I was very pleased to see that the headline article for Wired News yesterday was all about the I Love Bees alternate reality game, being run by (I presume) the creators of original AI game, Elan Lee and Sean Stewart.
I Love Bees is, of course, a marketing promotion for Halo 2, a new videogame being released on the Xbox. This has caused many cooler-than-thou people on the internet to avoid it, saying that it’s ‘just’ an advert and therefore should be equated with such evils as McDonalds, Starbucks and the Gap – certainly they couldn’t be seen playing it. After all, that’d mean they were just advertising the game.
This is all rubbish. I Love Bees is only a marketing promotion in the sense that The Simpsons is a marketing promotion for the adverts that run next to it; in other words, the entertainment is so self-contained and deep that it stands alone from the product or company or service that it is meant to be promoting. Granted, the storyline of I Love Bees is related to Halo 2, but in a rather loose sense (as was the AI game). That anyone would refuse to even look at I Love Bees because it is funded by Halo 2 money is basically pretentious.
Unfortunately I Love Bees has another public perception problem, judging by a quick review of weblogs mentioning the article on Technorati – people think it’s geeky. Even geekier than playing videogames, if such a thing were possible. This is a shame, but understandable, given the high barrier of entry into the game. First you have to visit the I Love Bees website, which is very confusing, especially at this late stage of the game, and then you have to read through a lot of stuff at Unfiction, the online community playing the game. Once you’ve done that, you have several hours of story to listen to in the form of audio clips.
All of this restricts I Love Bees to a dedicated yet specialised audience. Not that this detracts from the high quality of the game, but Wired article or no, alternate reality games are still – for now – a niche genre.