Apr 302009

Clip above from the earlier Australian version of The Phone in Feb 09 & interview with its producer Chris Berry here

Interesting timing to receive a prod from the publicist of this show as I am in the middle of mentoring groups of AFTRS directing students who are developing ARG/Social Media drama. The tendency is to always over author the story environments and they turn into endless quests through fixed content but in this new hybrid form The Phone, described below, starts to mash-up urban locative quests with high production value TV crime/spy drama – a true development of form & innovation?

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Mar 092009

It’s that time of year where things really start to kick-in. So on top of all my AFTRS lecturing, MA Supervision and LAMP R&D work plus commercial work via MUVEDesign and many consultancy sessions here are some nice breaks – seminars and conferences I am speaking at or running.

(BTW most of the LAMP ones can be booked at AFTRS short course pages in the MultiPlatform section – page being updated at the moment)

Tues/Weds 10-11 March – Ad:Tech. Virtual Worlds & Business: What’s The ROI?

adtech-brandsVirtual worlds are maturing at a rapid rate and brands are realising there are valuable business opportunities within them. Whether the objective is engagement, research or brand presence, virtual worlds are proving to be a legitimate marketing channel. In this session our panel will look to provide insights into the business benefits of working within a virtual world. Our panellists will provide:

  • – An overview of virtual worlds and why they’re suitable for business
  • – Insight for brand involvement including what’s in it for both the brand and the consumer
  • – Considerations before entering a virtual world and how to be successful
  • – Identifying the KPIs and how to measure the success of a campaign
  • – Engagement and brand presence
  • – With case study examples, this session will bring to life the importance of engagement and brand presence in a virtual world and how organisations are testing, developing, connecting, and marketing within these communities.


  • Gary Hayes, Director, Laboratory for Advanced Media Production, AFTRS & CEO MUVEDesign
  • Jeff Brookes, Regional Director – Asia Pacific, Sulake Corporation (habbo.com.au)
  • Mitch Olson, Co-Founder, SmallWorlds.com

Wed 25 March 6-7pm – LAMP ‘State of Play’ Television 2.0: latest innovations in online video

Convergence and multi-platform production is front and centre at MIP TV this year. This seminar will provide background to the terminology, techniques and recent innovations in distributed online video, preparing you for all the key developments. Gary Introducing and speaking.

Fri 3 April – LAMP ‘Interactive Workshop’  Documentary 2.0: Serious Games

Seminar and Workshop Fri April 3. The intersection between documentary filmmaking and games will be explored in this seminar and workshop, providing deep insight into the potential of Serious Games. Both games and stories have long been recognised as powerful learning tools. Their combination in the 21st century has the potential to provide learning experiences that are collaborative and globally connected. What are the best examples of Serious Games and where are they heading? How can Serious Games best be employed by educators, corporations or non-profit organisations? Gary facilitating and speaking.

20-30 April – “Innovation & Form Workshop” for AFTRS Students featuring:

Wed 22 April 10am-12pm Open morning seminar “Innovations in Multi-Platform Content”

A selection of leading innovators in multi-platform content present recent projects in the areas of social media, cross platform storytelling, extended entertainment, games and online entertainment. Presenters will include social media strategist Laurel Papworth, 2008 BAFTA winners Hoodlum Entertainment and representatives from Google and other cutting edge innovators and thinkers in global screen media. Gary speaking.

Wed April 29 – LAMP  ‘State of Play’ Seminar “Free & Collaborative: Latest Open Source Creative Tools”

Want to run your own Facebook or YouTube? Want to set-up a cool online video festival or manage a complex project online? What are the best, free tools for collaboration, video distribution and marketing? An insightful survey of tools such as Drupal, Ning, Celtx, WordPress, Mogulus, Joomla and many more. Gary speaking.

