Despite many facets of intrigue missing, and characters you might not care about, The Guidestones shows how the art of storytelling may be changing.
Cory Hope, Arts and Entertainment Editor Ω
Every now and again, somebody in the entertainment industry decides to try something new. And every now and again, somebody gets it right.
I won’t go so far as to tell you that I enjoyed The Guidestones, because when I lie to you I prefer it to be more blatant – like that time I saved you all from the robot insurrection. What I will say is that conceptually, The Guidestones is actually a pretty cool idea.
Part ‘Choose Your Own Adventure,’ part web TV series and part alternate reality gaming experience, The Guidestones is an enthusiastic attempt to create an interactive entertainment experience. From my limited experience with it, however, I don’t see Guidestones being the amazing experience that it should be.
Alternate reality gaming (ARG) is an interactive story that uses the real world as a platform, while participants use various forms of media to make changes. It has been used to promote TV shows such as Lost and movies like Cloverfield.
It has been used by people besides JJ Abrams too. Nine Inch Nails had an elaborate ARG developed by Trent Reznor that began with minuscule clues being left behind at shows or online, and culminating in a show for people who had played the game. Participants received cellphones in the mail and were told to leave them on. When the phones rang, people were told where to meet, and a school bus came to pick them up, took them to an abandoned prison where Nine Inch Nails played a private show for them.
That’s a game I can get behind, and I don’t even like Nine Inch Nails.
Guidestones, however, seems to be lacking in one critical aspect — it lacks the rabid fanbase that allows these games to work so well in other areas. Fanaticism is what makes people feel the need to find out what’s happening with their beloved characters, and that’s what makes supplemental web content work so well for them.
Battlestar Galactica had webisodes to help fill in the gaps between seasons two and three, and the webisodes were released two per week as a lead in to the third season. They weren’t integral to the plot, but they gave more information and teased fans about what was coming up in the third season. It was the desire to know what was going on that made them worth watching, and that is where I think The Guidestones has its failing.
Conceptually, Guidestones is a fantastic idea, but having only been given a three-minute introduction to the characters and the plot, I found I just didn’t care very much about what was going on.
I will admit that I did play along, doing a Google search as the implied instructions at the beginning told me to do, but I have yet to get past the second video.
Theoretically, you are supposed to receive email links to the next videos, but the story is supposed to occur in real time, so I’m not sure what is supposed to happen next. Am I looking for a clue in the second video? Am I just waiting to receive an email for the next video?
And most importantly, at the present time I have no emotional investment in the characters or the story, I only have an interest in the idea of what the people at The Guidestones are trying to do.
Guidestones has the potential to provide a turning point in the distribution of content for a series, and that’s really exciting.
It does leave the pivotal question though about just how it is that The Guidestones, or any future series like this will make money.
I’m not sure exactly how much money is made through advertising on YouTube, but the people at Guidestones claim they don’t sell your email address, using it only for the distribution of the links required to watch the show. That means the advertising that would be seen on YouTube is the only place where money is made by the show.
Hopefully I get the next email that takes me to the next video and I get into the game/show/series, because I really would like to see this type of series work.
Even if this one fails, however, I think that the ground has been broken on a new form of storytelling. It might not be conventional, but it beats the hell out of watching eighteen minutes of commercials every hour.