A while back, we launched the BW Arcade, a collection of some of the world’s most interesting games created by indie designers for no other reason than, with today’s technology and a whole heap of creative brainpower, they could. The whole thing met with a predictable response: support from people who got it; muttering and chuntering from people who didn’t. So far, so expected.
Then, a strange thing happened. Yesterday, my colleague Doug Macmillan came across a post on Digg entitled “Indie Gamemaker Screws with BusinessWeek.” Uh oh. That linked to a Facebook group called, “mark made this sweet ass game to screw with businessweek, who recently tried to freeload his other work. so check it out, play the game, and digg the article!” Eek.
So Innovation writer, Matt Vella and I dove back into the Arcade, loaded up the game in question (You Found the Grappling Hook) and then near enough fell over backwards at what we found. Insurrection in the ranks! To wit: the designer, Mark Essen/Messhof has created an entirely new game, You Found the Grappling Hook (Pro) and posted it to the hard link we had included in the Arcade. Gone is the game we had initially described as a "post-modern reimagining of the classic grapple-hook mechanism from Atari-age games" which we said "makes for a wonderfully serene experience" (you can access that version here.)
In its place, a new, intricate and frankly hilarious game entirely based around BusinessWeek, its workers and its stories. The goal now? To uncover the terrorists that have infiltrated the magazine's offices, (identifiable by being the characters who announce they "feel like such a sheep" and who have "gotta get out of this place") and unceremoniously chuck them out of the window. Official, sanctioned employees, meanwhile, ask questions about published stories, versions of which show up on screen.
It's charming, elegantly and thoughtfully designed and, without wanting to sound entirely over the top, makes me proud to be alive. That this kind of thing can happen is mind-blowingly brilliant. We write all the time about how brands deal with this super-networked world, and this is a pretty powerful reminder that nothing anyone does exists in a bubble. It's also an example of the fact that you can't predict or control how something is going to play out. And finally, it emphasizes the main point of the Arcade itself... that brilliant creativity is happening everywhere.
In effect, Messhof has created a fantastic branding tool for BusinessWeek -- an immersive experience that incorporates our core content (articles about business) and presents it in a charming and innovative fashion. I'm sure that wasn't his intention, and I'm not sure that somehow I'm not being compared to a sheep, but I love it.
Then there's the other classic Web 2.0/social networking lesson: fixing your mistakes. The name of the Facebook group says that we "freeloaded" the designer's work. Hand on heart, that wasn't our intention, but it does make me realize that we didn't include specific links to the sites of the designers we featured. And we should have done, so we're going to go back and add them.
We launched this Arcade to celebrate indie creativity, and one of those we set out to celebrate has lightly bitten us on the hand. Sir, despite our bleeding fingers, we salute you.