Thurs/Fri 14-15 May – LAMP ‘Interactive Workshop’ Machinima Virtual Story: The Art & Craft of Machinima

Games and virtual worlds are now being used as creative tools to make a wide range of films from horror genre, comedy to corporate training and education. YouTube, Machinima.com and scores of other video portals are filled with examples of these new forms of virtual storytelling and some are now being commissioned by mainstream TV. NBC aired a CSI episode in 2008 featuring machinima made in Second Life and HBO recently acquired the machinima series ‘Molotov Alva’.  The seminar will explore the vast range of machinima made with console, PC and online games. It will also look at simple forms of film pre-visualisation now possible using games technologies. The intensive workshop will provide a hands-on introduction to the tools of machinima and the opportunity to work on a short project. Participants are encouraged to bring along a pre-recorded soundtrack (including voice and/or music) to use as the basis for their project. Gary facilitating and speaking.

Wed May 27 – LAMP ‘State of Play’ Seminar “Massively Multi-Storyteller Online Worlds”

Virtual worlds and online games are primarily used for role-playing but they can become host to your own narrative worlds. This session looks at how to locate, take-part in or build rich story environments inside shared online spaces. Gary facilitating and speaking.

8-10 June Banff TV Fest Canada – Still discussing speaking and mentor role!

17-23 June  Games and Entertainment Technologies Conference in Algarve Portugal

Keynoting at the  Game, WAC and Informatics conferences (www.gaming-conf.org, www.wac-conf.org and www.informatics-conf.org). The Keynote will look at major trends and futures of  eLearning, Intelligent Systems, Wireless Applications, Games, Creative Industries, ICT and Society, Computer Graphics and IHCI.

24 June – LAMP ‘State of Play’ Cinema 2.0

Stereoscopic 3D, interactive cinema, games in cinema. Where does the future lie for cinemas and other public screen spaces? Gary facilitating and speaking.

Thurs/Fri July 2/3 – LAMP ‘Interactive Workshop & Seminar’ “The Social Media Campaign: Connecting with your audience”

Aimed at anyone who wants to promote themselves, their product or creation into communities. A workshop looking at how to understand the new audiences, build traffic and loyalty that goes way beyond uploading a 9 minute short onto YouTube but looks at techniques of engaging with online events, social networks and DIY social media. The workshop will examine case studies of successful campaigns from producers and creators doing it for themselves.

Led by Laurel Papworth who is a Power150 media blogger (global – AdNews) and in the top 5 media bloggers for Australia (B&T). She has been teaching for 20 years, mostly in the area of online communities and virtual communications. Laurel is the senior social media strategist in Australia, consulting to companies, not for profits and government departments in Australia, Asia and Middle East including: Middle East Broadcasting (Dubai/Saudi Arabia) – Channel MBC4, Telecom New Zealand, , Fairfax: RSVP Dating Community, Sony Corporation, Universal McCann Erickson WorldWide, CHANNEL TEN: including Australian Idol community, Sulake: Makers of Habbo, Macquarie Leisure, Macquarie Media, New Holland Publishing, Australasian, Performing Right Association (APRA), Peoplebrowsr, MySongcast.com unsigned bands community, Australian Businesswomens’ Network, Pink Sofa online community, ABC Australia, National Archives of Australia (gov), Department of State and Regional Development (gov), Department of Primary Industry (gov), Australian Film Television and Radio School (edu), University of Sydney (edu, public), University of Western Sydney (edu, Masters program).

Gary speaking.

Mid Sept – SPAA Fringe, MultiPlatform Content sessions. Planning

Mid Nov – SPAA, MultiPlatform Content Strand. Planning

Sep 232008

OK I had better blog this ‘press release‘ copied below which quotes me, but also as I am heavily involved in the creation of these courses and still running LAMP (the innovation unit at AFTRS). Frankly it is one of the best things to happen in Australian industry education for the last three years that I have been based in Sydney. AFTRS is renowned for its high production value filmmaking primarily with many students being nominated and going on to win Academy Awards, Oscars etc.

