Jul 21, 2012

The ARG Museum Beckons

If you’re one of the lucky ones who’s going to ARGFest-O-Con this year, today is your last weekend before we hit Toronto like a ton o’ bricks. As you go over your packing list, don’t forget to include your glorious swag from ARGs past to display in this year’s ARG Museum.

What is the ARG Museum?

It’s a pop-up museum that appears at ARGFest every year. Attendees bring their game artifacts together in one place to exhibit at the event. It’s maintained by a team of dedicated players and creators who organize the exhibit and keep track of everything.

Cool. But you don’t need MY stuff, do you?

Absolutely we do!  The museum is made of temporary loans from many attendees.  We need your in-game artifacts, mailers, live event souvenirs, and treasure finds.  Register them using this handy dandy form today!

While we prefer items that aren’t just a print run (for example, promo postcards), we welcome everything – from character business cards, to books on ARGs, to fake newspapers, to buried treasure.  If it’s from an ARG, we’re willing to include it.

I don’t want to give away my things!

Don’t worry, that’s not what we’re about.  You’ll be putting your items on loan with us until the end of ARGFest, at which point you can pick them up and take them home.

What if someone else brings the same item?

We don’t exhibit more than one of a given item.  We’ll email you if there’s any redundancy.

Are there any other reasons to bring my ARG artifacts to the museum?

While you’re in Toronto, we’ll be digitizing many of the exhibits and turning them into virtual objects that you can rotate in your browser.  We want to extend the experience of  the ARG Museum into the digital world.  As the online components of many games suffer from bit rot, sometimes these items turn out to be the most lasting component of the games.  We want to give everyone the chance to see them.

Isn’t it too late to register?

Nope!  We’re still taking registrations!  Go here and add your stuff to the exhibit.

 Still got questions?  Check out the wiki.

Jun 3, 2012

This is not what I do.

My dad got this piece of mail a while back.  Name and address in typewriter font.  Cow stamp.  No return address.

Inside is a post it note from a friend who signed his note “J” – or maybe that’s just a squiggle.  From the fact that they use a typewriter, prefer Texana on their stamps and still send people newspaper clippings, we can guess that J is an older man or woman.

It’s stuck to a newspaper article from the Financial News section of the paper on Sunday, March 25, Page 3-B.  (The mailing was postmarked March 28, so this is timely.)

The article is about a book that purports to help people like my dad who are over 50 and facing a higher retirement age than they expected.  But of course….

It’s actually an ad.  But this isn’t even an advert placed in a paper that was later cut out; it’s a special printing made to look like it was taken from a newspaper.  This is a piece of junk mail, and it’s made to trick people into reading it instead of throwing it away.

This is not the same as a story artifact – or at least, not the kind I make.  The difference is the same as the difference between telling a story and lying.  This piece of media lies about who your interlocutor is.  It lies about the source of the information; it even lies about the main purpose of the ad copy.  I blurred out their 1-800 number in these pictures, and I would have blurred out the name of the author who wrote the “book,” but it turns out that information isn’t even in the article.  It’s on the cover in the picture, but the name is so tiny I can hardly make it out.  This isn’t even a book promotion; it’s a ploy to get you on the phone.

A real story artifact would name names.  There would be a newspaper title at the top of this page, a URL to the author’s website, and maybe even a bio or photo of the person who wrote it.  (This one is credited to “Steve Williams” who I like to imagine as a cooler cousin of Buck from the Left Behind books.)

The reason this isn’t what I do, why I wouldn’t lie in this way, is that this kind of lying doesn’t engender love or trust.  The point is to trick you long enough to get you to answer the call to action.  One person claiming to be J says that the mailings are a way to open dialogue with local financial planners, but would you feel comfortable starting any professional relationship this way?

…But if I Did….

But if I were to lie to people in this way, I’d have done a better job at it.  Let’s take a look at some details.

The interior edge of the page, the one that would contain copy from another article if this were real, is torn rather than cut, but it’s torn the way someone might tear it with a sharp edged ruler.  People either cut out articles with scissors, or tear them by hand.  The best way to finish this would probably be with a rough patterned tearing edge.

Blugh, this headline.  It’s got quote marks, all caps, AND underlining in it, and it ends in an ellipsis and it takes up four whole 3-column lines!  The AP stylebook would come to life and bludgeon me to death all on its own if I wrote a headline like this.  (We know it’s supposed to be a newspaper article and not a newspaper ad that looks like an article, because those kinds of ads are usually in a box with the word “advertisement” at the top.)

But really, the biggest giveaway here is the back of the page.  Those ugly artifacts are from scanning in a printed page and printing it back out.  It doesn’t match the printing style of the front of the page and it’s a pretty clear sign that its a fake.

