How i started an Alternate Reality Game without realising it

What I wanted to do 

In mid 2019 I made the decision to start to formulate a character online in Bitman 360, I wanted to see if I could create an influencer, specifically a crypto influencer. This was because I had come to the belief that all the crypto influencers working in the industry were to a certain extent fake. I didn’t believe any of them, and I despised the fact the crypto industry like any other industry felt they needed them. 

One of the major differing factors with crypto influencers was that they could become wrapped up in an alternate realty with their very own somewhat private economy, this was to me a tremendously potentially dystopian feature and I wanted to create a crypto influencer that was only tied to his own fictional crypto project, a then nonsense (now real) coin called scootercoin. This served to give him the freedom to talk openly about any projects while at the same time appearing to be tied to a crypto project himself.

What I thought I was doing 

I had a point to make, I wanted to show the ridiculousness of putting your marketing budget towards a bias nobody with a YouTube channel and a few thousand followers and how easy it was for them to create the illusion of influence – fake influence.

That series was called Making an Influencer and by all means I feel I reached that goal. After ten months people online were direct messaging Bitman 360 for advice on certain projects, I could tell these people were young by the way they spoke in those chats, it was at this point I became uneasy with the project as Bitman360 had begun to be able to influence others. While i promoted due diligence and education in those chats, i didn’t enjoy peddling fake influence, even if it was positive.

I decided to pack up the project and move on, but I had trouble letting go of the character. I decided to build another project on top of Making an Influencer, it was March 2020 and this is where Tom Gillespie and his documentary film The Fakefluencer enters the picture.  

As I had already put Bitman360 out into the wild across all social channels, both centralised and supposedly decentralised it made sense to do the same with his enemy; antagonist – Tom Gillespie. 

In doing this I figured I could play out various elements of the films narrative that would also serve well to compliment the marketing strategy of the film project, all in tandem with the production of the film itself. At this point it started to evolve into more of a shared open story, as the behaviours of the characters online began to inform the narrative content of the film, and visa versa. It took me a while to get my head around this.  

This element of an alternate reality was not big enough to distort the core narrative but it was definitely having an effect, it also became mentally draining to try to maintain the fictional narrative of the film and the somewhat more real narrative playing out between the two character online. Especially considering the two storylines were playing out on separate timelines.

What i actually was doing

Either way, I was committed and fully convinced this was the right path to go down, I knew audiences today want to be part of the story, immersed in the pursuit of the truth, and so I was going to give it to them. 

I interviewed in-character with prominent crypto influencers and would later come clean after the fact, this back fired as it made me feel rather anxious and led to me being unable to utilise the footage collected due to the interviewee not being happy with the setup. An experiment i came to regret. It was not my intention to actually hoodwink people, and yet that is exactly what started to happen by playing these characters in the real world. 

I made the decision to change the approach and instead share in the fact up front that these characters were part of a film project. Since making that decision things have moved much more smoothly, and I have felt much calmer about my less incognito appearances. It’s much easier to hide behind a keyboard and pretend to be someone than it is to do face to face interviews, even if they are done at a distance online. 

What I have learned as a result

That was back at the start of the summer 2020, fast forward to more recent times and I have recently discovered the world of Alternate Reality Games, ARGs.

They are not a new concept, indeed it seems the ideas around ARGs goes back to the 1960s, but with the rise of our collective digital lives playing out online it appears what I had actually been doing in realising the film characters online, interacting with other users on social media was in-fact somewhat of an ARG in the making itself. Mind blown!

I spent a week studying everything I could about ARGs before running a very primitive test in the ARG subreddit. I simply dropped a QR code and waited to see what happened. Within a few hours two (what I imagine to be ARG) enthusiast had arrived at the projects Discord group, I immediately started to see the potential of developing the films marketing strategy as an ARG type construct. 

So in the latest episode of the fakefluencer production vlog I added a short quest for the viewer to follow along and try to find their way to us with their Scootercoin wallet address. Needless to say not one person followed through and delivered their address, I assume it was because there were not sufficient instructions or a clear payoff to participation, but I can only guess at this point. 

Where to go from here?

While im confident The Fakefluencer project has all the elements required to create an interesting ARG, an enticing story, online accessible characters, an intriguing investigation that people outside the immediate film project can get involved with. I realise that it takes a lot more to actually construct how that participation can work in an engaging way. In a way that will last and grow along with the project.

Going forward each time the production vlog goes out to subscribers I will continue to try something new, something that can be easily understood and more accessible, and one day we might see this fake alternate reality start to burn bright. It wont be the first time its happend.

Rich Tella

Producer – Bitjoin Studios

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s