Via three years of LAMP I have had a key role in helping the internal AFTRS culture and curriculum adopt a new way of thinking about audiences and creating entertainment for them. This goes way beyond point and click, cross-media interactivity (very 90s) to experiential services and social media entertainment. So two key new courses below and a variety of ‘hybrid format’ workshops across the school will help create new thinkers – marrying dramatic story and immersive game, blending social with structured narrative and putting ‘play’ into areas where ‘playful interaction’ has previously dared to tread.

This press release from here and more about the courses here. There is already a high demand (Kotaku and Inside Film have more too) but pass this on to folk who want to play a part in the global development of the ‘gilm’ genre (thats mixing game, film, tv and virtual worlds to you and I) !

More on the wonderful world of Games and Film and Blended TV in an upcoming post with a Gary special, montage video 🙂

16Â September, 2008


15 September 2008

AFTRS_island_008Games and Virtual Worlds: a new frontier of experience

Can games have real story and rival the emotional pull of the cinema? Australia’s leading screen arts school thinks so as is introducing courses that prepare students for a future of filmic games and virtual story worlds.

The Australian Film TV and Radio School (AFTRS) has created two ground breaking Graduate Diploma courses specialising in Game Design and Virtual Worlds. These are two of the only courses in the world to explore the link between games or virtual worlds and cinematic story.

“There are already major Australasian filmmakers like George Miller and Peter Jackson working at the frontier between film and games and we know it is timely for AFTRS to integrate games into our screen directing program.” said Sandra Levy, CEO of AFTRS

James Cameron is currently creating games and social virtual worlds around his latest film Avatar and one of his most famous films, Titanic. He said at a virtual worlds conference last week “I’ve always wanted to let people see what it was like to sail aboard the Titanic, to really know the ship, the passengers and their place in history.”

The games industry is growing rapidly and now supports a vast diversity of content ranging from pure entertainment, online social gameplay through to educational simulations of real life and situations. Some of the leading practitioners in the world have helped to develop the AFTRS program including CTO of Relic Entertainment John Buchanan and Matt Costello who wrote the popular Pirates of the Caribbean games.

“Games are a key element of the global revolution in digital content” said Peter Giles Director of Digital Media at AFTRS. “We have built strong foundations for our games and virtual world courses at AFTRS over the past four years. Our expertise in computer animation and interactive writing has been coupled with our experience of rapidly prototyping digital content through our Laboratory of Advanced Media Production (LAMP).

Habbo Hotel, Second Life, there.com and HiPiHi are among 50 social virtual worlds which now command more than 320 million users worldwide. Film and television producers have begun to extend their engagement with audiences by moving them into social virtual worlds and role playing games such as CSI creator Anthony Zuiker who said recently:

“In the gaming area, you want to give people tasks, to shoot things and upload pictures… You’re doing this because you want these people to be creating their own story and it will be part of the crime on the broadcast… Even if it’s not the actual thing I shot, I was part of that experience, that community, that narrative.”

Gary Hayes who has created the AFTRS Virtual Worlds course and led the LAMP initiative said, “It is important when designing any form of digital content that it facilitates active engagement by the audience so that, for example, they may become the protagonist in film-like games or the ability to create their own stories. Our courses will give students the tools to create this new type of experience”.

The courses will look at the cross-over areas such as previsualisation for films, virtual scenes that aid the filmmaking process, real life motion capture, cinematic writing, sound and music for game worlds and the role of artificial intelligence in creating rich game experiences.

AFTRS welcomes applications from all areas of the industry for these exciting cross-disciplinary courses. The courses are suitable for applicants from creative or technical backgrounds. So if you have highly tuned writing or directing skills we can help you to up-skill in games and virtual worlds. Conversely, if you have a games or virtual worlds background we can teach you the skills in leading and developing story-rich projects.

Visit www.aftrs.edu.au/games for more info on how to apply.

For further information:

Karolina Lipiec
The Lantern Group
Ph: (02) 9383 4029 / 0415 985 058

May 272006

Second Life ARGOK the title sounds a little ‘space cadet’ and paradoxical but bear with me on this one because the implications go way beyond the focus of this post which is a quick orientation and guide to non-scripted but organised ‘social play’ inside a virtual world and a great way to plan a ‘real world’ Alternate Reality Game – or run a special form one inside the social virtual world. As you may have read on my previous post “The Personalization of Second Life” there are a few shared, virtual spaces that are infinitely personalizable and customisable.

Second Life is the leader in this area and so has become the focus of many activities that require represention – a sort of ‘real as it gets’ for doing real world-type things in – a place to create something representing the real world, our physical world. (As a tangent I personally believe we need to move towards creating new and non-representations of our real world as most folk in SL tend to midly enhance their RL existences, build precise replicas of the first life or a few enlightened ones are planning singularity! – I will not go into that rabbit hole as I posted about the Human 2.0 upgrade a few months ago).

Back to the post which in theory sounds complex. Inside Second Life people get paid for organising events and ARG puppet-masters will and should be part of that mix. We need to go beyond just concerts or dances or bingo – but whole in-world game-play, that has some sophistication and plays on the paradigms inherent in the space. Another rabbit hole of game within a game – but SL is not realy a game but a created society, which makes it ideal for what I describe below in the guide element of this post. So we have a real world in which to potentially do things with far more imagination but more importantly, at lower cost and more efficiently. It takes minutes to build a complex 3D structure and texture map it, hours to construct a building with multiple floors and seconds to travel anywhere. It is in this context and the imaginative aspects of this world that it dawned on me an environment perfect for alternate reality gaming.

Second Life ARG - streaming mediaI often think of ARG’s as similar in format to after dinner mystery games, a collaborative quest of a truth – but spread over months, and location. This is not to be derogatory about the form as real world narrative immersion can be profound and of course it goes deeper but it helps people get it. Borrowing from the earliest Greek mystery plays, theatre eg: mousetrap, 40s crime films, Hitchcock, 70s US cop TV plays, CSI, Lost, Da Vinci code, GoldRush etc etc “nothing is what it seems”. Form & genre evolved. Another way to describe them is to think of something like the X-files (which blurred reality and fantasy) played out in real spaces and media by the audience. A final stab at describing it – a search for the truth behind potential conspiracy, a quest for answers, a participatory game across many media types where lots of people help each other “get to the bottom of it”! It takes the mystery genre mixes in internet search and corporate culture sprinkles some console-like gameplay and adds a dash of real life constructs. The thing that seperates it from being a web quest is the physical element IMHO. So that is my version of ARG. There iare many and various definitions at wikipedia. But constructing any interactive service that requires a complex mix of story, multi paths and built, multiple, pre-rendered elements is hard work. MMORPGs, console games and web quests alike require a great deal of production planning and creation. It should be easy to recruit many folk inside SL to work together in creating ARGs (see below) that is part of the collaborative magic of the place. Making up a cross media game distributed across many platforms is a task not for the faint hearted. We have done a few very rough mini attempts as team building exercises at LAMP I run but they tend to be no more than murder mysteries with a few slim websites and real life role playing thrown in. The form needs a place where it is easy to create complex story structures and also have the real time element. So…enough preamble (yes I am typing this live into the wordpress box by the way!!) – even more worrying…