You can see another version of this junk mail (and read from others who got this around the country), at Lisa and Michael‘s blog.


Apr 24, 2012

Sweet Swag vs. Crap: Addendum

Reading over my post from last night, I realize it sounds like I’m advocating you DIY everything.  What I didn’t mention is that in this project, my handmade items come in elaborate storytelling packages, and those packages have mass produced parts.

I’ve found the best way to get optimal value out of a plan is to focus on doing work that only you can do.

Once you’ve put together a spreadsheet or just run the numbers yourself, you can see that not everything is efficient to do by hand.  Printing projects, for example, are much cheaper to farm out to a custom printing place than to do at FedEx Office.

Another factor to consider is whether you plan to use the leftovers. If they’re exclusive to the Kickstarter, making them yourself may make more sense.  In my case, most of the mass produced parts will be used to maintain my stock of product, so it’s reasonable to use the Kickstarter campaign to pay for the first run of them. Run your numbers, and make the call.

Jan 31, 2012

Snow People in Felt

Here’s a quick craft project I designed for my friend Jan. It’s one of her “snow people.”  They live in Snow Town, Maine, where they appear in the dead of winter.  This one is particularly adorable, not at all creepy, which is sort of a deviation from the norm.

Jan created the Snow Town ARG last winter, and like a fool I missed playing this amazing game.  Luckily, now she’s raising the money to turn her ARG into an app that we can all play.  The project is up for funding on Kickstarter.  If you have a minute, and a few bucks, check the project out and perhaps even donate. The clock is ticking, and I’d really love to have Snow Town on my phone.

If you want your own snow buddy, you can download the pattern here!

You Will Need:

White Felt
Black Permanent Marker

Nov 7, 2011

My Storyworld 2011 Showcase Pitch: Research & Development(s)

This five-minute presentation was given at the 2011 Storyworld Conference, during its InProduction Showcase. Since I prefer to work with slides that are light on text, most of the relevant info will be in these transcript notes. You can read each slide's notes by opening the caption box.
My name is Haley Moore. I'm a playwright, a transmedia propmaker, and a mixed media artist. I make objects that tell stories.
Also, for the last three years, I've been doing editing and reporting work for a small newspaper in an affluent suburb of Dallas, and in this particular affluent suburb, well, first off self-promotion is huge there, and second, we seem to have more than our fair share of questionable companies. So I've had to handle stories that involve shady business schemes, personal fakery, junk science, and urban mythology, sometimes all of those at once. Over the years, my bullshit detector has become really good, it's like military grade at this point. I found myself becoming fascinated by these stories, and I responded to what I was reading by making parodies. It was a really great writing tool - I'd write slogans and sales copy for ridiculous products, and some of those things I went ahead and made.
So for example, after dealing with some self-help authors, I decided to put out my own book, called How to Win at Anything. It is one page of one chapter that is one word long, and that word is...
I also made a parody Etsy account that pokes fun at stores that resell commercial jewelry, by telling buyers they've cast magic spells on them. I thought I could do them one better in the realm of magicking up useless junk. That's a piece of copy paper tied with floral stems and incense from Dollar Tree, and as you can see, it's listed for $50. Nobody's bought one yet, but I did own up to the fact that its a parody. If I hadn't, I might be rich by now. Who knows?
So parodies of quackery became a theme in my art, and around this time last year, I decided to turn the best ones into a transmedia experience, which I call Research and Developments. The centerpiece of the project is a hand-written book full of sketches and diagrams, and other artifacts, which tells the fictional story of the person who invented all of these things I've been coming up with.
She is the R&D person at a very scammy company, and this is her R&D notebook, which evolves into a diary as the story goes on. What you can see here are pages from a first draft. This is approximately what you'll see when you go to read the book online. But because this is about what I do, which is propmaking and tangible storytelling, what you see online is not going to be a digital composite or a lovely interface that looks like a book.
It is a high quality scan of a one of a kind physical piece of art, which you'll be able to read in the flesh because it will be exhibited with an art show known as the Sketchbook Project. Every summer, they do a touring exhibit of hand-drawn books from around the world, it's a really great exercise in crowdsourcing and collaboration. After the tour, the books go into a permanent public exhibit in Brooklyn, which is also really cool; so you'll be able to actually go and visit my original, it won't be just lying in a desk drawer or something lame like that, it will actually be part of the public experience. There will also be benefits to going and visiting the original in person. It contains physical items, and maybe even special rewards if I can find a local partner to work with.
The book is just the center of a larger story. Each of these colored paths are continuation stories, which are made up of a website, and an experience. All of these branches lead back into the book and our player community, so new players can pick up any of the continuation stories, and enter the world through that avenue. So this is where the quackery comes in. If you look between the website and the experience, there's actually a product that unlocks each experience for you. All of the products are story objects featured in the book, and you, too, can own one.
I'm developing everything from stickers that let your phone talk to ghosts, to aura therapy wands, pocket degrees from a telepathic university, and giant tea strainers full of healing crystals to dunk in your bathtub, which promise to erase your butt wrinkles.
Some of you may have your bottles of Experia memory water. The proposition is that when you drink it, you go into a sort of hypnotic state, where you will see, hear, and feel someone else's memory that's been trapped inside the water. This is a parody of a lot of different magic water that's out there, and also a parody of energy drinks, because this comes in a bunch of different flavors.
We've got Spacewalk, Shark Dive, Tropic Tryst, Eruption, Success ... and then there is Snowboard, which is the variety you'll be sampling this weekend.
So if you open the bottle, you'll see that you can't really test the concept because there's no water inside. Instead, there's a message that says you've won the rare opportunity to be treated to a special experience and have the memories of that experience harvested from your brain to make a new flavor. There's also this sinister-looking thing...which is labeled, "MEMORY DRILL." At this point, you're probably hoping this is quackery. From there, you go into an interactive short story that I've created just for you guys as a prelude to what you'll see when you have the whole extended book experience.
This whole thing has been a labor of love. What you've seen so far is an indie art project that I'm doing on a shoestring budget, by cobbling together my writing and web and package design skills, but as I move into the next phase, I'm looking for investors, partners and collaborators. So, if you're interested in helping me bring this world of Quackery to life, please find me, and let's talk. Thank you.

