I was at the StoryWorld conference in San Francisco earlier this week. It’s great to see the beginnings of a cohesive community and body of thought emerge around transmedia and evolving narrative — it reminds me of the early days of the community coming together around virtual worlds, and what fun it was to chronicle that.
I talked to a bunch of interesting people, but only sat in on one or two of the panel presentations. Herewith some notes on one of them, titled Streets That Tell Stories: How Pervasive Gaming Engages Audiences — pervasive gaming being the kind that inhabits the real world around you, that takes place over hours or days or weeks or months, and has as its playing field a building or street or city or actual, physical world. You may not have heard much of this kind of game before, but there have been some very cool examples (linked below, of course).
The panel addressed techniques and approaches for creating pervasive games, and was moderated by Christy Dena of Universe Creation 101 (among other things), and featured three panelists:
Some of the recommendations and experience that came out of the panel:
- If you trust people to enter into the world you’ve created for them, they absolutely know what to do.
- Design to accommodate different levels of engagement.
- You’re not just working in one medium, you’re thinking pretty much 360 every minute.
- You have to know what the space is like at all times of day, and days of the week.
- There’s no point in feeling you should do something in a traditional way.
- You want to be on the ground and scout out those spaces, see what opportunities arise.
- You have to be able to improvise as a creator and as someone running these things.
- We’re like Situationalists 2.0, we just have better tools now. — Jeff Hull
Hull introduced himself as Creator Director of Nonchalance, “a situational design agency” in San Francisco. “Situational experiences involve spaces and people and other things to add to the environment. This is in contrast to experiential design, which very often can be kept within the two-dimensional monitor-based realm. Our mission is to provoke discovery through visceral experience and pervasive play, by reengineering the way participants and audience members interact with media, with the space around them, and most importantly with each other.”
Hull’s Nonchalance is best known for a very cool pervasive game built around an organization called the Jejune Institute, in which players worked to solve mysteries whose clues were hidden around SF, take part in protests, and participate in other immersive experiences that took place in the streets and buildings of the city. To get more of a feel for the particulars of the Jejune Institute, watch the trailer, and read this New York Times piece about the game.
While this isn’t too far removed from alternate reality gaming as we’ve come to know it, Nonchalance seems to be aiming for a more immersive and pervasive experience than most of those we’ve seen before. I think there’s a lot of potential for this, especially when combined with tools and practices from more “traditional” electronic gaming — not to take away from the pervasive experience, but to enhance it and help drive players to engage. Continue reading