In a intriguing article posted by Gamespot.com, it explored the different psychological approaches developers are taking to try and immerse their players into as much of the game as possible. Through techniques dubbed “Alternate Reality Gaming” (ARG), it’s the art of including real-life actions and them having an effect on your gameplay: be it giving you background information on a previous/upcoming game, unlocking items, articles, or extra in game content. Or it can even give a players a chance to interact with fellow gamers around the planet. ARG tries to bridge the gap between being an audience member in a theater or game, and actually being in the game by letting players’ actions directly influence the outcomes they’ll later notice in the game.
Started with Halo 2’s incredibly successful Ilovebees.com campaign in 2004, players were asked to listen in to the internet diary of Dana the Webmistress, a woman who owned a legitimate online honey store over the series of several weeks. She would then start to complain that her website kept being hacked, which then revealed series of computer code randomly appearing on the screen which gave readers clues to where these hacks were coming from. Including where to go for particular phone calls from real-life phone booths, to even real life get-togethers to try and discover the source of the hacking. People by the thousands clamored to Dana’s dilemma, where it eventually led to players receiving an early entry into Halo 2 at the series’ conclusion.
Since then, several other ARG campaigns have sprouted up. Recently a live-theater company named Punchdrunk set up a showcase for Resistance 3. It had game stations set up in a run down, dingy, underground clearing underneath the Waterloo Station in London. Where players were exposed the actual frigid weather elements of London, enhanced by lighting and various sound effects from the game, as well as other Resistance 3 inspired set-pieces, it helped to set up the atmosphere of players feeling like they were part of the failing human resistance.
“The emotional and experiential potential of finding yourself within a video game is huge– you are your own avatar,” Barrett said during the lead-up to the event. “We [wanted to] explore the role of the audience as player, participant and potential character within a project that transcends theatre and gaming, and in particular [look at] the visceral potential for a fusion of these two forms.”
-Felix Barrett, Punchdrunk artistic director.
While a more recent video game (See if you can guess) influenced playwright will be taking place summer 2012 at the Brighton Festival in the UK called “How are you feeling?” .It has audience members choosing right from the beginning whether to be a terminally ill patient fighting for life, or a fledgling, brilliant medical student, as the two groups must prove to the others that they are more valuable over their counterparts. While making both moral and psychological decisions, those that are deemed important to society get to live, while the losers perish. Eventually whittling down a volunteer cast of 100 down to 2.
As the market of virtual entertainment grows ever larger, developers are perpetually tasked to further evolve the gaming market and allow us more and more freedom for ourselves as we strive for an all-inclusive gaming experience. However, one can only hope that we as a society can still retain the mental capacity demanded of the dual realities that we are beginning to live in.
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Tags: alternate reality gaming, arg, halo 2, ilovebees, irl, LARP, resistance