Steve Peters

Experience Design

Filtering by Category: Personal

My Musical Flash Mob Challenge

OK, so..... First off, stop everything you're doing and watch this video. I'll wait...

Pretty amazing and cool, right? So, this inspired me to challenge the internet, and the world, to a plussed version of this:

  • Where: On a commercial airliner
  • When: The moment the plane starts its takeoff roll at the end of the runway
  • What: Passengers break out their hidden (non-electronic) instruments and play the William Tell Overture as the plane ganes speed and finally takes off.

William Tell Overture (mp3)

Somebody, please make this happen! Youth bands, orchestras, etc! You gotta be flying somewhere this summer! Hide those piccolos and trumpets and violins under the seat in front of you and pull them out on cue! Surely it can't be illegal to play a musical instrument on a plane, can it?

Or at the very least, it'd be just as much fun to somehow stealthily play the mp3 loudly during takeoff. Hmm, I might just try to figure out a way to do this myself and not get arrested for not turning off my electronics...

How to Design an ARG in 20 Easy Steps

So, since I continue to be an open-source kinda guy where Alternate Reality Games are concerned, here are (apparently) the simple steps to building an ARG, to save everyone the trouble of re-inventing the wheel every time:
  1. Distribute mysterious, cool SWAG out to bloggers, previous players, or crowds at huge events that contains...
  2. A PUZZLE (or even better, a QR Code, OMG) that leads to a flashy website with a...
  3. COUNTDOWN that, when it hits zero, launches a...
  4. WEBSITE for a nefarious corporation, with links to...
  5. SOCIAL MEDIA accounts for various characters, one of which is...
  6. A HOT BRUNETTE ASKING FOR PLAYERS' HELP, so she directs them to...
  7. A SIGNUP PAGE (or even better, Facebook Connect) so players can have the hope of getting...
  8. FREE SWAG in exchange for spamming their friends and giving up their contact information, which is then used to...
  9. EMAIL everyone with a link to a...
  10. CASUAL FLASH GAME that 5000 people (give or take) have to beat to reveal...
  11. GPS COORDINATES/CITIES and TIMES on a big list that will cause players to spend valuable time and petrol to attend...
  12. LIVE EVENTS (preferably a scavenger hunt...with helicopters), where you can get lots of photos/videos, generate lots of buzz, give out even more free swag (first come, first served), and reveal clues to another website where players can submit...
  13. USER GENERATED CONTENT, which you reward by sending them...
  14. MORE FREE SWAG, which contains a puzzle that leads to a...
  15. PHONE NUMBER, that reveals someone getting killed somewhere, but after they hang up, they get a...
  16. TEXT MESSAGE that reveals pieces of a photograph that players must...
  17. SHARE INFORMATION TO SOLVE, and when they do, they find an...
  19. HIDDEN LINK to a page where they can sign up (first come, first served) for a...
  20. PREVIEW SCREENING OF A FILM where they will receive even MORE SWAG and a SURPRISE PHONE CALL.

Take all of the above, bundle it up in a Light Narrative Wrapper™, and voila! You're now an ARG Designer! Congratulations!

Note: This list can also be used as an ARG Drinking Game.

Enjoy! And, you're welcome! :)

The Transmedia Hijack (or How Transmedia is the New Dihydrogen Monoxide)

I can't believe I'm going here, as this whole topic must seem so lame to so many people, but here goes... So it seems that my recent trip to SXSW in Austin and my subsequent outburst of frustration on Twitter about the misuse of the term Transmedia has caused a little bit of a stir.

I came back and, well, vented on Twitter about how everyone there seemed to bandy about the term when they were talking about not storytelling, but some form of franchising or media extension of an existing or new property, or narrative world, whatever the heck that means.

"Franchising isn't transmedia, it's FRANCHISING!!" I screamed. And it turns out I wasn't the only one having trouble with the term and how it's being used. Plenty of folks have been seeming to jump onto the anti-transmedia bandwagon (and I'm fine with that).

Even Felicia Day got into the fray during one of her SXSW panels, and in a way, she nailed what many of us in Transmedia Storytelling have been struggling to express for years. Here's what she had to say about the term (emphases mine):

It's just a really stupid word, and people use it because they don't know…they just want to like…I just hate it! Because what does it mean? It means nothing!!

I mean, listen: "Transmedia" is any comic book that ever became a movie, before the internet. I mean it's just (any novelization of a movie), yes! That's "Transmedia!" I mean, it doesn't mean anything, I don't think that….they're just throwing it around 'cause it's a catch-phrase, and it's like "yes, let's create a webseries that could potentially be a TV show that could potentially become a movie." That's not Transmedia.

I mean, I think what people are aspiring to, and what people are maybe, you know, could use better words or just articulate better, is that there is an opportunity to reinvent storytelling. So that, if I sat down and I created an app, let's just say, and every day I would tell the story in a different way.

So I would release a comic panel, then I'd release a piece of video, and then I would release a set of pictures, and then I would tell a story in so many different ways that would accumulate in a way that essentially would be like a movie from beginning to end.

And you could use a different media device, because we are in a world where all of that is amalgamated in a way that is unique to what we're living in and the tools we're using.

So maybe that's what we might do? But sometimes people just use it like "We're just gonna do a TV show that's gonna be a webseries and then a TV show."

So look, it seems like things have reached a boiling point. I mean, c'mon, if Felicia Day herself rolls her eyes at the term, it's time to do something about it. Well, or try to figure out if anything can be done.

