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Creepiest Quarantine Movie Is Actually A Game Set On Instagram

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To equate the coronavirus era with a horror story is not a big leap. A invisible and deadly killer, angry crowds, supply shortages, financial whirlwind – even those lucky enough to survive this relatively unscathed time can undoubtedly feel this is a high tension and drama.

So maybe the escape we all needed was a storytelling game that uses popular social media tools to recall one of the most gruesome murders that ever happened within Los Angeles city limits, a horror so great that it became national news, inspired a folk song. and the details of which, involving the injury of a child by a teenager, are frightening to read. Although few people today remember the details of the tragic fate that befell a young Marion Parker in 1927, this article stated that few crimes “Were more revolting.

Wait. No. It’s not the wellness story that’s missing right now, but it’s the one “Arcana” has given us.

Recognizing that many feel that the world is in bad shape right now, as well as the damage their own minds can do when left alone, “Arcana” is certainly not trying “Animal crossing,” Yet over the past three weeks, the game, largely built in the days after the stay-at-home initiatives were put in place, has grown. a not-so-hidden corner of Instagram with a story of murder and mystery while hitting the terrors of isolation, while cleverly using the social media platform as a playground.

The puzzles are posted as pictures, and sometimes they are hidden in the background of selfies or in the frames of Instagram Live dance party videos. All are said to reflect the increasingly fragile spirit of a young woman in quarantine.

In turn, “Arcana” has become the rare ARG (Alternative Reality Game) that not only feels accessible but welcoming to those unfamiliar with the medium of the hidden puzzle. Her story is largely molded into the social media tools we already use, and with new Instagram posts arriving on a regular basis Wednesday through Sunday, those who want to skip a puzzle – or be left stumped – are still able to. moving forward. “Arcana” is as much a game as it is a story widely told through videos and mobile photos.

The puzzles and the tale of “Arcana” are told via Instagram. The game stars Nerea Duhart as Jade and her twin sister Robin.

(E3W / AOTW Productions)

Some parts of “Arcana” can be scary. And throughout the first three weeks of the story, which is about to end this weekend, our main character, a lonely young artist trying to reconnect with social media, hasn’t always been shown to ‘intelligence. But “Arcana” has come up with a timed COVID-19 horror story that takes place in our present moment. At first, in particular, he nodded at our real-life events, particularly the helplessness and overwhelmed sensations that seem pervasive when trying to manage life during a pandemic.

Still, it’s not a coronavirus story.

As “Arcana” unfolded, it gradually took on more allusions to paranormal and occult activity. Its speed stems from exploring both vulnerability and hopelessness, and pairing it with our desire to constantly make sense of the world around us. “Arcana”, ultimately, is about the human attempt to create order out of chaos, tapping into our own voyeuristic desire to even find narrative threads in Instagram posts of anonymous friends, relatives and neighbors. Key to its appeal, the game understands that posting on social media is an act of performance and full of deceptions big and small.

“I feel like we’re all crawling on people on social media and they’re crawling all over us,” says Eva Anderson, writer / producer on the project, whose recent credits include an episode of ” Dispatches From Elsewhere, “from AMC” a series itself inspired by an underground game which intersected real people, places and places.

“How about we do a story that just spied on someone you don’t know while they’re going through something? We wanted it to be quarantine without talking about it, ”says Anderson. “No one wants to talk about midlife in artwork right now, but there are these very universal emotions within it that correspond to other life changes. We realized we could be in this world not to mention COVID. “

The game began by presenting us the Jade Instagram account, a self-proclaimed “humanoid” with a penchant for bad poetry and metaphorical dreams. We meet Jade in a moment of vulnerability. Robin, Jade told us in an Instagram video on May 5, has left her for the Pacific Northwest. Jade and Robin’s relationship isn’t spelled out at first, but we see early on that Jade hurts, and the intimacy of a selfie as well as actress Nerea Duhart’s improvised and improvised performance, is designed to foster immediate connection. .

Jade is a character who, in her quarantine period, is reeling from the breakdown of a relationship and asks for friends. Or rather the players. Tommy Honton, an escape room veteran and co-founder of the Museum of Selfies, art-driven puzzles, some of which are twists on Picross puzzles, and others that have players stringing together abstract images.

While some will have players using free web tools to distort images or audio files, centering the game on Instagram, it ultimately feels more like a four-week-long horror movie told in slices rather than a series of movies. ‘puzzles. “Arcana” does not try to mold an existing format on mobile phones; it recognizes the dynamics inherent in smartphone-based media.

