by Alex Hera
I'm Alex Hera, the creator of the Walker Creek ARG (formally titled "Walker Creek Broadcast Station"). I'm going to keep this entry slightly more brief than I imagine many others will due to the fact that my project is still in progress and I don't want to ruin the magic if/when this information gets published on the Index. However, I have still gone into great detail on my actual process and the timeline overall so I hope it is still helpful and informative.
Over the past several years, I've become increasingly interested and involved in the ARG/Unfiction scene. So, this is my story, from learning about ARG's to creating one myself.
~2012: As a child on the early 2010’s internet, I was indoctrinated into the Slenderman craze and therefore, into Marble Hornets. However, it was a one-off thing at the time and I didn't look into any other ARG's at the time.
2018: I discovered The Sun Vanished and began watching ARG-focused YouTube creators such as Inside a Mind and you (NightMind). TSV was the first ARG I actively participated in.
Early 2019: I joined the Dad ARG and also began planning my own ARG in the Summer. It was inspired by TSV and Daisy Brown, with someone waking up in an abandoned town being invaded by aliens. I know, it's very original. There was more to it than just the abandoned town concept, but that was the basic plot. Anyway, I intended to finish filming and editing before going public so I didn't have to worry about things like deadlines and schedules. I created...I'd say 75% of that project before taking a step back and realizing it was mediocre and cliche and not something I wanted to publish. It was an important learning experience though.
Fall 2019: I ended up having to do a research project in my English class and I chose to do it on ARG's. I read articles, interviews, analyzed ARG's, and learned a ton from that as well.
Early 2020: Right after quarantine began, I became interested in Local58 and Analog Horor [Horror with a 1980's VHS aesthetic]. I decided to create a video in that style, which I titled "Night Life" set in a town I called "Walker Creek". It was about skinwalkers invading the town in the 1980's, with a small human rebellion attempting to stop them. I thought it was pretty good. Then...I forgot about it until the beginning of September 2020.
Before we continue: a few technical details. I use Davinci Resolve to edit everything: Analog Horror, vlogs, etc. It's a free editing software which is equal to or (in my opinion) better than Premiere Pro. I also have a bunch of filmmaking gear since I made short films before quarantine and plan to resume doing that after Walker Creek, so I'm not just filming on iPhones. I had to learn a lot to create this project. Davinci Resolve forums saved my life hundreds of times, as did random YouTubers with editing tutorials. I had to basically unlearn many filmmaking techniques in order to film everything in a realistic manner.
September 2020: At that point, I was incredibly bored in quarantine and the idea of attempting another ARG had been rattling around in my head since I'd cancelled my previous attempt. I decided to just go for it - make an Analog Horror series like Local58, Gemini Home Entertainment, Analog Archives, etc. It was originally just going to be a straightforward series with the VHS tapes and nothing else. I envisioned it as a 'practice project' before I made my "real" ARG. To this day I still don't know exactly what that means, but I guess just more of a filmmaking-focused project with more puzzles and videos. I'll touch on that again later.
As I grew closer to my intended start date, I decided to add in a modern day story with the person uploading the tapes. And then I decided to add in a blog website from another character. And then a Tourism website for the town. So by the time I actually started in the end of October 2020, it was a full fledged ARG complete with characters to interact with, puzzles to solve, websites to read, and an immersive, interconnected narrative to look into. I published 3 videos in the first week. One setting up the modern day story, and 2 Analog Horror videos following it. I originally intended to tell the modern day story in the background, but decided that a video would be necessary since otherwise most people probably wouldn't even notice the modern day story. I mean, a lot of people still didn't, to be honest. Some people were really confused when there was a major plot point about the uploader in May.
November 2020: I waited a month to even attempt promoting the series. By that point, there were 2 websites, 3 social media accounts (plus an active email address), and 4 videos to watch, as well as 10 puzzles that had to be solved in order to access a hidden 3rd website called the "Archive". And by the way, by puzzles I don't mean binary code and Base64. I laid out clues, learned how ciphers worked, learned steganography, etc. Anyway, I was only able to get around 30 subscribers and ~5 active members. That first group was amazing to see. They were following my clues, talking about my story, interacting with my characters. I had never felt anything like it. By the end of December, I was at over 100 subscribers and ~10 active members solving puzzles and discussing in the Discord server. It was faster than many other indie ARG's I'd seen, but that was largely due to the quality of the content (meaning: not shaky cam videos with VFX glitches and 'spooky' codes), the amount of content available, and my guerrilla marketing techniques by recommending it to people in ARG communities anonymously.
Basically, my strategy was this: make anonymous accounts and go on Reddit/Discord/YouTube. I'd make one long text post per subreddit with a more elaborate explanation, and then every few weeks check in and see if someone asked "Hey, are there any new/good/interesting ARG's out there?". If they did, I'd tell them to check out Walker Creek. I'd link the channel and sometimes a website or two. But please, if anyone is going to employ this strategy, they need to know not to be obnoxious. Don't spam subreddits or Discord servers with your ARG all the time. I only did it when someone specifically asked for recommendations. I also posted about new videos on subreddits and Discord groups for ARG's and Analog Horror.
It grew steadily from that point and really hasn't changed in its rate of growth since the start. I get about 100 subscribers per month, sometimes a little less.
Anyway, I kept going with the analog horror videos moving the 1980's plot forward slowly and steadily. People liked the content, they enjoyed the occasional puzzles. However, there was also a modern day plot slowly developing and a lot of potential in the series that I wanted to work on. The series was good, but it could be better.
