Immersive Theatre and Games

For years, I’ve been thinking about a form of theatre we explored while at uni, but I couldn’t remember the name of it. Every time I tried to find it, I’d fail.  Finally, I have found some amazing videos of the company that we must have been told about, PunchDrunk, working with MIT Media Lab to create a digital/real crossover version of their “Macbeth” inspired immersive theatre production, “Sleep No More.”

Some of the tech they’ve come up with is amazing! So, SO clever. Make sure you watch BOTH videos, as they contain very different content, and explain both about immersive theatre as well as their transmedia integration techniques.

Immersive theatre, as a concept, fascinated me from the moment I heard about it. I started thinking of it in terms of games, where most often you get a set of scripted events that are triggered when you get to a certain point in the game. It can be as heavy-handed as a separate cutscene, or better integrated into the game itself. I thought about games where it feels like the world exists without you, because the scripted events happen so seamlessly that they appear unrelated, and its up to you to actually make meaning. It made me really want to somehow design a game that works like one of these immersive theatre pieces, and use as much of the technique and theories developed through plays to build a new type of gameplay experience. So far, it looks like our world design project might end up snowballing into my opportunity to explore these ideas!

World Design Tuesday

World Design Tuesday

I’ve been spending time every Tuesday or so with fellow “narrative-driven” game designer Anthony of Handwritten Games, mostly discussing views on games, game development, and writing, as well as workshopping our individual projects. But last week, I suggested we do an activity together. Turns out, this has ended up being a project which we’re both pretty pumped about. Granted, it’s becoming pretty ambitious if it gets to the point of actually being a game, but at the least, we’re designing what we think is a pretty cool world. Stay tuned for updates!

(Image is my own, taken in Slovakia on June 16 2005)

Easter Eggs after Easter

I had a bit of an “Aha! Moment,” and this is probably obvious to a lot of people, but I’m going to write about it anyway, because its quite important to me and my growth as a designer.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what makes the games, films and stories I’ve liked so memorable. For me (and I’m not saying this is the same for everyone), its usually the world, the characters. I don’t necessarily want to escape to there, but I enjoy visiting and spending time there. I used to re-read “The Great Gatsby” and stop before the end, because I didn’t want that world in its present form to die. I love Tragedy (if you haven’t guessed by now), but I love being in that world more.

Then, I started thinking about what elements of games, in particular, made those worlds and characters memorable, rather than just being a setting for which some story/set of game mechanics takes place. And it is almost always those little moments of surprise and delight when you figure something out naturally, where you have a little success. It might not even be anything to do with the gameplay, but its a moment when it feels like that world both exists without you, and yet entirely for you.

In “Seductive Interaction Design,” Stephen Anderson describes how the use of Easter Eggs can delight and emotionally bond the user. Well, I usually think of Easter Eggs as being something that breaks your immersion with a joke or side-reference, but I think I’ve been wrong about this, and that they work exactly the same way in games, bonding the user to the world and the characters.