No, not me, it’s Jane McGonigal from 42 Entertainment. She was the community manager for “ilovebees,” the Alternate Reality Game for Halo 2. I’ve been reading a lot about this game recently, including a paper she wrote called “Why I Love Bees: A Case Study in Collective Intelligence Gaming.”
It’s a complicated and fascinating discussion. I ‘ve always wondered how these games are intended to work. McGonigal says in her paper that the game was only about 60% designed when they began to leave clues. An early plant was a big list of GPS coordinates. The players had no idea what these were for or about. She talks about the fact that players believed this list was important because it was so massive. That gave it importance and relevance.
Then the players were notified of an event happening on August 24th, and they went to work in earnest. They found all the GPS locations, but they were scattered all over the world and seemingly completely unconnected. They tried mathematical analyses, and looked for anagrams and other kinds of patterns. This search took place on internet forums, closely monitored by the game designers.
As the designers watched the players use tools to analyze the data, they began to write the rest of the game. They created puzzles that could be solved (but not easily!) using the methodologies presented by the players. In that way, the game entered a phase of cooperation and mutual development. The players could sense this and their involvement was greatly increased.
One of the last events required players stationed at pay phones all over the world at the same time. A player would be asked a question, and that player would have to relay what he said to another player at one of a hundred locations, and repeat that back to the caller on the phone. The players achieved an astonishing level of coordination and utilization of worldwide assets to solve these puzzles.