sadie-1I’m in the midst of playing Halo 3: ODST right now, but I thought I’d take a break to write about a game within the game.

This title is Microsoft’s big video game for the fall season on the Xbox 360. The company’s spun-out Bungie Studios video game studio put together the game in just 14 months, thanks to the cancellation of the Halo movie and film director Peter Jackson’s aborted Halo games.

But apparently that was plenty of time for Fourth Wall Studios to dream up a new game within the game for fans of “alternate reality” games, which are game-like stories that unfold in both the real and fictional worlds. The game is entitled “Sadie’s Story” and it unfolds in audio form as the human soldiers hunt down the enemy Covenant aliens in the future African city of New Mombasa.

sadie-2Elan Lee, head of Fourth Wall Studios and a veteran of alternate reality games, confirmed that Sadie’s Story is a joint effort between Bungie’s Joe Staten and Fourth Wall Studios. But he says that gamers are supposed to discover the story on their own and so his lips are sealed for the moment. There is reportedly twice as much audio in Sadie’s Story as there is in ODST itself.

Halo 3: ODST goes on sale on the 22nd of September. In the game, Covenant warriors square off against the human”orbital drop shock troopers” who fall from the sky into battlefields. Fairly early into the game, I listened as an audio recording I picked up played back Sadie’s urgent rush to get on board a train. I’ll see where the threads pick up on this. At least one “alternate reality game” site has picked up on the story.

Microsoft is quite famous for launching alternate reality games to promote its games or marketing campaigns. It launched The Beast in 2001 as a way to promote Steven Spielberg’s A.I. movie. Then several of the creators left to create 42 Entertainment, an alternate reality game company. 42 Entertainment, where Lee was one of the founders, also worked on the famous “ilovebees” alternate reality game that was part of a campaign leading to the introduction of Halo 2 in 2004. Lee left 42 Entertainment to start eDoc Laundry, which put mystery games into clothing. And then he started Fourth Wall Studios to focus on a new generation of alternate reality games.

It’s games like Sadie’s Story that redefine what a game is and expand the industry’s borders.