There was mayhem in the streets of Palo Alto yesterday as teams of players chased the clues to solve a mystery. At the Institute For the Future we ran a pervasive game as an example of the topic of this month’s meeting. Credit goes to Jim Schuyler of Red7 for organizing and leading the team who developed the game, and implemented it in his FIT environment for just such purposes. Not a learning game, but definitely fun and it *could* be.
Nicole Lazarro of Xeo Design who I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, Mads Rydahl of Planet (a Scandinavian game design firm), and Mike Love from IFTF all helped Jim and I create the design, which was tested, refined, and then run. The game included props such as posters on notice boards, clues to be sent in by phone, and confederates hanging out.
We had an inside team manning the web browser while 3 different teams (each doing the same thing, to have the right group size, but there’s no technical reason they couldn’t have different tasks) ran around figuring out puzzles and text-messaging them to the game system which gave them the next task. At times, interaction with the inside team was required.
It was tough; not all teams solved the puzzles in the allotted time (we had to go back for the presentations by Nicole and myself, and discussion: her on the 4 emotional keys, me on learning games), but the interaction was well-received. Competitive spirits came into play as well as the thrill of discovery (Nicole’s ‘fiero’), and frustration. It wasn’t perfect, given that it was thrown together by a volunteer team in a short period of time, but it worked: 1 team managed to save the day (accomplishing the final rescue), and a good time was had by all.
It was a great learning experience, both in working with others on the design and in watching the players (I followed one team around). In addition to Nicole’s model, Mads was quite keen on having the boundaries between the game action and the real world blur. This actually happened not only by design, but also by circumstance; but a police officer was in the building as the teams left (the mystery was solving a theft), and the confederate’s bike was stolen while he was talking to the team!
There’s great potential in this for marketing (the gelato store built into the plotline did a rousing business on a blazing hot day from the team members), learning, as well as just plain fun. If we believe Pine & Gilmore that the next step beyond the experience economy will be the transformation economy, this will be one of the tools in our repertoire.
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