So, using Instagram as a starting point, it avoids a common ARG trap: Almost everyone who has played it has a story gone wrong in trying to make the world a game board.

“I remember the first time I played an ARG I was convinced there was something above a mountain and literally hiked a mountain,” says Anderson. There was nothing related to the game on the mountain.

The destination “Arcana” is set and new arrivals can easily get caught via summaries on the game website or just spending some time with Jade’s Instagram. In terms of play, there are some day-to-day moments that are malleable.

“The weekly structure, overall plot and resources are something we decide in advance and is scripted, planned and planned thoroughly,” says Mali Elfman, co-founder of the Fun Size Horror short film platform and producer. of the project. “Once the game is online, however, we know we have to change, tweak, create breadcrumbs for things that are missed or needed. Then we also have times when even though we have planned and over-planned, we pivot. “

Jade’s Instagram account has over 1,600 followers. It’s small if you compare “Arcana” to “Fortnite”, but great for the relatively specialized world of ARGs, which often cater to a small number of die-hard people. It’s a large enough audience that made the eight-person team of AOTW (All of Them Witches), made up of members of the theater, theme park and cinema / TV space, more than busy manage Jade’s account and collectively respond to direct messages from players.

The puzzles of “Arcana” are hidden in the images posted by the fictional character Jade.

(E3W / AOTW Productions)

Some players just send riddle answers, and some are more into a conversation. As many references to Parker’s murder come to Jade’s mind in her dreams, “Arcana” even provided players with an ear. During this coronavirus pandemic, uncomfortable vivid dreams have become an unfortunate normality for some.

“When they talk about their dreams, it’s beautiful,” says Duhart. “They’re like, ‘Jade! I too have just had a nightmare. “Then they’ll post it all and we can talk about a dream and tie it to that story.”

A strength of ARGs, when working, is their ability to help us focus on a real environment, searching for stories and puzzles in common spaces that we sometimes ignore. “Arcana” also implicated during its three weeks a bond between the fictional character of Jade and the sadist resident of Angelino Heights William Edward Hickman, who at 19 years kidnapped and murdered the young Parker, finally claiming that a certain form of possession (what he called “providence”) forced his hand in. He often gave himself the nickname “Fox”.

“It’s a story of a man who came to LA and became so obsessed with movies that it made him want to be the central character of a nightmare story and it ended up making him commit this crime heinous and heinous, ”says Anderson. “Then he came up with all these excuses for it and claimed to be possessed.

Everywhere, reality and fiction have blurred on a large scale, as the writer / historian Hadley Mears, who wrote on the KCET case, has become a player character as well as a small scale. Sometimes the engravings in a lamp behind Jade aren’t part of the game at all and are just a light fixture in Duhart’s actual house that she didn’t think was going out of the frame.

But understanding the appeal of ARGs is, essentially, understanding the appeal of theme parks: we’re always working to piece together a narrative, especially now when many of us are confined to our homes.

“We are monitoring everyone through this zoom lens and Facetime and we analyze each other’s backgrounds. We see what’s on the wall and we capture the personality and character we can, ”says writer / creative director Eric Hoff, whose day-to-day job is with thematic entertainment company Thinkwell Group. “As humans, when you go to someone’s house for the first time and see how they have or haven’t decorated their apartment, you learn who that person is.”

“Arcana”, developed with the immersive theater team E3W Productions, whose recent project “Where are the others” was released as a movie after the coronavirus canceled production, made it clear where the game starts and ends, and who’s in character and who isn’t. When they don’t describe such a circle of play, or if they’re not willing to break the character to lead players, ARGs can run the risk of falling victim to their own seriousness. Jade’s Instagram profile makes it clear that she’s a fictional character in a game, with a direct link to a website telling people how to play.

“Borders,” Elfman says, “allow creativity. Borders allow freedom. You know how far you can play. To see where your room is and where it is around you, you are free to play. When you don’t know it sometimes creates more questions than it’s worth. ”

Boundaries allow for magically fortuitous moments, especially when those rules state how players can and should interact with an actor in character. At the start of the game, puzzles led players to come up with helpful suggestions to Jade. “A really happy accident,” says Duhart, “was when someone said to Jade, ‘You must have a cat. Really a cat. Take a cat. “

“Arcana”, however, is no place for cuddly creatures. Later, when Jade’s Instagram posted an image of a stuffed fox that was morbidly completely dissected, the player was immersed in the evolving world of the game.

“When the fox’s post was published,” Duhart says, “she wrote,“ Maybe you shouldn’t have a cat. “”

Games and interactive entertainment

More Stories from Game Reviewer Todd Martens



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