And so here's what I think. Some of you aren't going to like this. Ready?

There's nothing to be done.

Pandora's Box is open, the cat's out of the bag, the horses have been stolen, (insert cliché here). The term is pretty useless (as are clichés), as it's popularly being used to describe something that's been around for a long, long time. It reminds me of the prank that Penn & Teller pulled on folks asking them to sign a petition against the use of dihydrogen monoxide in all our food. It's just a new buzz-term for something there are already plenty of perfectly good  words for (none of which I'll list here, thank you).

Now, let me be clear: I'm not bashing anyone or their work. It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, and there are only so many words to go around to describe new things. I just think it's time I abandon the use of transmedia to describe the work that I do. This doesn't mean that I forsake or forbid its use, I just won't be describing my own stuff as such, even though others may continue to for a while.

So......what will I call what I do? Well, I'm not sure what will stick, but I'm going to go with what we're calling it around the office: Alternate Reality Entertainment.

I'm not suggesting we change the term. All I know is that "Transmedia" no longer describes what I do, so everyone else can have it. :)

So, please excuse me as I prepare my submission for next year's SXSW: Can Dihydrogen Monoxide Save Hollywood?


ETA: Revised some wording for clarity and to fix the emphasis of the post.

TSA's Brilliant Opt-Out Day PR Maneuver Proves That It's All Just Theater

So, most of you know that I've had a bone to pick with the TSA for the last few years, and that it all came to a head for me over the last few weeks, making me some sort of activist for one of the first times in my life, much to my own surprise. After recent new "security" policies involving the use of new backscatter machines and more invasive pat-downs, things seemed to reach a tipping point with the organization of things like National Opt-Out Day on the day before Thanksgiving, typically the busiest travel day of the year. All eyes were on the airports to see what bedlam would ensue. How long would the lines be? How vocal would the protesters be? Would there be fist-fights? Arrests? We all shuddered with antici-


So, what happened?

Seemingly nothing. If you were to believe the mainstream media, the whole thing fizzled. Lines were, in fact, shorter than normal. It seems the whole thing was much ado about nothing...But if you look closer, you'll realize that it was, if anything, the exact opposite. Two things clearly happened, if you care to look for the evidence: As a direct result of the awareness raised about the issue, travelers chose not to fly, and the TSA shut down the scanners at countless airports (see here and here for examples).

This was a brilliant, if not short-sighted, PR move by the TSA. But that's what's bothering me the most. Honestly, I've felt more and more like I'm living in some Alternate Reality USA lately, what with all the outright propaganda going on surrounding this issue, most notably on the TSA's own blog, which seems to have become very Ministry Of Information-like, with it's breathless denunciation of critics and promotion of select "facts" to prove that they're right and everyone else is wrong.

The fact is that, whether they admit to it or not, the TSA shut down most body scanners and drastically reduced random pat-downs on Opt-Out Day. All eyes were on the TSA all week, and they put on their best performance, proving to the world that they were efficient, friendly, and only concerned for our safety. But in doing so, they proved more definitively than ever that what they're doing has nothing at all to do with true safety and security, that it's all just Security Theater. They shut down the scanners and reduced pat-downs to not just make themselves look good, but because they can do so without jeopardizing our safety whatsoever. In essence, they pulled aside the curtain and gave us all a wink and a nod.

This is despicable.

I could go on and on about how this Security Theater isn't about our safety as much as it's about politicians covering their asses, but so many people have done a great job at this already (see this amazing recent NY Times Op-Ed by Bruce Schneier):

Neither the full-body scanners or the enhanced pat-downs are making anyone safer. They’re more a result of politicians and government appointees capitulating to a public that demands that “something must be done,” even when nothing should be done; and a government bureaucracy that is more concerned about the security of their careers if they fail to secure against the last attack than what happens if they fail anticipate the next one.

The most unfortunate part of all this is that it's exactly what the terrorists wanted to accomplish: Make us change our lifestyle and waste obscene amounts of money. Again from Bruce Schneier's recent post:

The economic strategy of jihad would go through refinement. Its initial phase linked terrorist attacks broadly to economic harm. A second identifiable phase, which al Qaeda pursued even as it continued to attack economic targets, is what you might call its "bleed-until-bankruptcy plan." Bin Laden announced this plan in October 2004, in the same video in which he boasted of the economic harm inflicted by 9/11. Terrorist attacks are often designed to provoke an overreaction from the opponent and this phase seeks to embroil the United States and its allies in draining wars in the Muslim world. The mujahideen "bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt," bin Laden said, and they would now do the same to the United States.

So look, all I can say is that this is real and it's serious, people. All I can do is my part to spread the word, raise awareness and sound the alarm that the emperor has no clothes.

And you don't need a backscatter machine to make him look that way.


PS-Despite what some folks say, this is NOT a partisan issue. Try to look past the right-wingers who seem to be running with this more than the left, for some reason that surprises and disappoints me (ok, it doesn't surprise me that much). It's a human rights issue, plain and simple.

And the government won't know when they've gone too far unless we tell them.

So tell them now...

Plus, some other ways you can make yourself heard:

  • Download and play the TSA Circus Music Soundtrack at TSA screening points.
  • If you have experienced a problem with TSA when flying, file a complaint at your checkpoint, call the TSA at 1-866-289-9673, and also use the Electronic Privacy Information Center's incident report to lodge your complaint: