It’s been a while since Transmedia Tuesday tackled a good old alternate reality game. To remedy that, we thought we’d take a look this week at an ARG called Miracle Mile Paradox. In some ways it’s about as traditional as ARGs come (memorable character comes to the internet for help solving a weird and dangerous mystery). At the same time, it’s an object lesson in the unconventional ways that transmedia stories find their way from the imaginations of their creators to the eyeballs of their audience.
The story of Miracle Mile Paradox is pretty cool. Rexford Higgs is a collector and restorer of unusual and obsolete mechanical devices that date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries (think Steampunk fan). Back in March, Rex found a mysterious set of old blueprints for a device of uncertain design and function. In the intervening months Rex has assembled the device which turned out to be a “Time Switch” which allowed him to receive communications from the past. Seems like things are working out pretty well for old Rex, right?
But wait—the (evil?) corporate entity known as Agent Intellect Corp. (AIC) has become aware of Rex’s discovery and is out to silence him and seize the device for itself. Rex needs your help in order to solve the mysteries of the Time Switch, escape AIC intact, and perhaps even save the world from a dark future. If you want to hop into the story, the best place is through Rexford Higgs’s blog, Enchanting & Obsoletus. The game has a lot of real-world elements that require you to have access to the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles, but there is quite a bit of online content too, for the rest of us to enjoy.
The background of this project is really the most interesting part of the story, though. Miracle Mile Paradox is run by Transmedia Los Angeles, which is a free-to-join group that holds monthly get-togethers for people in Los Angeles interested in transmedia storytelling (which makes it sound very grass-roots). If you take a look at the founding members behind Transmedia Los Angeles, you’ll find professional, productive transmedia creators that have been behind a variety of significant projects (which makes it sound pretty professional).
Classifying this project is sort of difficult—it’s essentially a grass-roots project created by professionals in the field. In order to bridge the gap between a professional-quality story and grassroots-level funds, Transmedia Los Angeles held a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game, which was set up as a more-or-less in-game plea from the fictional Rexford Higgs for funds to help build the device from the blueprints. It was a really effective way to let the supporters get a sense of the kind of experience that they were paying for, and effectively starting the game months before it had even really been built.
Transmedia storytelling is an unusual space within the larger family of entertainment media. It’s a format that has traditionally been synonymous with bottom-up storytelling and aggressively creative ideas, at the same time—it’s a format that is increasingly swallowed by big corporate content generators eager to reach younger audiences as old media traditions become increasingly antiquated. It’s no great leap to see the story of Miracle Mile Paradox (a creative and passionate man who builds something unique and wondrous, only to have a faceless corporation try to destroy him and take his work) as a parable for this tension. It’s good to see that transmedia creators are still interested in fun, collaboration, and playing with the rules of the storytelling genre and the business environment.
What do you think of this transmedia idea?