He walked bare-chested into an academic conference at the Radisson Hotel in Boston, dull red tattoos crawling all over his chest and arms. He circled the room, posing, for three minutes. Then without a word, he left. The July 19 event was unusual even for people used to unusual happenings. The conference was ARGfest-o-Con , and the people there designed, played or studied alternate reality games ARGs , in which players use clues from a variety of media to solve puzzles and participate via the Internet in an evolving story.
Although the attendees didn't realize it at the time, the tattooed man was the initial clue in the first-ever ARG sponsored by a major museum: the Smithsonian American Art Museum's "Ghosts of a Chance. Using the search engine Google, a player found out that one of the man's tattoos, labeled "Luce's Lover's Eye," matched a painting at the museum's Luce Foundation Center for American Art. On the painting's Web page, a speech from Romeo and Juliet appeared.
Clicking a link in the text led to GhostsofaChance. There, players were asked to call a phone number and record an incantation, the three witches' "toil and trouble" lines from Macbeth. For a few days, there were no clues—except for the site's countdown to September 8, the official start date.
In an ARG, initial clues can come from many sources, including a live event like the tattooed man's appearance, a video ad or even this magazine. Once the game is on, designers, called PuppetMasters, place clues in other forms of media such as posters, TV commercials and Web sites to attract a wider audience.
Anyone can register to play, free, at Unfiction. Invented in by a couple of tech wizards at Microsoft, ARGs usually last six to eight weeks and require lots of teamwork, if only because the obscure clues can be hidden in computer codes, foreign languages or complex riddles. The games have been used as viral marketing to promote TV shows, including "Alias" and "Lost," as well as the video game Halo 2.
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In "Ghosts," the premise is that some of the artworks in the Luce Center collection have become haunted. Players have to find out who the ghosts are, which artworks are infected, and how to thwart the undead scourge and save the collection.
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Along the way, players will influence the story itself, either when Maccabee changes it in response to their Unfiction comments or through two nonvirtual events at which gamers interact with hired actors. Museum officials see "Ghosts" as a new way to engage visitors. Since people at a museum already share a common interest in the collection, she adds, the "seed of a community" exists.
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The Luce Center plans to keep "Ghosts" around even after its grand finale on October The museum has commissioned a version of the game that a group of visitors could play on-site in one afternoon. McGonigal says ARGs work best when players solve real problems. That should bode well for ARGs based at museums, since, she adds: "Any museum is going to have some unsolved mysteries. Subscribe or Give a Gift. Sign up.
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Our Planet. This failure is not the fault of our front-line fighters. The situation we face would be far worse without them. The problem is that while BDS has rapidly metastasized, the pro-Israel community has responded with insufficient attention and dollars. And they pledged to invest significant funds to turn the tide by founding the Maccabee Task Force. All involved in the Maccabee Task Force agree that our effort will be strictly non-partisan. We will work with liberals and conservatives, Jews and Gentiles, and people of all races and ethnicities who share a love for justice.
The only way to beat BDS is for we who support Israel to come together and leave our differences for another day. We must grow the pro-Israel movement so that it is as racially and religiously diverse as Israel itself.
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We must boldly share the truth that Israel is one of the most moral, multi-cultural and compassionate countries on the planet. We must also tell the truth about our adversaries. As hundreds of thousands of Arabs fall to the extremism these groups ignore, the moral bankruptcy of BDS stands in ever-starker relief.
Defeating BDS not only serves Israel, it serves humanity. The Maccabees will not compete with existing pro-Israel groups. To the contrary, we will support those doing good work and enable them to do more of it. And we seek the counsel of all groups and activists who are close to the constituencies we must influence. The pro-Israel community is a brain trust we intend to nurture and utilize to the fullest. Finally, we will be brutally honest in our follow-up. The most passionate pro-Israel speech changes nothing if the only people who hear it are already on our side.
The Maccabee Task Force will track every project we fund. Together with our partners we will distinguish between what worked and what merely made us feel good.
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