Second Life ARGSecond Life has all the raw ingredients for great Alternate Reality Game production and execution. FIRSTLY, though the basis on which all of this depends is that “the virtual space is regarded as being complete and of itself a self contained reality AND all participants have a shared perception of the space” – (note: participants who are agreeing to share a common narrative and not ALL residents yet). In other words, in this case, Second Life IS the world for the participants and everything that happens within it has no references (or shouldnt have) to the real world – the one your sat in now. This may be the paradox to some who would say that ARG’s by definition may contain a virtual game, not so here, this IS the world. So a fourth wall has to be created, the role playing by the characters in a piece has to be kept within the world, no references to the first world and so on. The challenge is getting everyone on the same song sheet – old SLifers have a completely different take on the world than newbies of course – and everything in between. More later. The story structure of the ARG must be closely aligned to the world of Second Life – because the narrative is suggesting something parallel or ‘alternate’ to the world, it should not also become too fantasy (more later). Because then we step into World of Warcraft, or Everquest territory – and that would be easy to do. No the story world here needs to play off the everyday world of Second Life (OK those who have not spent time here may think I have lost it or am reading way too much into, what many call a computer game…).

Second Life ARGNo Second Life is a very immersive and time consuming experience – it is both worringly addictive yet extends in the most compelling way ones “dreams & desires” – but I digress yet again. Themes that would be easy inside SL include conspiracies around property given the relative high cost of land. Others around the many locations and buildings in terms of history, and previous events that may have happened there. Much could be built into corporate take over, the large shopping malls and potential mafiosa regimes. There are many ‘real life’ characters inside SL(due to the fact that they are ‘in’ the world most days) that could be used as something to generate myth – these ‘regulars’ do in fact constantly role play as well so they could be used. Also as many activities such as building, lectures, dances, concerts etc take place – anything can be built to that. Another kind of theme which a few of us have been improvising around in public spaces already 😉 would be the bizarre concepts around a ‘revolution against the overlords that run Second Life’. Bear with me on this one – a kind of phythonesque, satirical, nonsense stab at the ‘system’ on which SL runs. Can the inmates take over the asylum, biting the hands that feed it, Neo escapes the matrix and so on. There are many themes to explore as the backbone of an ARG inside Second Life that do not need to resort to fantasy.


Second Life ARGSecond life has so many potential tools that designers of ARG’s inside it can draw on. It affords many things that are very difficult or nigh on impossible in the physical world, yet in SL are taken as granted. Here is a non-exhaustive list that from my experience so far could be used as virtual reality, alternate reality game tools.

Easy and always on communication: IM and chat is ubiquitous inside SL. So talking to characters in front of you and in parallel IM’ing distant ones is VERY easy. Also you can deliver out of band, in other words leave messages for others with guarenteed delivery – now think sms or even email in the real ‘global world and the multiple carrier, spam nightmare. This is where global players can instantaneously communitcate in-game.

Location, location, location: To get to anyplace in Second Life one simply teleports. This means the whole 200 000 people world can be readily explored and therefore distributed widely and not tied to a specific location. That is not to say one location could act as base with dense areas of gameplay.

Inter character exchanges: This is where any character can pass you objects, directions, teleportation coordinates, animations, notecards – the list goes on. A tool such as this really means clue discovery and passing stories between players is a breeze.

Grouping: To create teams inside SL is also very easy, and new members can be added on the fly. Members of your group can be tracked across the built in maps.

Orientation: SL has many ways to find things, people and know where you are. The built in search engine can point you at any person, event, place, object inside the world. So placing clues and red herrings etc: is also very easy. The mapping is incredible and zooming, scrolling across the many thousands of buildings combined with instantaneous teleporting on a double click means you can get anywhere from anywhere.

Second Life ARGScripting: It is incredibly easy to put script into objects in SL. I used some pre-compiled code last night and modified it to build a greeting object (one that talks back based on pre-set text input) AND an answer machine AND something that sends you notecards AND even got into scripting motion – so things can move to locations on input or follow characters. So bespoke elements can be quickly added into the mix.

Animation: Not an obvious element of the SL tool set to use, but well animated characters who are real life (inside Second Life) add to the sense of reality I think. Even though the character may look like Brad Pitt (just realised one of mine does a bit!) or some kind of cat woman, if the movements are fluid, then the world is all the more usuable and once immersed doesnt lead to sense of disbelief. True immersion should afford that. So get good skins (the texture around your avatar) and override (basic) animations using an AO (animation overridere) for your characters.

