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Game Design On Demand. Building mobile games for spaces. Museums, games, education and other great adventures.

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Building mobile games for spaces. Museums, games, education and other great adventures.

Thoughts on the Future of Storytelling Festival!

Kellian Adams

 

Kellian recently contributed to a No Proscenium article "On Accessibility and the Demand for Immersive Experiences (Future of Storytelling Festival Recap)" along with Kathryn Yu and Leah Ableson. Below, we've included Kellian's contribution and hope you'll click the link above to read the rest!!

In a small way, FoST may have showed us what we want the future of storytelling to be and what in reality, it actually might be.

We had to drive up from Boston, so we made it as early as we could on Saturday morning, around 10:00am. Everything we wanted to see was already unavailable. Broken Bone Bathtub had been cancelled, Ghost Courtand the Smellwalk were full, and there was absolutely no chance at all of getting into the two Alice interactives or Flock.

When I asked organizers what was happening, the response was something like a weary scoff — and this was at 10:00am on Saturday. Clearly they’d had this conversation many, many times before.

What was available was VR, and lots of it. VR rigs everywhere. I personally am not a huge fan of VR. But one thing I had to admit was that VR had throughput, and it was functional. Every booth had a chair with a bunch of VR rigs ready for me to play. This might just be a matter of VR being an older technology than mixed reality, so there are lots of Gear VR and Oculus headsets available at reasonable prices. Maybe that wouldn’t have been the case in 2014. Or… it may tell us more about why media companies keep building for and betting on VR even when everybody I know says they find it isolating.

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Virtual Reality has a creation, sales, and distribution model that companies know and recognize. They build media. You can only view this media on one type of hardware, which consumer can purchase. This is an old story: television, radio, Xbox, iPhones. Buy the hardware to get access to the content. There’s an existing, well-understood model for both churning out content and ensuring its distribution.

People raved about Holojam in Wonderland and I heard from so many people that Flock was wonderful, but these mixed reality pieces couldn’t scale, so I never saw them. Why are we surprised that so many people want to see creative, beautiful stories? We should be ready for this. Even if they had expected 5,000 rather than 3,000 people, what would Flock have done? How could Holojam have scaled to fit more people in? The fact is, live- and mixed-reality immersive isn’t really prepared for the numbers we’re going to get if we want to survive; meanwhile VR is locked, loaded, and ready to meet demand.

The situation reminded me of reality TV. It’s cheap to make. It’s reliable as an endless source of content. A TV producer might be able to attract only 70% of their potential audience and still make more money than if they had paid for a high production value show with writers and actors and directors. In the end, a much lower quality product can be a better bet for companies and end up being the new entertainment model that gets adopted. If we’re considering the future of storytelling, I think we need to think about this stuff.

There were a few programs that seemed ready to deal with scaling issues. OurSpace was a fun, goofy, immersive experience that ran off of WhatsApp. They could have run that game all day with 100 people or more for each run. Improv Everywhere also had a system that could scale: you downloaded an app and you all played the story together. It also could have been run multiple times for larger numbers of people if they’d wanted to do that. These are mixed reality immersive experiences that used existing technology, which is a great way to scale an experience: let some other massive company deal with scale. You just write stories for it.

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Emilie Baltz’s POPSTARS also had an interesting setup. This was a musical lollipop that the artist attached to a microphone so when you licked it, it made sounds in response. It’s what I like to call the “Yelp” model: a few active participants and a large number of casual watchers. Only three people could play at a time, but the rest of the audience had fun watching the craziness unfold. It was a quick turnover — maybe three minutes per lollipop group. Audience members could watch for a few minutes, move on, and still have a great experience to talk about.

I’m not saying that all immersive theatre and mixed reality works need use existing technology or depend on goofy interactions for success. But if we’re going to truly be part of the “future of storytelling” we need to think about audience throughput and scale now. Escape rooms and the entire haunt industry are immersive entertainment models that have found scaleable solutions. I don’t think the lines and the sell-outs were necessarily a festival problem; I think we’re going to see a lot of this as immersive grows.

If organizers and creators can’t scale reliably, these experiences are going to be like the quaint a capella singers that wandered throughout the festival grounds all weekend: a novelty, but not exactly the future of storytelling.

Q&A with Myles Nye of Wise Guy Events!

Kellian Adams

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We sent a few questions to Myles Nye for a quick Q&A to help get the word out about The Heritage Scare, "a competitive haunted house: a haunt that you play as a game!" We encourage everyone we know in LA to go to this in our place and tell us how great it is!

 

Tell us more about your show in October!

The Heritage Scare is a competitive haunted house: a haunted house you play as a game. Well actually, a series of games in a whole neighborhood of haunted houses. We call it "An evening of competitive murder." There are six strategy games and one touchless room-escape style puzzle house and you can do them in any order, as many times as you want, all night long. The more you win, the more you might learn about this neighborhood and what made it so full of murder in the first place.

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Why did you decide to do an immersive show rather than sticking with more traditional games?

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We were inspired by Punchdrunk's Sleep No More, the boom in American room escapes, and the Korean celebrity competition series The Genius. Our expertise is in game design, and so by sprinkling in a bit more story, and really drawing upon the specificity of the location, we came up with something that nobody else is doing. We love participating in "story forward" theater, but very seldom do you get to make choices. Something we say at work a lot is, a game is a series of interesting choices. And that's not something that's presently being done in the haunt space, or even the room escape world really. 

What are the resources that you're using that are LA-specific?

The Heritage Square Museum is probably the biggest asset we have going other than the huge amount of elbow grease we are putting into the design and execution. The location was so perfect, we knew we had to make something that was the prefect fit for this remarkable living history museum. It's a thrill to add some lore to a LA treasure many people have driven by scores of times without even knowing it.

What cool new thing are you doing with your show that you haven't seen before?

Probably the most eye-catching game is "Danse Macabre," a combination of Musical Chairs and a Jane Austen regency dance, where the object of the game is not to be dancing with a ghost when the music stops. People love this game because we have live musicians who add a ton to the environment, and because you are touching the other players, palm to palm, as holy palmers kiss. This game was a runaway smash last year, which is really saying something because just across the one small road that runs through the museum was our award-winning game Rose MacBeth, which is a blindfolded knife fight in a graveyard. But people liked the dancing game just as much!

Wise Guys, like Green Door, focuses a lot on games that happen in a physical space rather than video games or board games. Where do you see this type of game going next? Do you think immersive theater and location-based games will merge more?

I would love to see more chocolate (games) mixed with peanut butter (theater). Not just around Halloween time. Now that my son is in kindergarten, we've been going to theater since he was 1 1/2, and I think that a cool area to take this would be theater for families with small children. I have an idea inspired by a prequel to Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" that I think should be a walk-about game where a family sets out with a puppet representing the main character, and you walk around the neighborhood where actors are waiting and interact with "you" the puppet, and there should be musical numbers. I'm probably not going to do it, but if someone else does I'd bring my kid!

The Heritage Scare is October 7th and 14th ,  7pm – 11pm,  at theHeritage Square Museum! Tickets are going quick and both nights are expected to sell out! 

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