It’s Alive!: Lost ARG has begun

On May 4, 2006 by Christy

Just a few hours ago, the Lost ARG began in the UK. My inbox is full with the details of the phone number (this is how the game starts: during an ‘ad break’ a phone number is shown) and the related sites. But, the Lost ARG doesn’t officially commence in Australia until the 4th May, and the 3rd of May in the US. This just shows how stupid local broadcasters are, or, how international launches cannot happen through TV. We have global film launches where people turn up to the cinema at midnight to watch a film at the same time as audiences on the other side of the planet. It seems an internet launch — the actual screening of something — is the direction we’ll need to go in this networked world. Don’t they realise that fans and players congregate according to their interests and skills, not according to their country? But back to the very exciting LOST ARG!

Yes, ABC Entertainment, JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof have created an ARG: The Lost Experience. Well, everyone is hoping it is an ARG and not just some internet scavenger hunt. An ARG is rich in narrative, scavenger hunts are basically, just a hunt. Pretty one-dimensional. Here are comments by Lost fans, and how they’re hoping for more than just a ‘game’:

The problem is, they may have us jumping through hoops for very, very inconsequential content. “Hey, I’ve just solved an elaborate logic puzzle using clues from around the world… and I’ve unlocked three-quarters of a new hatch logo! Woo! Go Lost!” etc. [Henpecker | April 21, 2006 at 03:19 AM]
I agree with the henpecker… it’s going to be a lot of immersion for little output, I’m afraid. Unless they get George Lucas in here to help create an expanded universe for LOST the way they did for Star Wars.     

the pay off should be that the AR will give you dharma info/character backstory/island mystery stuff that you CAN’T get on the show… [Scott | April 21, 2006 at 04:23 PM]

The ARG was mentioned by Lost writer Javier Grillo-Marxauch back in Feb. Then, on April 3rd, the producers mentioned in the official Lost podcast that an internet game was coming up in May. On April 19th there was a ‘leak‘:

I work with ABC and wanted to give you a heads up on an unprecedented interactive project ABC is working on, a project that has never been done that combines the internet and a international hit television show. They arenÂ’t releasing the information wide until next week.

ABC, Channel 4 Television in the U.K, and Australia Channel 7 will launch the “Lost Experience,” a revolutionary interactive experience based on the international hit television series, “Lost”. Working together, more than 30 broadcasters from Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East will release clues with new information regarding the mystery and mythology of the island featured in the series. Fans looking to solve the puzzle will find audio, video, and text clues in locations around the world, along with an online community in which to connect and collaborate with others. Just like any other good mystery, clues can and will happen anywhere at anytime across multiple platforms.

The LostCasts podcast discussed it and then on April 24th the word was out. Not only are fans very excited, but veteran ARGers are coming out to play this one. The Cloudmakers, the players of the pivotal ARG The Beast, have even come out to play they’re so excited. With good reason too. Unlike any other ARG augmentation of an existing property (for example, there’s been ARGs for Speilberg’s film AI, The Matrix and the Halo 2 videogame), Lost is designed to be full of puzzles and depth from the beginning. And already, there are thousands of fans participating in the fictional websites that have been created to spread the Lost storyworld across media. The Lost Experience aims even bigger, it will be run through over 19 media outlets, with 22 (or 30) broadcasters. But don’t just take my word for it, check out some of the descriptions of this “experience”:

“It’s like a giant, worldwide mysterious jigsaw puzzle that will come to life for all the world to solve,” Mike Benson, senior vice president of marketing for ABC Entertainment, said in a statement. [CNN, 24 April]

“[T]he Lost Experience, a new form of hybrid game” [Yahoo, 27 April] 

‘this experience goes beyond surfing the Web or using a game controller.’ [Yahoo, 27 April] 

Benson: “a true hybrid of content and viral engagement.” The purpose of this game is not to sell the show to people, but to connect current viewers to the program in a way they haven’t been in the past.’ [Yahoo, 27 April] 

And here is some information about its design:

Tiered Audience Targeting:

‘ABC said the game is designed to appeal to both fans and people unfamiliar with “Lost.”‘ [CNN, 24 April]

‘The game’s been designed to allow individuals the clues needed to put the story together on their own, whether they’re new to the show or devoted Losties.’ [Yahoo, 27 April] 

Global Audience Targeting, faciltating collaboration

“The whole idea is to get not only an American audience, but a global community involved in the story . . . by blogging and telling other people about it.” [NYTimes, 2 May]  

‘Different clues will be revealed to different countries, encouraging interaction among fans.’ [Yahoo, 27 April] 

Components distributed across media, new and old, recent & old releases

They have to find clues on the air, online, and even on DVD with the first season of the show [Yahoo, 27 April] 

‘”We’ll tell that story through a variety of platforms. There will be clues that will lead you to bits and pieces of the story – you may find things on our Web site, or out in everyday life and in a variety of places.’ [NYTimes, 2 May]

Provide narrative depth

It will contain a parallel storyline, not part of the show, but also provide new characters and information about the Hanso Foundation. [CNN, 24 April]

‘It will introduce new characters and explore show mysteries like the Dharma Inititiative, the Hanso Foundation, The Others, and the connection of the Air Oceanic flight to the island.’ [Yahoo, 27 April] 

‘”We’ve taken this alternate story, which has a beginning, middle and an end, and broken it up into a lot of different pieces.”‘ [NYTimes, 2 May]

ARG story and TV story will complement each other

‘The Lost Experience will run throughout the summer and lead up to the beginning of Season 3. Benson said the story will come together with the show with the fall launch. If all goes according to plan, he’d like to unleash additional Experience story lines in the future.’ [Yahoo, 27 April] 

Reward emerging media use & facilitate marketing sponsorship

‘In a new marketing initiative to encourage TiVo users to watch commercials, the clues can come during a commercial break or in the show itself.’ [Yahoo, 27 April] 

There is at least one Lost Experience Guide and forum that has begun along with a Cloudmakers forum and of course, the hardcore ARGers forum at unfiction. I’m very excited, and will be participating as much as I can with this ARG. I’m also excited because today, on the day the Lost ARG goes live, so does my miniARG. So, I’m riding a pretty good wave of adrenalin at the moment. 🙂  

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