Science fiction, fantasy, & horror - web design, graphic design, interactive media development by greententacles
The age of the Mock-reality Web is upon us. Well, maybe not, but there is a trend of speculative fiction web sites to be designed as if they were distributing real information, treating the web as a form of entertainment in itself.
That is the whole point, treating the Web as a form of media by itself. To make a web site where people can discover the information that they're looking for rather than treating the web site as a simple repository for information.
The very nature of the Web as an interactive environment makes this form of storytelling very powerful. Now, visiting the web site becomes as much fun as the event itself. Not every form of speculative fiction lends itself to this, but for the ones that do the results are worth the effort.
The Blair Witch Project (07/1999): 'In October of 1994, three student film-makers disappeared in the woods near Burkittesville, Maryland. One year later, their footage was found.'
The Blair Witch Project can be credited with being the first major success in Mock-reality Web. People shared the web site with a fervor similar to snipe-hunting, possibly hoping to fool their friends into thinking that the occurrences really happened.
People either loved it or hated it, but the bottom line is it was a success. For being an independently made movie with a miniscule budget it was a phenomenal success! The budget spent was $50,000 USD and the movie brought in $140,530,114 USD to the box offices, and even more on top of that in video sales and rentals, not to mention the subsequent creation of a franchise (sequels, pre-quels, documentaries, video games, and such). The Blair Witch Project became the fore-runner of the many other mock-reality sites to come.
Galaxy Quest (12/1999): 'The cast of a canceled space TV show have to pretend to be the real thing when aliens need their help to defeat another alien threat.'
Galaxy Quest wasn't a break through movie like The Blair Witch Project, but it was a well-crafted movie that had a decent run at the box office. The Galaxy Quest web site is a real treat. It is designed as if a fan were really discussing the merits of a show that had really been on the air.
The web site really wasn't a vehicle for the movie so much as a treat for people who liked the movie. It contains an episode guide for the TV series and commentary from the site's webmaster, a self proclaimed Questerian, just like any real fan site.
Perfect Dark (6/2000): 'Joanna Dark must infiltrate the DataDyne corporation and uncover an alien conspiracy.'
The game is set in 2030 but the two of the main factions in the game have existed since the 1990's and they both have web sites.
The game itself is pretty cool and has met with great reviews, but additionally there are the DataDyne Corporation and Carrington Institute web sites, two major factions in the game, that almost lend that air of credibility to the game. They even go so far as to have employment pages on their web sites.
X-men (7/2000): 'A good group of mutants tries to save humanity from the evil plans of a sinister group of mutants, while politicians try to pass legislation to create a national registry of mutants.'
The movie X-men was a great movie, spawned from a classic comic series, which did rather well at the box office. It also had the mock-reality web site, the Mutant Watch web site produced by Senator Kelly. They even went so far as to make Mutant Watch 'commercials' that ran on television in the place of trailers.
Freakylinks (10/2000): 'A surfer, who takes on the web mastering duties of his dead twin brother's occult web site, receives a recent video showing the dead brother walking around and dedicates his life, and web site, to discover the truth about what happened.'
Seeing the success of The Blair Witch Project, and thinking that the web based audience would be the key to a great event, a television show was built around a web site. Not a bad idea, but it debuted to lukewarm and poor reviews. The show has had its moments, seeming like a trendy attempt at The X-files at times, and I personally enjoyed the mythology built up behind the story, but the good moments were far too few and the Hollywood stereotypes were far too many. (He's a surfer? And he works on a web site? HA! I get it!)
Other than the show itself there exists the namesake web site freakylinks.com and the protagonist's dead brother's web site occultresearch.com, which are both set up like real world web sites, rather than the promotional pieces that they are. The occult research site has dates back as far as 1994, and the Freakylinks web site has a tremendous archive back to 1998. Tremendous if you realize that it all had to be created specifically for the show.
A mock-reality web site can be a great asset for a product (movie, book, etc.) but it won't work in every instance. They work best coming from a modern day, real world source. Some things are just so far fetched that any attempt at suspension of disbelief would be futile.
Mock-reality Web sites work great in conjunction with another media, so if you are a book or game publisher, or movie producer, this is a great way to build a fan base. The mock-reality web premise may work very well for The X-files spin-off The Lone Gunmen.
A mock-reality Web site becomes another tool in a general marketing campaign, but be careful to separate the web hype from everything else. Mock-reality Web is not a massive movement. It's just another way to use the Web, to entertain people, and extend a fan base.