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Lost Fans Find Internet Thrills Via Wikis, Games, Second Life

Fans and producers of the hit TV show Lost are taking to the Internet, building a wiki, alternate reality games, communities, and a virtual island in Second Life to explore the world of the ABC show.
ABC doesn't leave Internet activity to the fans. The company has built several sites of its own to fuel interest in Lost.




An SL-Lost meeting. Clips from the show are watched and discussed.
(click for image gallery)

The company built a Web site for Oceanic Air, the fictitious airline company featured in the show. Oceanic-Air.com looks like the Web site for a small airline, complete with a form for reserving tickets.

Another ABC-sponsored Lost site, Find815.com, purports to be a project by an Oceanic IT manager trying to find his girlfriend, supposedly a flight attendant on the doomed plane. And TheHansoFoundation.org provides information about the mysterious organization featured in the show.

All the sites contain clues and easter eggs designed to help users figure out background and direction for Lost.

The ABC Lost sites are examples of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), a genre that blends real life activities and the Internet. Players follow trails of clues, usually starting with a single Web site or newspaper ad, and uncover a complicated story line. Along the way, they look for more ads and Web sites, get phone calls in the middle of the night from game characters, and more.

The ARGs started before the show aired, with ABC putting messages in corked bottles and leaving them on beaches for people to find, said Michael Benson, co-executive VP of marketing for ABC Entertainment, who heads up the Lost ARG efforts.

Benson said he and his team, which includes Hoodlum, an interactive entertainment company out of Brisbane, Australia, works with the creators of Lost to develop ARGs. They meet over the summer and plan out the next year's Internet activities.

Benson says he only knows what's going on one season at a time, and doesn't know how the show will conclude. "By having enough information, but not too much, it helps us have a better strategy," he said. "As I'm asking questions, I kind of feel like I can take the place of a viewer and create things that will lead to something bigger."