Imaginative director Guillermo del Toro has his new movie Hellboy 2: the Golden Army debuting in the middle of July and as a teaser to that launch they have launched an in-depth alternate reality game (ARG). Typically ARG’s get intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants’ responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game’s designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence like you would have in a video game. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities.
In this case visitors find clues that have all been hidden through various blogs, YouTube videos and microsites to unclock the Secret Device that seems to be the centerpiece of the movie. The first mention of the Secret Device was in the campaign’s initial site for HEFTET, an organization that’s an acronym for Humans for the Ethical Treatment of Fairies, Elves, and Trolls and is also directly involved in the film’s storyline. The bulk of this played throughout last month and had participants scour for several codes hidden in videos, news stories, photos, limericks, email, phone messages, and forums using YouTube, Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter to solve a series of interconnected puzzles. Like all ARG’s the gaming process unfolded in real-time as more clues, codes, and supporting content gradually became available and was shared across the community. The final prize for those investigative players was access to the Secret Device that when solved launched the world premiere of an original animated Hellboy II prologue comic with the added bonus of winning a trip to an early screening of the film hosted by Guillermo Del Toro himself.
I love ARG’s and wish they would be used more often since that last great execution I can think of was the I Love Bee’s ARG for the launch of Halo 2. I think they they created more engaged and deeper interaction using the interactive medium than any ad unit ever could.