I've previously written about the challenges that The Lost Experience has had in reconciling the demands of the two storytelling modes of serialized television narrative and immersive alternate reality games (ARG). One of the challenges for analysts writing about such serialized storytelling examples is that they are moving targets, evolving and changing as they are created. In looking back at my article, I realize that I discussed only Act I in what is shaping out to be a three act story, as provocatively suggested by Jeff Jensen. Thus, here is my own update on Act II of The Lost Experience (TLE) and how it points to the challenges of transmedia storytelling.
The first part of TLE was all about setting a stage, a fairly static picture of an institution (The Hanso Foundation), its supporters (Thomas Mittlewerk and Hugh McIntyre), and its detractors (Persephone and DJ Dan). Each clue revealed another layer of deception & hypocrisy within Hanso, but offered little narrative thrust developing the conflict or relationships that it portrayed. Jensen suggests this act was designed for the hardcore Lost fans, but I'd suggest it was more for dedicated ARG players whose paranoid panoramic perception searches for clues within the meta-fictional landscape. As a dedicated Lost-head (but only a lurker in previous ARGs), I found Act I's lack of narrative drive too frustrating to completely justify the time it took to parse out the clues, and I shifted to mostly an observational role of the clue-gathering work of my fellow players.
Act II is more for fans like me--interested enough in ARGs to follow them, but in it more for the story and its relationship to Lost than gameplay. The shift in Act II is both in storytelling form and medium--this portion of TLE moves away from the now-defunct Hanso website and reveals the hacker behind the pseudonym of Persephone to be Rachel Blake. In charting Blake's attempt to discover the truth behind Hanso, we follow her across Europe via her blog. This direct communication from the character is much more narratively engaging than her hacks to Hanso's website, allowing for an illusion of interaction between players and characters, as conversations between Blake and other characters within the blog's comments add to the story significantly. Additionally, most of her blog postings link to videos scattered around the web--presenting Blake's exploits in video form seems more in keeping with the storytelling strategies that most appeal to fans of serialized television.
Interestingly, the participation in TLE seems to have shifted somewhat. A number of players who were actively involved during Act I in an email group dedicated to TLE have disengaged or departed during Act II, slowing the listserver to a crawl. For them, the gameplay has declined (within an already borderline ARG) enough that they feel no need to play, even if they are also fans of Lost. Thus we need to complicate Jensen's analysis of the differing levels of TLE engagement--it does not simply reflect the dedication of Lost fans to internet sites decoding the TV show, but intersects with the assumptions and expectations that fans bring to an ARG. For most TV viewers, an ARG is far too much of a time-consuming headache to dedicate themselves to. But for ARGonauts, the video diaries of Rachel Blake are too much like viral video to offer the paranoid pleasures of previous ARGs. How will these desires reconcile? Stay tuned for Act III, which seems to be emerging this week...