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.

Jul 272011

OK not really a Dummies guide as there are some complex elements in here,  but one has to use whatever memes are in vogue 🙂 A few weeks ago I was commissioned by Screen Australia to write a very basic structure & guide for producers relatively new to multi platform content to structure & document their propositions, after they have developed the ‘audience centric’ concepts. This has just been published on the Screen Australia site as a digital resource for those needing to document projects for transmedia productions.

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May 312011

I promised quite a few folk to provide a walk-through of my short 35 minute presentation at the Augmented Reality Event in California last week. The intention of the presentation was to take my AR Scenario & Business Model thinking to the next level, to go beyond marketing eye candy, clunky ‘questionable’ games and really dig down and think hard about the value proposition for users. In creating the presentation I had to look at a deeper level at the nature of experience, as in that we can start to really find true value in Augmenting our Reality. To begin though a little compilation video I threw together for this post and some future talks looking specifically at a range of locative augmented and alternate reality services (entertainment, promotion and advertorial) to set the landscape.

Music track is called Zemith from my ‘Calm After the Storm’ album in progress – subscribe free

The only way the Augmented Reality industry is going to emerge from its current commercial birthing period is for the brands, corporates & creatives to make sure that AR is delivering a unique, immersive experience and to start to consider the value of experiential (a marketing definition here). This nature of experience, which I believe is inextricably linked to the future of AR, and the value users place on immersive services also leads at the end into a ‘experiential’ panel I am leading at Creative Sydney at the Opera House this week and I cover some of my thoughts in that space first.

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May 022011

I presented at Australia’s only Multi-Platform TV show last week and my talk was entitled ‘The Gamification of Social TV – Inspiring the Stories of Tomorrow’. A broad brushstrokes look at the current trend of motivating TV users already busy in social networks to ‘interact’. The slideshare presentation is embedded below and the flow of that is echoed in this post (which has a few other rich media embeds too).

The structure was based on the usual questions, a) What is Social TV ? b) What is Driving it ? c) The Value for the Users  d) What it Means for the Creators who enable it?  Hoping to help the small but quality audience understand the reasons to look at the value Social TV brings to the users vs jumping straight in on the ROI of getting more eyeballs on the existing programming. The Gamification aspect is about looking at the ‘playful’ techniques being used to turn audiences into users around traditional type TV programming – which is already becoming socially active.
The Gamification of Social TV

A Bit of History

In defining Social TV I tried to point out that this is nothing new. Ye Olde Days of Interactive (social) iTV circa 2002 which I was heavily involved in at the BBC although based on single screen interfaces still had at its heart the need to connect viewers to the TV channel but also to each other . I referred to it as SetTopBox iTV with a slice of social and the most popular (up to 8 million during some shows) services tended to be the ones that synched the TV to the interactive element – one small step for tech one giant leap for editorial . So Social TV is not new, perhaps it is up to level 3.0 – 1.0 being single screen iTV, 2.0 video on the web combined with social and chat features and 3.0 the hybrid, global two screen synch’d & app based services we are seeing more and more of now.

From an personal and historical context I also talked briefly about a few early iTV services such as XCreatures  broadband service I produced in 1999 and delivered to 100s of test homes in London over YesTV IPTV service & B T broadband backbone. The BBC’s first broadband programme to live audiences where for me the significant elements was the way users could not only navigate through fragmented clips but most importantly communicate and leave their own comments at the end – remember this is on the same screen using an IR keyboard!

What is Social TV?

In terms of defining the landscape of Social TV I called these early days baby-steps and divided it into three key movements

  • The Conversation of TV   – around the back-channel, recommendation and communities
  • The Gamification of TV   – making services playful, tribe building and participative
  • The Personalization of TV   – encouraging users contribution , making it personally relevant  & drawing in their stories

Social TV Is Not A Battle for Eyeballs

I went out of my way to stress that Social Media is not battling with Broadcast TV for the big Ad Dollar prize , this is not Facebook vs ABC or iTunes/GoogleTV vs BBC but potentially about  the real synergy , Live format TV and Social Media as perfect bedfellows. I continue after the presentation slides.

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