February 2021: I ended up creating a second "Archive"/hidden website with 'secret' videos, audios, and images from the skinwalkers showing different historical events in Walker Creek from the lore. I made another ~15 puzzles to get into this site, and it had ~25 new videos made available all at once. January and February were some of the worst months of this project due to how much I was working on it in order to keep up normal content as well as create the extra content for this site. Balancing is really hard if there are a lot of moving parts in your project, as there were in mine. February also ended up being the month with the least content ever since I was making the content for the extra site. But this wasn't even the busiest month. Anyway, it launched in March and I was going back to normal content creation. Or...so I thought. However, on the plus side, the site and the puzzles were a giant success. They loved the world, the characters, the content, etc.
This was the point where I was really settling in. I was surprised at how they fell in love with the 'villain' of the series and how they ended up being more content with just sitting back and watching what happens rather than theorizing constantly like I saw in most other ARG's. I was also surprised at the fact that I had nearly 300 subscribers but only around 5-10 active community members at a time. That's still true with my current 700 subscribers. But it didn't matter. I had enough of a community to be satisfied, and I was in a steady rhythm with content creation (outside of the second Archive).
March 2021: Walker Creek had been consuming my life so much that I realized this was the "real" ARG that I had been planning. It was no longer just a practice project. The Media Archive had already proved that to me but I fully embraced it at this point. So, I took it all the way. I decided 'this is going to be something real, and something amazing, with actual meaning, effort, filmmaking, etc.' Not just an analog horror series with some modern day elements, but a massive, immersive, detailed, high quality ARG to rival even the best in the field. A little ambitious but definitely admirable at the time. So to begin, I started a second channel, which was run by a mysterious skinwalker seemingly rebelling from the rest. I also began planting seeds for future content. I talked to my friends about them joining the project as actors, and cast them in different roles.
April 2021: I began filming content for a new channel (as well as live action content for the main channel) and seriously planning out the middle and ending of the story. I knew how it would end overall with the characters from the websites, and the uploader of the VHS tapes, but I didn't have a full fledged plan or script yet. This really started in March but that was only outlining. April was when I was writing, planning shoot days, actually filming, etc.
May 2021: I launched a 3rd channel, with vlogs from a resident of Walker Creek. The story was still developing in the 1980's VHS tapes and the modern day websites and characters, with references to each other on each of the three channels. They were all uploading simultaneously and sometimes even affecting each other. The amount of content per month went from 1-2 videos and a few puzzles to ~10 videos per month and a few puzzles. I also began a segment in which viewers could call one of the main characters on the phone and speak with them on one day per month. Those phone calls were and are pretty much the most fun I've had on any project ever. I was working hard and making sure that the quality of the content still never dropped, and in fact kept increasing. I was filming and editing new content, creating puzzles and websites, and managing the active aspects of the ARG all at once. I still am, actually. But it was worth it. The audience was more active and more excited than ever.
June 2021: I launched yet another site, run by a new character: a Walker Creek police officer who investigated cases that often were related to the other 3 main channels. Content still continued on the other three channels.
July 2021: Again, just hard work. Walker Creek basically was, and is, my full time job. Even though I don't make any money off of it. Filming, editing, managing, etc. July was also when I began working on the final "Archive", which ended up being the largest one.
So basically, I was suffering from complete exhaustion. Still am. During this time, a large YouTuber offered to make a video on the series, which would have increased the audience by a lot, which both excited and terrified me. However, it gave me an energy boost. They shouted the series out on social media, but the video never came. However, it has only been a month and a half so I'm guessing it's still in the works. It's hard to keep up motivation and the audience seems to be losing interest as well, so it's not all sunshine and rainbows, but I'm still going despite my growing lack of energy. I've got a big finale I'm ramping up to, and a lot of cool stuff between now and the finale too.
Present: Anyway, the series is currently at a bit over 700 subscribers on the main channel. I'm still keeping up with the same level of content: ~10 videos, 1-2 live events, and one series of puzzles per month. I know where it's going, and I'm still filming and preparing content. It's been a great experience, though a bit slow moving.
Advice I have to new creators is: plan in advance. Don't just make it up as you go along, or start a story without knowing where it's going. Throughout this story I know I've demonstrated examples of just coming up with ideas and doing them. But before even starting the series, I had every episode of the Analog Horror aspect planned, as well as the general story for the modern day plot and the ending of the series. Before starting a new channel/website, I planned it for a month, and created it for a month, before it ever went public. So take notes, make detailed plans, write scripts, and don't rush.
Also, always be unique. There's hundreds of Twitter ARG's based on The Sun Vanished. There's dozens of Slender-Man ARG's. There's a million shaky cam videos with Base64 and Binary code claiming to be "ARG's". Don't do that. Just...be unique. Do research into why successful ARG's are successful, and learn those lessons but don't just copy them. Participate in as many ARG's as possible. And if you don't have a real idea for an ARG, and for the story? Don't make an ARG. I'm often on the r/ARG subreddit, and it is so disheartening to see page after page of unoriginal ideas, and posts of people saying 'I want to make an ARG but I don't have a story idea and I don't know how to make puzzles, what should I do?". Come up with a real idea, and then make your series. Don't just make something for the sake of making something.
I'm sure I could think of more advice if I thought about it but those are the two most important things in my opinion since those are the 2 most common issues I see in new ARG's.
Thank you for reading if you have read this entire thing.