Dec 302011

Originally published Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes 2 of 5

Image by Gary Hayes

The alarm rings. Get out of bed, have a shower, dress, breakfast, grab your briefcase, and bus ticket and out the door. Now start RUNNING! Zombies are chasing you. Or is it pirates? Or the Mafia? Games and stories have grown legs and Facebook MafiaWars and Playstation console games have jumped into the physical world. Welcome to the most exciting and entertaining commute of your life.

For the first time in technological history portable devices that are able to send and receive game/video media, are now location aware. This means big changes in where we experience our stories. They will be always on. Around the next corner. We will be living inside the story world.

To get a glimpse of future services in the locative, pervasive space we simply need to look at the now and extrapolate.

As kids we all loved playground games: Hide and seek, capture the flag, cowboys and Indians captivated our imaginations and it was an important part of our social development. Today adults use technology to recreate those experiences for real using our own imaginary, place-based Holodecks. Fulfilling some of our adult needs in this space, The Go Game for example advertises itself as “the future of corporate play,” team-building, and self discovery.

Beyond mapping, check-in utility, or GPS functionality, what kinds of story game and locative services will get millions off their behinds and out into the real world? It takes a lot to commit to wandering around, scavenger hunting for morsels of story. How in the future may locative gamesevolve into being mass media? Or are they really just for niche groups?

This is and has moved way out of niche already. Early locative entertainment, such as orienteering and geocaching (user-created capsules hunt) are still played regularly by five million globally. More story-driven, first-generation Alternate Reality Games with locative elements such as Gentrificationor I Love Bees, attracted several million players. LBS, or locative-based services, have radicallyaltered the social gaming landscape already in Asia for hundreds of millions. A recent Pew mobile report noted that more than half of all smartphones are used for social and utility locative services and by 2015 it will be a $21 billion industry.

What makes and will make these so compelling, to so many?


The stories and games contextually fit their surroundings. The origins of this genre have often been based on architecture, audio tours, and urban map layouts, using early wearable computers or earphones. For example, back in 2004 PacManhattan re-created the 1980s game around Central Park’s grid-like streets and had hundreds of players running around collecting virtual dots. The creators wanted to:

“explore what happens when games are removed from their ‘little world’ of tabletops, televisions and computers and placed in the larger ‘real world’ of street corners, and cities.”


This element can put you and your friends at the center of the action. For example, “Spy Am I” a massive multiplayer locative game, lets players be the secret agent,  or live the life of a criminal. There are many story based pervasive game apps being launched on GPS enabled smartphones that let you explore your darker side such as Crime is Life or Crime Plays.

For those who want to make their real world a little bit more terrifying than it already is we have social locative games such as Zombie Apocalypse, where you have to really run, to outrun the attacking man eaters.

Speaking of running, marketers are not far behind in this race with viral examples such as Nike Grid or Mini’s Getaway (“this game has united us, it is so social”) that combined the best formula of story, game, and exercise with lots of social locative strategy.

Our locative experience tools are powerful social organizers. Everything in our future lives will be geo-tagged.


Set in the physical world means the same tools available to storytellers and marketers are available to everybody, including activists. So the recent Occupy Wall Street meet-ups themselves begin to look like locative fiction. Hundreds of thousands of geo-tagged narratives create probably the world’s most connected locative story yet. In a similar story-world, but oddly similar in focus, Tourality and Shadow Cities get you and your friends to battle, find treasure, and lay claim to areas of the city.

Flash mobs are a form of locative storytelling, a sort of organized social Holodeck. The social unification that comes from the best of these choreographed events, beginning with Frozen Grand Central, spread around the world. They become memes copied and extended through global imitation.

The story future of this specialized entertainment format is likely to come from expert traditional cinematic and marketing storytellers. They will be experimenting and extending fictional narratives into geo space. Pandemic 1.0 by Lance Weiler & Seize the Media is an infected world extending plot lines and challenges from cinematic games three years earlier. A present day example of future locative story, this played at the Sundance Film Festival and involved the best aspects of team play, discovery, and clever use of multi-device and place.

The popularity of locative stories and games will be proportional to marketers and writers making it worth our while to ask for our stories-to-go. As the technology matures and location lock-on is instantaneous, it will truly take off. The technology already fits in with our existing out of home routines, particularly when it comes to commenting, working, eating, and entertainment.

But back home, watching a forensic cop show on the TV. At the end, you’re told to go out of the house and help track down the killer on the street, mobile locative device in hand!

What are the security implications of this? In one evening, 200,000 viewers turn into 200,000 private eyes on the streets of London?! Would you take part in these types of services?

But think, at the end of the day, as the sun sets in a dark backstreet in your hometown, your heart starts pounding again. Will you make it back home alive?

Consider yourself, entertained.

Oct 252010

Blame it on the Zeitgeist. I am spending most of my time at the moment developing and conceiving AR Services and Games for clients and my own company MUVEDesign. Also in my lecturing/consultancy roles across transmedia and multi platform in Sydney such as at the Australian Film TV and Radio school earlier in the year and at the moment at MetroScreen, I would say that more than half the projects, being collaboratively created as part of curriculum, have a strong, story based Augmented Reality component. I posted last year on these emerging AR entertainment services but there are still not that many ‘story rich’ examples created for market. So is there a future for these new forms? A hybrid combination of story, social location gaming all delivered on the latest camera based smart phones? Read on for some case studies and a couple of my own examples.

AdTech Tokyo Main RoomFirstly I am presenting on an Augmented Reality panel later this week in Tokyo, part of Ad:Tech and now most folk are ‘caught up’ on simple AR business models and current delivery (see my post from over a year ago) I will be speaking more about a near term future – especially in the area of branded location based augmented reality games and services, adveraugrealitygaming anyone 🙂 I also thought it would be a good opportunity to show one of three developments in this space I am doing called ‘Time Treasure” – a rudimentary, story rich LBARG (location based AR game?!) that I am currently story designing & coding for Android tablets. Short 2 minute taster video embedded below…

Story in Augmented Game Worlds

Without giving the plot away, the structure of this game is quite straightforward. There are ten layers of time from 2050 back to 5000BC that you slowly penetrate following stories, clues and trails all based at POIs (points of interest, precise locations) around your city. The traditional MMOG talking-head quest and story givers are a unique part of this as well as a range of capture & loot quests that require you in some cases to do a little ‘real world’ grinding… ok not too much 🙂 For me the challenge as always is about creating strong ‘call to actions’ and constructing a narrative backbone to make it worth your while walking and in some cases running around town! I will do a post when this reaches a full working pilot.

Speaking of early trailers it is a shame that Ghostwire, which has been around the blogosphere for over a year and that I have written about a few times, is now shelved while they find another publisher. I think this may be a platform issue being created only for DSi (tablet, iPhone 4 anyone), but the horror or crime genre this is set in is obviously rife for the taking, in this locative form…hence perhaps why we are starting to see the release of simple AR locative story services appear more regularly in this genre, such as zGhost 2 for the iPhone, iTouch and even iPad…ready for Halloween but I think they missed a ‘branded entertainment’ trick, in that it wasn’t tied into the release of Paranormal 2 film?

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