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'Endgame' blends print, film, gaming, and a global treasure hunt

Google is helping James Frey build a multimedia sci-fi juggernaut
By Adi Robertson on July 28, 2014 11:55 am

On October 7th, author James Frey will release a novel about the apocalypse. It will hold an elaborate code, directing readers towards a key hidden somewhere in the real world. That key will open a case containing $500,000 in gold.

This is the premise of Endgame: The Calling, which is not so much a book as a sweeping attempt at a story that will colonize all conceivable media. Fox is developing a movie concurrently, and Google's Niantic Labs, responsible for alternate-reality game Ingress, is making a new game based on the plot. A D&D dungeon master has been conscripted to maintain social media accounts for the characters, which he has done for the past year. Two more books are coming. And around it all is a scavenger hunt based on cryptic numbers, coordinates, and other details hidden in the book.

"There's so much possible in today's world that people don't do," says Frey in an interview at San Diego Comic Con. "You know, the idea that Twitter can be part of a book, or a search result can be part of a book, and a game can be a part of a book. A book can be more than what's on the page. It can take you out into the real world; it can take you out into the digital world." After coming up with the idea, Frey cold-called Google to see if the company would be interested in partnering on a game. Google agreed to a meeting, sending members of the team behind Ingress, its first foray into gaming.

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Endgame by James Frey

Twelve ancient cultures were chosen millennia ago to represent humanity in Endgame, a global game that will decide the fate of humankind. Endgame has always been a possibility, but never a reality…until now. Twelve meteorites have just struck Earth, each meteorite containing a message for a Player who has been trained for this moment. At stake for the Players: saving their bloodline, as well as the fate of the world. And only one can win.

Endgame is real. Endgame is now. Endgame has begun.

Google Niantic is building a mobile location-based augmented reality videogame inextricably tied to the books and mythology, a major prize will be tied to a puzzle in each book, and Twentieth Century Fox has bought the movie rights.

The idea of an interactive game within a book made me think of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

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sounds interesting, but also not interesting

When I read a fiction book, my purpose is to leave the real world and explore something different. If a book pulls me back into the real world, I would find that annoying.

Also, I am afraid that this could be overcompensation for a crappy book. Sort of like a CGI-ladden movie with a predictable unoriginal story and cardboard characters. When I read a book or watch a TV show, what draws me in are the characters first, the story second. Both need to be present to make it worthwhile. Exhibit A: Breaking Bad. If Breaking Bad did anything like this, it would diminish the show.

I think this could be fun if it allows people to interact, like in a role playing game. May be if there were competing teams. But then, who needs the book? In a roleplaying game, the game master has to come up with a plot, but it's usually just a skeleton guide which is fleshed out by the participation of the players.

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

Michael Nystrom's picture

It is a fascinating idea.

I'm torn about it, in ways.

There was a big startup in Boston a few years back that tried to cash in early on the whole gamification trend. The company was called scvnger, and I learned about them from a huge front page spread on the front of the NYT Sunday business page.

I thought it was kind of faddy at the time. The concept was interesting, but the execution seemed shallow: "Do tasks in the real world, win points and badges online." The example given was something like, "Go take a picture of the biggest shoe at a certain sporting goods store, then win rewards, like free coffee, or a coupon for $3.00 off a meal."

Frivolous. I didn't think it was going to work, and it didn't. Never really lived up to the hype. (Apparently that company is still around. I thought it went out of business. )

The idea that there was a game embedded inside of Ready Player One is interesting, though I never pursued anything about it.

You read the book, too. Did you?

Sounds interesting, but also like a frivolous waste of time, too. Will the Endgame game be different?

I'm sure that eventually some kind of gamification thing will be a huge hit. But such things are hard to predict.

- - - -

An idea that is more intriguing to me is to have a game overlay of real life that actually helps you achieve what you're trying to achieve anyway. My fitbit is kind of like that. It is a very simple game. The number of steps I take are the points I get. Each day I try to get a certain number of points - 10,000 at least. Anything over that is bonus. A 20,000 point day is awesome!

But there should be games that help transform the painful things in life that must be done into challenges. It all comes down to the perspective. Change the perspective and everything changes. Turn it into a game, and things are fun, not hard.

Surely such games must exist. I should get out more (I mean venture beyond the confines of the Daily Paul more). But this James Frey thing is pretty interesting. I have a feeling that his last book will play some kind of a role, too.

Anyway, thanks! I'll be keeping an eye on this!

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

endgame: making the intangible tangible.

You will literally be figuratively ripping your own head off with challenges like:

-game one: the semicolon
-hey that's my marker!
-who's the girl? And
-best of three: the prequel

9-11 was a panda job.

Sounds way too cool! Complete wrapture!

I hope I don't read it, see the movie, or play the game really.
I'm quite obsessive and wouldn't have time for anything else.

jrd3820's picture

Maybe we could form a anadrome/dp

team to take the challenge and decode the clues and then split the prize?

Michael Nystrom's picture

Whoa!

What else can one say to such a development?

Thanks, kiddo.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.
jrd3820's picture

!!!!!!

Ahem, I think I was a bit hard on my exclamation point key there on my keyboard, but; Hi :)

This is a whole new way to do books. Future best selling authors should be aware of this development.

A whole new way?

I dunno. A lotta folks see the Bible that way.

jrd3820's picture

While I don't doubt you

The bible didn't combine mass media and numerous mediums like this.

Wait! I'm not saying it is not as important of course. The number best seller of all time. Arguably the most important book in history.

This project is bringing literature into a digital setting, and not in the same sense of having a kindle or e-reader.

To be honest the premise/storyline only sounds meh to me, but the idea of turning it into an interactive game and competition complete with various forms of media is interesting and will set the stage for other books to attempt something on this massive of a scale.