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McDonald's is lead sponsor of Olympics-themed ARG, 'The Lost Ring'

Unsurprisingly, the lead designer on the project was well-known game creator, Jane McGonigal.

'Find the Lost Ring,' a brand-new alternate-reality game, is a promotional vehicle for McDonald's and the Beijing Olympics. The game, which went live on Monday, is centered on a woman named Ariadne, who claims to have woken up with amnesia in a South African corn maze on February 12. Daniel Terdiman/CNET Networks

For anyone who follows alternate-reality games (ARGs), it should come as no surprise that the latest entry in the genre, The Lost Ring, is the brainchild of, among others, Jane McGonigal.

Until now, it was only suspected--though with extremely high levels of confidence--that the game, which is centered on helping a fictional amnesiac woman named Ariadne discover her identity, was a promotional vehicle for this summer's Beijing Olympics.

But McGonigal, who is keynoting at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin on Tuesday, confirmed to me that the game was in fact designed in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee and that McGonigal's partners in the creation of the game were McDonald's and global interactive experience design shop, AKQA.

"This ARG extends McDonald's historic sponsorship of the Olympic Games in a brand-new direction," said McGonigal, who is a research affiliate with the Institute for the Future. "Its goal is to create global collaboration and bring the spirit of the Games to people around the world. It will invite players from across the globe to join forces online and in the real world, as they investigate forgotten mysteries and urban legends of the ancient games."

McGonigal, an alumna of leading ARG design firm 42 Entertainment, has either been lead designer on or helped create a wide variety of multimedia games such as A World without Oil, Cruel 2 B Kind, Last Call Poker, and I Love Bees.

Since The Lost Ring went live on Monday, its Web site has offered up a number of clues for players to follow, while ARG-related sites like ARGNet and Unfiction have been actively discussing the game. It will play out over many months, likely not finishing at least until the closing ceremonies of the Olympics on August 24, 2008.