ARG Fest-o-Con Coming to Portland

ARG Fest-o-Con, the premiere English-language convention for players and designers of Alternate Reality Games, will be held in Portland on July 17-19.

Alternate Reality Games are an interactive narrative that plays out across multiple communications media and (often) in real locations, sometimes with actors (c.f. article “Serious Fun” from The Economist). The most compelling ARGs solicit player involvement that effects the storyline of the narrative. Many ARGs have incorporated locative features, mostly geo-caching (answering payphones in I Love Bees, hunting for a buried BMW in The Art of the Heist) and treasure hunting (the quest for the Receda Cube in Perplex City). As handheld GPS becomes more ubiquitous, location will be incorporated to a greater degree in ARGs.

The conference weekend consists of an opening cocktail reception, a day of sessions and presentations, and a casual day for touring, catching-up, and scheming. Highlights of the conference include:

  • James Kane, creator of the iPhone app The Hidden Park, which delivers a children’s story through the iPhone and allows players to snapshot pictures that include creatures from the story.
  • Nonchalance, a Bay Area based immersive media studio that works on urban exploration activities, including the Bay Area Aerosol Heritage Society, a graffiti catalogue and tour.
  • The keynote presentation by Jordan Weissman, on Saturday evening as a part fo the conference banquet. Jordan Weissman was part of the team that produced The Beast, considered the seminal Alternate Reality Game.

ARG Fest-o-Con will be a single-track of sessions and presentations, but it won’t be staid or dull. There will be robots looking for friends-with-benefits! Something unexpected may happen! The Unfiction internet community will operate a backchannel over IRC, which will be available from the conference and monitored from the podium. Updates from the conference will be sent out via Twitter (follow Twitter@ARGFest for updates). And there will be a Grand Inquisitor charged to ask the questions the audience is afraid to ask.

Disclosure: Ouroboros is a member of the organizing committee for this year’s ARG Fest-o-Con.