The Lost Ring is a brand new ARG (which apparently stands for Alternative Reality Game) centred around the Beijing Olympics and jointly sponsored by the IOC and one of the 2008 Games’ official partners.
Bob is no expert in ARG’s and was informed about The Lost Ring by a colleague (thanks Liz), so decided to do some research. According to Liz:
“The internet is aflutter with rumours about a new alternate reality game…The Lost Ring began last week [Bob has a feeling this may be a little out of date], when certain gamers received a package in the post with a web address hidden in a ball of string.”
Upon visiting the site – www.TheLostRing.com – you are shown a fantastic fantasy video (think Lord of the Rings meets ancient Greece) that sets a dramatic scene but gives few answers…
…so on a mission to find out more Bob found a post on Global voices which lead to the Virtual China blog, which happens to have an excellent introduction to the Game courtesy of Lyn Jeffery.
The Game is centred around eight main characters from China, Japan, Germany, Spain, US, UK, Brazil and France and the big idea is collaboration. These characters have super powers and mysterious pasts and are ‘played’ in real time online so that other players can interact with them – see their profile pages here.
So far there are apparently 15,000 people playing in China alone. According to Lyn:
“The game is designed to be impossible to make serious progress in unless you can figure out how to be part of a collective… It is fascinating to watch how this kind of highly emergent, non-rules-based, collaborative game is diffusing into China. In China, where this kind of gaming doesn’t exist, it’s hasn’t been so easy to engage a distributed community and link it up to a global community of players who mostly don’t speak Chinese.”
A number of issues face Chinese players, including language (much of the content is user generated, and so not necessarily provided in Chinese) cultural (Chinese gamers aren’t used to this kind of collaboration) and political (the Great Firewall prevents access to some resources that the players use, including The Lost Ring’s very own wiki). However Lyn observes:
“What seems to be happening, however, is that the translation problem is becoming a feature of the game, not a bug, which is perfect. The community is self-organizing to deal with the communication problems, which appear to be most acute with the Chinese language materials.”
So it looks as if this by-product of the Olympics is building bridges of communication between the people of all countries, and particularly between them and Chinese people. That can only be a good thing.