Patrick Jagoda

Stork

alternate reality game

2012

  • Directed and created with: Melissa Gilliam, Ainsley Sutherland, Seed Lynn, and Angie Hauch

Stork was an alternate reality game about economic disparities, reproductive health, and inequitable access to medical services. It took place over several weeks in spring 2012. Designers never announced this experience as a game. Players came to the experience through a series of “rabbit holes.” Three rabbit holes were most important. First, before Stork officially launched, possible players were directed to a Facebook page that belonged to the Stork Corporation. Second, designers put up a number of paper flyers around Chicago that announced that a character named “Alex Felts” had gone missing. Players could call a phone number to receive further details. When players called this number, they discovered a voicemail message from Alex’s mother with information that led deeper into the game. Third, designers sent out emails to various game communities and local youth organizations, which included a message from one of the primary characters along with a link to a short video that introduced the game world and ended with the primary URL for the game. Once players reached the game website, through any one of these three means, they discovered a timer that was counting down from 10 days until the beginning of the game.

Once the game began, players received a series of puzzles and challenges. These included simple cryptographic codes and steganography puzzles that included data hidden inside images and audio. Another challenge took the form of an online text adventure game in which players explored and moved through a 360-degree photograph of a Stork Corporation office by typing in commands and questions. While most of the puzzles unfolded online, there were also physical trials, which required certain players to go to locations in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago that were marked with GPS coordinates. At those locations, players would retrieve USB drives and share their data (including story pieces and procedural challenges) with other players online.

video trailer of Stork.