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Querying the hive mind
February 11, 2008 11:09 PM   Subscribe

Querying the hive mind [pdf]
Jane McGonigal, one of the lead designers of I Love Bees writes about collective intelligence, the phenomenon of massive groups of people gathering online to solve problems, as it played out in I Love Bees (an alternate reality game).
posted by Kattullus (13 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
As indicated by the post-title, I believe that quite a bit of Dr. McGonigal's article pertains to both Ask MetaFilter and MetaFilter.
posted by Kattullus at 11:12 PM on February 11, 2008


Also, McGonigal's cookierolling game/project is pretty sweet.
posted by Kattullus at 11:19 PM on February 11, 2008


It's interesting to read this in light of the recent efforts of Anonymous, which in a way seems to be trying to supplant the "Alternate Reality Game" with the "Real Reality Something." Rainbows End ties in pretty nicely.

The "fictional object oriented programming language" made me cringe from the example given. I didn't follow I Love Bees enough to see much more of it, but that doesn't seem to be a cogent description of the fictional communication style presented.

Then at the end there's this bit of nastiness:

"it is urgent that we create engaging, firsthand experiences of collective intelligence for as wide and as general a young audience as possible."

It's urgent in the sense that "hey we need to find new ways to market crap and manipulate people" is urgent, but I think and hope that the young (and some of the old) audiences will do just fine at creating their own experiences of collective intelligence that have higher goals than "Buy Halo 2" - Wikipedia and Ask Metafilter being examples.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:01 AM on February 12, 2008


Why didn't they hire some of the I Love Bees writers to work on, oh I don't know, Halo 2? It seems a terrible shame to spend so much effort on a dubiously relevant mystery just to get people excited about a game that was already nigh-guaranteed to sell a bazillion copies. If you want to make the game world richer, make the game world richer.

I feel like such a Luddite pooh-poohing this kind of thing, but it's all so cynical. Gotta catch all ten commercials to assemble the URL to the first of three ROT14 paragraphs that might (but only after rigorous debate) non-canonically illuminate intra-game events that the Powers That Be felt no need to actually tell players about.

The fact that I'm not interested in peeling back so many layers of metaphor and multimedia obfuscation to learn about the unique agonies of being an artificial intelligence in a war without end -- or whatever that thing was about -- puts me pretty clearly outside of the target market for this kind of thing. It just feels marginally better than BE SURE TO DRINK MORE OVALTINE to me, I guess.

On one hand, you have neat little things like the Aperture Science page...pretty tight integration into the story, funny, game-relevant. On the other, you've got Perplex City, where obsession like this is the whole damned point. The areas in between just make me sad -- guess I just don't like chocolate in my peanut butter ;)
posted by lumensimus at 12:14 AM on February 12, 2008


I have an unlucky history with ARGs, which is too bad, since they sound so fracking awesome. You see, I'd seen the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, and was curious about the movie's evil corporation, Manchurian Global. A quick Google search led to manchurianglobal.com, which was an in-universe dealie hiding a few intriguing and ominous details about the conglomerate. Creepy, static-y videos, references to biochips and brainwashing, etc.

I later came across unfiction, a site dedicated to solving ARGs communally. They had a few posts on the unfolding Manchurian game, which I followed for awhile. But it was a disappointing dead end.

The bitterly disappointing thing is that the front-page post on unfiction introducing the Manchurian ARG, which sucked me into following it when I came across it, was posted on the same day as the trailhead for the ilovebees game. If only, if only I'd seen ILB first.

And probably the worst part was this past summer, when I caught wind of the Iris ARG for Halo 3. I jumped on that bandwagon from the beginning, determined to participate in one of these things and do it right. Of course, stupid Microsoft made the stupid decision of dropping 42 Entertainment (who did ILB) in favor of some company called AKQA. The result was... inferior. Whereas ilovebees was a surreal and engaging experience, Iris was a mess. Lots of corporate branding, little internal logic, some irritating glitches in game mechanics. The players even "broke the game" at one point. Very disappointing.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:39 AM on February 12, 2008


Finally we can reveal to mefi readers that the Givewell thread was a collective intelligence game constructed on request by Matt for your entertainment.
posted by jouke at 1:21 AM on February 12, 2008


Basically, yes, DRINK YOUR OVALTINE.

Not that I dislike Ovaltine, mind, it's not without it's charms. It just seems to be that the "alternate reality game" as it stands is more about spreading as little content as possible out over as much space as possible.
posted by zerolives at 2:02 AM on February 12, 2008


Maybe. Years ago in, what, 2001, I was following the A.I. game, which was huge and sprawling: certainly not a case of "as little content as possible". The game was far more interesting than the movie...
posted by ubersturm at 5:14 AM on February 12, 2008


For an example of a McGonigal ARG that doesn't promote capitalist practices so much as critique them, see World Without Oil.
posted by SemioticRobotic at 8:23 AM on February 12, 2008


The A.I. game was great. I followed it (what was the hive-mind collective called, Cloudmakers?) throughout this summer and was disappointed that it ended with A.I. the movie.
posted by Curry at 12:44 PM on February 12, 2008


I loved I love bees. Thanks for posting this.
posted by hellphish at 2:24 PM on February 12, 2008


I was also a Cloudmaker. That was an awesome experience.
posted by m0nm0n at 6:17 AM on February 13, 2008


I love bees had something like five hours of radio show (and pretty well done radio show) over 13 weeks. To get to it all you had to do was seek out and answer some pay phones. (Well, I had to answer some pay phones - you could just go to the website and listen, slacker!) It was fun, created a community with a low effort binding ritual (see pay phones, above), and by virtue of picking up a live call I'm a Lt. Commander in the Halo universe space navy which will certainly liven up a resume.

As for commercial content - yeah, it was kinda set in the Halo universe and designed to build a buzz for Halo II, but it felt more like stand alone fiction that an advert. Still, as soon as Microsoft comes out with a version of Halo II that I can run on my PC with out ruining my OS / life I'll buy a copy.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:58 PM on February 13, 2008


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