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Thursday, 27 October 2011

UnReality: Starting Out

With our latest project we have been tasked with creating an alternate reality, and immersing a group within it.  We are to essentially take this group (including but not limited to our tutors) on a journey through this alternate reality utilizing multiple media, which involve both physical and digital content.

Word Heavy!

I have formed a group with Naru Barker, Sam Joe, Jenny Ko, and Matt Martin.  We formed this group on a whim, in hindsight this worked out really well.  We had a diverse skill-set amongst the group.  We also had the ability to approach the project from several different viewpoints, whilst still maintaining the ability to relate to each others ideas, and push forward as a group.

Our initial brainstorming sessions on where to take the project were slow to start.  I think this was a common occurrence within the groups for this project.  We initially approached the project as a narrative tale unfolding along the way.  It was clear that to develop an immersive alternate reality, we would need to have gripping and relative content.  I'm glad the group all agreed on this from the beginning, as I cannot imagine trying to create an alternate reality based on conveying information (such as current use of augmented reality apps used in marketing campaigns see Stella's Finda Augmented Reality App.), as opposed to building and dropping our players into a fleshed out universe.

We toyed with the idea of creating a murder mystery themed journey.  With developing a role playing kind of 'Cluedo' experience.  I remember attending a themed birthday party with a similar approach and was quite excited about the prospect of going down this path.  (Party was organized by Murder Mystery NZ, I'm glad we didn't ultimately run with this concept as it would have ended up being a direct replication of this already established method)

Although this idea didn't go past the concept stages, as a group we definitely came away from the idea with a unified desire to integrate choice in our journey.  We loved the idea of having consequences to the players actions, which developed into changes in the story being acted out.

It became clear after several talks with our tutors and within the group, that yes creating a deep and rich world with an unfolding story would be a great way to approach the project.  However, we had to be very careful in how we went about this.  There is a fine line between creating an alternate reality and merely telling a story.  We had to make the player actually believe that they had been unwittingly transported into another world.

To this end we came up with a few core rules for the journey which we all somewhat agreed upon.  These would make the journey an 'experience' (thanks Gabe) as opposed to just holding our players hands and walking them through a script.

  • We could in no way introduce the project as a narrative at the beginning, we had to open this journey in a way that seamlessly blurred the edges between this new world and our players own.  The smooth transition would be the key to opening our 30min journey effectively.
  • We had to create a world which ran parallel to our own.  To make someone believe that they had left Kansas entirely, the new reality had to be recognizable and not too outlandish.
  • To a certain extent we had to contrast this by ensuring that our new reality wasn't to similar to our own.  It had to be different enough to constitute 'alternate reality' status.
  • It had to involve as many senses as possible.  This would add to the realism of the scenario, and help transport the player.
  • We had to substantially develop and flesh out our alternate reality.  The key to making this believable would be dependent on the amount of history and scope we give it.  We needed to make it clear that this alternate reality has been breathing a life of its own long before our players step into it, and would continue to do so long after they were gone.
We had a basic direction for where our project was going to go.  It was clear we were all on the same page concerning the steps we would have to take, and what would make our narrative-based alternate reality journey successful.  However at the same time, it was also clear that the murder mystery idea didnt have enough scope behind it to deliver the king of reality we needed to create, and so the next step was coming up with the world and situation we would build to give our players a 30min snippet of.

We needed to come up with our own 'Oz'.

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