Identity: This is a great area to explore in ARG’s as characters avatars can change at the drop of a hat. In otherwords a surfer dude can change into an office worker in a split second in front of you (choose a rather ‘normal example’ for brevity!). But what that means is that one can really play on the ‘no one is who they seem’ mentality here. Great for conspiracy and diversionary tactics…

Virtual Cross-Media: SL allows movies and sound to be streamed via the web into the world onto screens and through objects – opening all sorts of possibilities. Also objects can contain sound bytes and have logic – so entering the right code into an object could produce a video on a large screen to appear, or a clue to be automatically sent to your inventory (the place where all your ‘stuff’ is held). There are virtual working radios, tv, phones (including ones that use the real world participants voice played through the character), obviously print, posters and so on. All the things a puppet-master (those who make traditional ARGs) would need 😉
Breaking the fourth wall: I would not do this myself but you can link to web pages – which boot an external browser – but dont go there.

There are many other tools believe it or not that I may add later when they become apparent…


Second Life ARGFinally one of the drawbacks of Second Life is that bespoke elements, objects and clues can only be placed on parcels (land) that the owner has allowed or placed there themselves. So in a distributed virtual alternate reality game (now that is a mouthful!) you will need a few recruits to both role play and allow physical clues or evidence to be pre-set. This should be an easy task as networks of like minded machinima, social design and others pushing the gaming element are easy to find inside SL, to communicate with and offer to help them in their pursuits – to reciprocate. Or as many do you can pay a small fee.


Without going too mcuh into the design process of a social game within a game-like environment primarily because I have things to do in real life now! The design of the game here should follow simple rules – test, do some test runs on virtual strangers to make sure they get some of the directional elements. Make sure that the real players have enough knowledge of the mechanics of the world (how to use it) so they are not locked out because they cannot work out how to teleport (as a simple example). Cover your backs – if a clue becomes to difficult to decipher make sure you have an alternate way for them to get to it, a character prod and so on. Then the design of the ARGamePlay – whether everyone has to get all clues OR some are given only to certain teams who have to work together OR more usefully a mix of both of those make sure the timing is carefully worked out. If some things are easier than others then you will have teams losing interest once they have done their bit, if things are too hard, they may give up. But these sorts of techniques are discussed elsewhere by far more capable people – this post is about moving the ARG into the virtual space both for easy of production and to use some create tool sets built in already. I/we will be creating a bunch of VARG’s (virtual alternate reality games) at AFTRS and LAMP and will keep you posted on how it goes which should dovetail with the machinima we are starting to play with. One of the real problems I can see (which many of you would have already spotted) is that the ‘way of life’, the grammar of existance inside Second Life takes a few days or weeks to grasp – and then the control mechanics too. To newcomers it is a confusing world and orientation is quite steep. So for an ARG to work well all participants must be fully ‘immersed’ and understand the shared space and so called SL normality – whatever that is. There are enough shared ground rules though for it to work in my opinion if the participant is given a week or so to be acclimatized.

As a post script: The point of this post as I suggested at the beginning is not just to talk about one kind of service creation inside a virtual space but to point out that once all parties are agreed that the ‘virtual world’ becomes THE world and nothing else exists outside it, many, many things become possible. Especially as I have been seeing already – the extention into things that are totally new and not representing our first life in anyway shape of form. But will leave that to another day. I am becoming more and more resistant to talking about the real world inside the immersive space as it truly inhibits real creativity – so if you see me in there at anytime, please be yourself 😉

Posted by Gary Hayes (Hazlitt) © 2006

Append: Looks like all great ideas come at once all over the world! Someone else with ‘ARG inside Second Life’ motivation no less than a day after this post 😉 – and who nicely refers back here. Cool – strength in numbers!

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