island is owned by Centric, an ad agency whose website pushes them as an all-media smorgasborg of pervasive delights. They’ve made no honest attempt to hide that.
* There’s no explanation for why we here in the present would be dealing with a situation from the distant future, let alone through a virtual world.
* They wrote a full press-release about the (more appropriately named) RPG.
* Spysect, on the Unfiction forums, also found this quote (from here): “Now, imagine what an alternate reality campaign might do for you.” *sigh*

Guys, seriously, this is no way to run an ARG. It looks like you made some neat puzzles in here, but ARGs demand drama.

Many will point to the infamous “i love bees”, or the more recent “Ny Takma” as stellar examples of real ARGs. (Sorry for the lack of links but the research is half the fun with these things!) For my part, though, there’s never been anything like Neurocam. Playing these things makes even the most hardcore RPGs seem trite.

Study up boys, you have a way to go.

Having said all of this, I do have to hand it to them: this is quite a good Role-Playing experience. Everything we do in Second Life is rationalized into the plot, including flying and TP, and you do get the sense that maybe Second Life was designed around Manoa. That’s a pretty cool creative accomplishment.

One Response to “Manoa ARG Launches In Second Life”

  1. Economic Mip

    Apr 7th, 2007

    A far greater criticism is that Centric is claiming to be completely unaware why this is happening (or how) as well. Strange, but with a top prize of 30 billion Zimbabwean Dollars, I’ll play ball.

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