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The Truth about Marika is a participation drama, produced by The company P and Swedish Television (SVT) and  broadcasted in autumn 2007. It was consisting of five 45-minutes episodes.  The full broadcast was made of two different parts making each show. One part was a traditional drama episode (45 minutes) featuring the disappearance of Marika few days before her wedding; the second part was a television debate.  The debate was justified thanks to the claim of Adrijanna, a blogger friend of Marika, accusing SVT to have copied a real event from her blog, Conspirare.se, and made it into a TV series. She claimed that every year 20000 people disappear in Sweden and that an organization named Ordo Serpentis could be behind it. SVT first deniesd the accusation then decided to admit that part of  what Adrijanna was claiming to be true and gave her the opportunity to appear on national television to tell her side of the story. During the debate the audience was invited to participate in the search by following SVT dedicated web page, and as a consequence, Adrijanna’s page.

Screenshot of Conspirare.se (source The company P)

Web users were then encourage to participate in the search for Maria (the ‘real’ person behind the fictional character of Marika) by engaging in internet forums, in the virtual reality of Entropia Universe and by participating in real life events.

Was then The truth about Marika a fictional experience or was it partially fictional and partially real?

The answer in Pretend that is real

Pretend that it is real!

When a new participant entered one of the websites crafted for the game, he or she was warned of the fictional nature of the experience. The warning appeared for the first two times a participant logged in, then the fiction took over and the participant immersed in a fictional reality.

The pop up warning at Conspirare.se – Note: Translation – “Warning:  Conspirare  is  part  of  a  fictional creation.  Opinions  expressed  here  do  not  always  reflect  opinions of P or SVT. Random similarities with real people are sometimes pure coincidental. Participation is on your own risk and under your own  responsibility.  Conspirare  has  only  one  rule  –  pretend  that  it is  real.  You  participate  through  following  the  blog,  watching  the movie clips, and discussing in the forum. The search will lead you out  on  the  Internet  and  out  on  the  streets  of  your  own  city.  Click on OK to show that you have understood this.” (Denward and Waern, 2009, p.4)

The fact that the immersion in the fictional world was a primary element agreed between the participant of the ARG and that television viewers were not alerted of the fictional nature of the show, instead they were told that the debate was a live event, made the line between reality and fiction almost impossible to be seen.

According to Marie Denward and Annika Waern research findings publish in the article On the Edge of Reality: Reality Fiction in ‘Sanningen om Marika’, the fictional reality took so much over the reality that even internet users started finding difficult to separate reality from fiction.

Considering the fact that the survey was carried out among people that had previously enter one of the internet gates with the pop up warning, it can be assumed the awareness among those viewers that didn’t immerse in the internet experience to be very low.

Was such attitude correct when applied to Swedish National Television?

Britta Svensson, columnist of Swedish paper Expressen, in her October 29th, 2007 column, wrote ‟This “scandal” seems to be part of the drama in which SVT in a way that has never happened before trying to fool viewers by relaxing the boundary between fiction and reality. It’s completely idiotic. People disappear without a trace is a reality that news programs sometimes need to report on. To then pretend that it is true that SAPO (Swedish security service) silences the truth about the 20,000 missing Swedes is purely irresponsible.’’

The big question is always how can we engage the audience? A proper answer would make a case study or something deeper by itself so I keep simple and tell you

Lay down the basis for a great perversive experience!

In an interview with DaHerminator, one of the Consipirare.se forum’s moderators, when asked what he liked about the experience, he answered ‟ The borderland between game and reality, and the feeling of adventure was really exciting. The best parts were the things you did in real life” and when asked if he had any regrets about the experience, he answered ‟ The best IRL parts took place in the two major cities of Sweden (Stockholm and Göteborg) and I weren’t able to attend. That was a bit of a disappointment”.

What do people want? An experience that will be remember as the coolest things one has ever experienced. (Da Herminator words)

In Jenkins terms immersion is a possibility for the participants to enter the storyworld and take part in the story

Can a transmedia project that bases its core elements on alternate reality games be any other thing then an immersion experience?

Martin Ericsson speaking at Nordic Larp Talks 2010 explains the need of immersion as ‟ the quest for the perfect manifestation of a dream”. For Ericsson immersion is a 24/7 experience that takes over ‘reality’ and that can become so intrusive that participants can start dreaming in characters.

The truth About Marika lays its foundations in the Nordic larp (live action role playing) culture. Annika Waern and Marie Denward in their research ‘On the Edge of Reality: Reality Fiction in ‘Sanningen om Marika’’ report the following quote

“I am a larper and for me the Marika project is one huge larp. Everything screams larp, from aesthetics to issues you discuss” (participant-survey comment)

Here is a video of Martin Ericsson, former producer and creative director of The Company P, speaking at the Nordic Larp Talks

And here is an example of one of the biggest larp in Europe

Martin Ericsson, former producer and creative director of The Company P, gives a speech at Power to the Pixel 2009 talking about participation.

”Who has the power over the production of stimuli? In traditional audience culture has the artist producing stimuli. Interactive culture has very small difference, you still have an artist producing massive stimuli the only difference is that audiences choose the order in which they consume. In Participatory culture things change completely. The artist acts as an host, sets up the game space,produces some stimuli, but the real producer, the real artist in participatory culture is the audience it self”