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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Expectation Disconnect?

Posted: Sun Jul 15, 2007 6:45 pm

I don't have a set-in-stone opinion about this, just an impression, so this is subject to shift...

I have a feeling that as great as the Maddison Atkins creation has been, that there is a bit of an expectation disconnect. This is a tricky issue so bear with me.

I imagine Jeromy spending hundreds of hours thinking about, organizing, writing, interacting, etc. etc. to put all this together. Then he starts sending the results our way, and we are, at times, just not giving the response he expects.

I got this sense of this disconnect first in the way Ch 1 ended with the implication that fans did not work hard enough or fast enough to solve puzzles and "save" Maddision. During the aftermath of Chapter 1, Jeromy expressed views that certain puzzles were "easy" (e.g. regarding Mr. Zipp and the Dr. Seuss books), yet I don't think the drop materials have been fully understood or solved even in the weeks following. My sense is that part of the problem may be that as a puzzle/plot designer, it's hard to realize the incredible multitude of possibilities the audience dreams up when trying to find THE solution. Sometimes things are not as obvious to us as they seem like they should be, because we see too many possibilities.

Jeromy also said we needed to be asking different questions such as "Who?" and "Why?" and "How?" rather than just "What happened?"

Has this happened? I think we are trying, but it feels like we are not getting to the answers Jeromy intends.

So to me, there is a disconnect. And it's tricky because how do you interpret and respond to puzzles not being solved or storylines understood as expected when you are the puppet master for an ARG?

When amblyopianne complained here on the forums that we offered to help but were not really helping, that seemed like another way (like asking those who/what/where/why/when/how questions) to get fans to figure something out or take actions that we were not taking.

Is it working? If it's not, what else should we or Jeromy do to make it work?

Recently, amblyopianne in chat expressed the opinion that "Mr. Zipp" (not the killer or Joel Frady) killed Maddison and Adam and just wanted an audience for this murder. This is from the mouth of a character, so may be indirection, but the conclusion that Mr. Zipp = the killer is not one we had solidly reached to my knowledge*. Is this something we are supposed to "know" and assume at this point? (*I could have missed something, of course, so feel free to correct me here).

So I already had the impression that Jeromy was a little impatient with the audience response, and now today I read on his blog (albeit aimed at advertisers) the message

'I can't discuss publicly how I'm trying to delicately train the audience to look deeper, ask different questions, and realize that the stakes are high and we need to work faster. I can say that it helps that Maddison died last time."

I have a mixed response to that message. On the one hand, I sympathize with Jeromy and think it is great that he is so invested and wants to make the ARG exciting and engaging, on the other, the words "work faster" make me a little uncomfortable. I like to take my time, and think and discuss things carefully. A rapid pace can be exciting, but if the material runs away from (or over) the audience, that's better than being boring, but it may not be a fair (in some sense) way to proceed.

Sometimes, despite Jeromy's best laid plans and designs, and our best efforts to figure out mysteries, the audience is just not going to get the intended message. We may need a few extra hints, or more time, or outright gimmes (as in find an in-story way to just give us the answer to some questions) to keep the train on the tracks, and that's okay, and should be expected.

I'm looking forward to seeing this story and process unfold, and encourage patience and generosity on all sides!



  1. Q...are you asking for a shill or just suggesting that Clara could be more helpful?

  2. good post. I am hoping Jeromy will listen to you.

  3. I wouldn't campaign for a "shill" - that would be a character that just gives us the answers to anything we don't solve ourselves, and is an approach that implies that the audience response/actions don't actually matter. That's going too far.

    However, some things that start as mysterious can and should become less so with unambiguous (or very strong evidence) 'reveals' in-story. For instance, we could discover Joel Frady's Dr. Seuss collection or other materials identifying him as Mr. Zipp, if that turns out to be the case.

    Another puppet master option to the audience not getting to the expected conclusions is to slow the story down a little, provide more information so we can 'uncover' the truth, before moving forward.

    I don't have a perfect recipe for this kind of interactive story-telling, but pacing and reveals are ingredients.

  4. Q,
    I really hope that what you have wrote reaches Jeromy's eyes, and very soon. I think he needs to re-evaluate how he is chosing to relate to his audience. We are a very intelligent audience, but we are not mind readers. We dont need to be spoken down in the slightest. We do need to be given the tools to complete the work that he knows we can do. I just think that we have not been given all the tools.

  5. Thanks elizkm86... yes, Jeromy responded very positively in the original thread on Sunday here http://lonelygirl15.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=454757#454757

    (this topic is now going on here, on the original thread, and on Jeromy's blog, lol)

  6. I have felt the exact way for some time, although I've been expressing my frustrations with J's ...ummm "frustrations" towards us a little more intensly. I hope that J realizes how dedicated we all are, but also how some of us feel betrayed by this latest chapter and character....it may just be me.

  7. but it has to keep a "real" pace, if you screw up in real life the story wont slow down or get any realer to you

  8. I've felt like this from the begining of Maddy Atkins.

    I feel like everyone could handle OpAphid and Cassieiswatching. This is just too... I don't know... like mindreading or something. A hint would probably bring on a landslide of answers.


  9. One point that gets overlooked in the original post is that J suggested to us how we might change the way we think about problems. Have we really done that?

    Part of the reason I was excited to find the original post was that I was looking for how J suggested we might think different.

    My instincts tell me that as this game progresses it will all become very clear, but to speed that along I think we all need to go back and look at MA1 thru the prism of thinking that J suggested.

    In other words, it may not be the story so much as the way we are looking at it.


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