A few years ago, an undergrad student starts a campus radio station that airs between the hours of midnight to 4 AM. Viola (not her actual name because, as she states, “it seemed being DJ this or MC That would sound even more pretentious than admitting that I’m a sucker for Twelfth Night”) begins bringing guests onto her show and one in particular who goes by the name of Sol begins garnering her a larger audience with his…interesting…government conspiracy theories. Once Viola decides to focus on grad school, she gives the station to Sol, who decides to take Radio Free Krakow on the road…in a bus no less.
But this isn’t where Radio: Free Krakow starts for everyone. As the introductory audio on the show’s site explains, Radio Free Krakow is a multi-platform interactive series that builds a world in which a digital resistance is fighting a villain seeking control of government, media, and industry. Participants choose how deeply they would like to immerse themselves into the story. The more you choose to participate, the more you can be rewarded with private messages, e-mail, videos, and rank within the show’s sites.
Written by Kate Tremills, the series is executive produced by Timo Puolitaipale and Ryan FitzGerald, the team behind RFK has years of traditional film, new media, and ARG development experience to back them up. FitzGerald was a writer on the popular Nine Inch Nails ARG Year Zero and there are some similar themes in both games: government surveillance, resistance to authority, the promise that you CAN make a difference. And interactive designer Dwayne Rudy has built quite the online experience.
Whether you are planning on being a casual viewer or to be a totally immersive participant, you are probably asking yourself, “where do I start?” The shows website is a good place. Here you will find the introductory audio I mentioned above as well as the first video, giving us our first look at Sol “2 Months From Now”. He is in trouble. He needs us to help him.
At this point, you hit the crossroads: do you want to be a casual viewer or an active player? In order to watch more videos on the site itself, you’ll need to become an active player and start earning rank (more on this in a bit) but if you want a more casual experience, you can circumvent this by watching the videos on Rogue Nation Studios’ YouTube channel or through Candian web TV distributor Lifeforce TV, where all four videos of the series that have been released so far can be seen.
If you are ready to dive in further, simply click on the words “Join the Fight” on the top-right corner of the main page. You will be redirected to radiofreekrakow.net and asked to fill out a 15 item questionnaire deigned to assign you to a “leader”: either Sol, Viola, or Trini (introduced in video 2 of the series). You are then given instruction on how to create an account at RFK.net and get into the site to begin building rank. Rank is determined by how many “wuffie” you earn, which from what I can gather from the time I’ve spent playing the game, is built by completing missions, leaving comments, and recruiting other people into the game. If you supply a cell phone number, which I did, you can expand your experience even more. I have so far received a few text messages that require me to text back answers to questions.
Having an average level of skill in ARGs (I’ve participated in a few but I am not a hardcore code breaker by any means), I’ve found this to be well-designed and extremely well thought-out, though at this point, I’m not sure where I am supposed to go with it and one of the tools they suggest you use is to install a Linux operating system, something which I don’t have experience in. The videos themselves are well produced and visually stimulating, though I’m having a bit of a challenge figuring out video-to-video where they fit in the timeline of the show. For instance, episode 1 states it is “2 Months From Now” and video two is labeled “Present Day”, while episodes 3 and 4 have no labels, though because 3 is basically a video blog from Sol, I would assume it’s a continuation of video 1. Video 4 introduces several new characters and is, in my opinion, the most engaging of the 4 so far.
With videos coming out once a month and seven videos planned (according to the website) with the last of which, based off it’s description, will bring the Sol storyline up to present day, there is still plenty of time to get into the game. For the casual viewers, a month between videos may feel like a long time but once all the videos are out, taking them in as a whole should be a satisfying experience. Hopefully the story is strong enough to keep those viewers coming back each month.
So are you ready to go down the rabbit hole? Well then, “login today, join the fight.”