More Q&A! (thanks again for the emails):
Q: How do you balance work, life, and running ARGs?
Not very well, ha ha! This question does not have a short answer, so I'm planning an entire blog post about this.
Q: Who was the woman Clara sought out on campus? Was she Winter?
The scene with Clara took place while Clara was at college, before she came home and appeared in Anna's story, with Martin tagging along. The woman she seeks out is not Winter. More about this "mystery woman" will be revealed in Part II, with a few teasers in the Prequel Challenge.
Q: What made you decide to do this ARG?
I was really inspired by one of my favorite novels, The Eight, by Katherine Neville. It's sort of an ARG in novel form before there were ARGs (it was published in the late 80s). I've always been intrigued by the type of storytelling in that novel and once I became familiar with ARGs I came up with the idea for The Card Keepers as a sort of story within a story about a real-life and metaphorical "game," which The Eight portrays as a Chess game. I used Tarot because I have an ongoing fascination with it and wanted to learn more about it along with my players.
Q: Are you planning on turning these stories into a book?
I'm currently writing an urban fantasy novel that has similar story elements, but it's quite different, as novels have a different form and serve their audience in a different way. There are, however, a few characters who appear in both. If I ever finish it, I'll be sure to let you know.
Q: Is there an IG explanation for why Winter would bother with ciphers?
Yes, I set this ARG up to be a game within a game. If you remember the first email sent out, the Card Keeper objectives are:
Winter was purposefully treating the players like students and like they were playing a game. Her purpose was (and is) to hone their critical thinking skills through solving puzzles and riddles and participating in various challenges.
She presented Anna's story alongside this game as a way for the Keepers to keep their eye on the big picture, their ultimate purpose for playing along and sharpening their thinking skills (and the "ultimate" purpose and overall big picture has not yet been fully revealed)
Q: There were times when TINAG was threatened.
To be completely honest, I'm not overly concerned with TINAG. ARGNet wrote a great article about this last year in which they unpack and discuss the origin of the phrase and its true meaning and application in ARGs. I will say that I do think strict adherence to it in certain circumstances is useful and interesting, but overall I find that transmedia storytelling is moving in the opposite direction. Almost every ARG I've encountered or played in the last year has a meta website, blog, or wiki and often has a Kickstarter as well. Some of these games are announced and promoted months in advance with registration interfaces, etc.
I'm never one to follow trends either way, but rather I choose to do what I feel best serves my audience and my story. I find that ARGs are a lot like different types of novels and television shows: players will find the play styles that suit their needs and tastes and choose to follow and play those games rather than others.
As both a teacher and an ARG creator, I relish and enjoy feedback and feel that it's important for learning and growing as a storyteller. However, as I've mentioned before, it is impossible to make every player, audience member, and student happy and I don't think that should ever be our goal.
Q: How much advance planning went into this ARG?
I've been planning it in my head for years, ever since wrapping up "I Was Charlotte Bronte." However, I really sat down and wrote out most of it and mapped out the game play last fall. I tend to write out the whole story and then outline the direction I think I want it to go, but I also allow the players and the IG characters to have some say in how events unfold and transpire. I love in-game interaction with the players, so my emails are never scripted.
I'm currently writing up a few more general posts, one reflecting on the game overall and my experience pm-ing it, and some about ARGs in general and the work-life balance.