I’ve spent a few days trying to find a good format for posting these to the web. I rely on my voice to convey the bulk of the info when I speak in person, and I don’t care for clutter, so I don’t put much text on my slides. Click the “Caption” button on each to read a slide by slide transcript.

Jan 26, 2011

R&D Announcement Thingy

Guess what, fools? I’m writing a book! It’s called:

Or R&D for all you hip kids.

R&D is a very special book. In addition to the usual book inventory – plot, characters, insane scientific theories, etc. – it has three features that are kind of unique.

1) It is written by hand. R&D is the journal of a modern day mad scientist. It contains sketches, diagrams, margin doodles, etc. When you read it online or in print, you’re reading a copy of a real handwritten book that will be on permanent exhibit at the Brooklyn Art Library (as part of The Sketchbook Project.)

2) It is a TRANSMEDIA book, if you look up the things you find in R&D on the Interbutts, you’ll find more of the story. This will be, as far as I know, the only book like this done by an individual artist.  (Although there are plenty of excellent, professionally produced ones – particularly Cathy’s Book.)

3) I am writing it for tips! Well, sort of.

You’ll be able to read R&D for free online, buy a print copy, or even buy a special edition print copy with embedded audio chips and other fun three-dee stuff. If you read it online and like it, I ask that you drop some cash in one of the little virtual tip jars I’m setting up throughout the experience. Some of them are donations, others will get you stuff – it’s like a public radio fundraiser, only instead of some lame tote bag, you get your master’s degree in quackery, or a sticker that lets your phone talk to the dead.

Or in other words, moichandizing!

It’s a very ambitious project, demanding the best I have to give in product design, writing and experience planning .  If those of you who usually see me haven’t lately, it’s because I’ve been knee deep in this. This is my first long form piece of fiction in a few years, and the first time I’ve ever tried anything like this on my own.  I hope the result is up to your highly elevated standards.

Now, time to get back to making the damn thing.  *Grumbles and heads back to the writing mines.*

Sep 27, 2010

My Sketchbook Project Project Sketchbook

Today, I got something very exciting in the mail!

It’s my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project!

Since I can’t draw, I am going to use this as an opportunity to do some heavy transmedia prototyping/experimentation.  I have been outlining away, and by January 15, I hope to have a complete 80-page story leading to offsite elements and hopefully a little interaction.  This is my NaNoWriMo, only instead of writing a novel in a month, I’ll be making a transmedia experience in (slightly more than) a month.

The cool thing about doing this with the Sketchbook Project is, anyone will be able to see the original central game artifact by catching the Sketchbook Project tour next year, or visiting the Brooklyn Art Museum.  How neat is that?

My theme for the exhibit is “Science project gone wrong”, and the story I’m cooking up involves a mad scientist, a cadre of con men, and a Dymo Typewriter M10 label maker.

As far as the writing goes, I know this isn’t going to be Cathy’s Book, but it won’t exactly be a first draft, either.  I’ve built segments of improvisation into the story, so it will hopefully come across as a piece of natural expression – like, you know…a sketchbook.

If I finish it in time, and it doesn’t suck, I’ll be scanning it in so those who can’t make it to Brooklyn can get a copy.