What has no lock, no hinge, no lid… yet inside golden treasure’s hid?
No doubt, some of you have already opened a second tab in your browser to ask Dr. Google for the answer; and to you I say “Off with your head!” (In my best Edwardian tone). However, for those daring enough to pull your neck from the digital guillotine, and to guess without a net; please indulge me with your best answer in the comments below.
The simplest of games.
Great riddles inspire me. Simple, literal mysteries; a keen riddle is often the foundation of a great game.
Those who know me best, consider me a prankster; though I see myself as a Dungeon Master, and a social engineer of sorts. More than anything else, building games electrifies my spirit. And while I enjoy every kind of diversion, my favorite games involve the examination of human response.
Life is a game awaiting your next move.
Within us all, is a desire to create, and our world is entering a mindset where technology offers each of us a more active role in the development of a personalized world. It is no secret that we like to be included in the process of creative works, it’s a human thing. Knowing this, I have decided to document my current process, and include the audience in the game building process. (An active experiment)
This is my story of building a game with, and for, the world who plays it. Join me if you will…
Nintendo, roughly translated as “leave luck to heaven”, launched the Famicom (an abbreviation for Family Computer) to the Japanese market in 1983. The reworked, American version, called the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was released in 1985 to North American audiences. I was four years old and hooked.
As a child of the 8-bit revolution, gamification is the armor of my adult life. In the 80’s, video gaming was the future in our hands, and I wanted nothing more than to get my hands on a new cartridge. I remember relentlessly groveling for a Nintendo at 5 years old, finally getting one at 7. Until we had our own, my brother and I spent our free afternoons hiding out in the basements and bedrooms of our more fortunate neighbor friends.
Almost immediately after unboxing that long awaited, dull grey beauty, my parents quickly realized the power of the digital pacifier. This allowed game consoles a permanent shelf on our entertainment center. The Nintendo was soon replaced by a Sega Genesis, followed then by an Xbox. Our time in the backyard diminished, as my brother and I wore away the warm, Summer afternoons, on the cool air conditioned floor in the lulling haze of the idiot box; chewing down freezie pops, two by two. We traded much of our youth for the homogenized fantasies woven by the programming genii of Capcom, Konami and Namco.
We were lucky
to have grown up in the gap between the physical and the virtual.
Being the last house on the block to get a system was not due, entirely to poordom. Our parents struggled to accept the great dis-connect, and so they made sure to afford us ‘real’ tactile experiences. I was open enrolled in a public school that had an emphasis on the arts, which meant lots of extended programming. On top of the school load, my evenings were bruised with an alternating schedule of sports and scouting. These activities were each paired with an equal share of weekend events including, respectively: meets, matches and merit badges.
I complained through each grueling practice, as a child does; and it wasn’t until much later that I recognized the power of those early disciplines. I attribute 90% of my perseverance to the begrudged, jocular rituals of my youth; so thanks, Mom. For while the digital realm of virtual realities is and will always remain an integral part of my creative work, the true reward for me comes when the two realms touch; when the virtual becomes tangible.
I believe, as long as humans require the functionality of the five senses to fully experience consciousness, physical experiences will remain the most impactful and measurable ones. What I could not have imagined, is how my combined childhood interests, both physical and digital, would provide conceptual insights that can now be considered my contribution to the defining genre of entertainment in the 21st century.
Alternate Reality Games
For many, the term alternate reality game, or ARG (as gamers call it), might as well read;代替現実ゲーム. So to break it down:
According to Google and Wikipedia:
An alternate reality game is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and uses transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions.
Meaning that ARG’s provide gameplay by:
- Telling stories
- Including the audience in the development of the story
- Using the real world in conjunction with virtual environments as the playing area. (The board-less game)
A well constructed ARG, creates an invisible bridge between the fictional elements of its story and the elements of real life which the story touches or incorporates. The goal is to immerse the player as fully as possible, in an artfully compelling way which engages the player as an active participant in the progression of the story. ::More on this later::
The Great Unknown
I was 24 years old when I created my first ARG, and I freely admit that the effort was hasty and ramshackle. I had little resources, and no patience; but what I did have was an extreme sense of urgency, pushing me up the side of some strange, conceptual mountain. Thinking back, I really had no idea what I was doing. I felt like a mad explorer summiting towards a great, lost, secret… ::NERD ALERT::
I began by compiling a list of methods from every form of gaming I knew. Starting with the components of character development, I borrowed largely from early role playing games such as: Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, Wrath, and Warhammer 40,000; virtual elements from video games of every genre; and collectibility components from Magic: The Gathering and trading cards in general. The final ingredient was to construct a birthing apparatus for this Marconian experiment within the new womb of gaming; the mother of all platforms: The Internet.
Chapter II: Mainframe