GDC Serious Games Summit: Picture the Impossible


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  • Spring 2008 RIT’s president and the newspaper’s publisher organized a meeting to discuss innovative partnershipsI suggested to the editor of the paper and the head of multimedia that an ARG would be an intriguing way to increase outreach and build on the newspaper’s strengthsBy fall of 2008, the project had mysteriously shifted from “what an intriguing idea” to “we’re so glad you’re going to help us do this”. (Thanks, Richard.)
  • Like the kids in Babes in Arms, we had lots of enthusiasm, but not a a lot of knowledge of what we were undertaking. That’s a good thing, because if we’d known we probably wouldn’t have done it!
  • We had a budget of exactly nothing to begin with. But we werent just lacking in funds.
  • When I sat down to write the initial design document, I discovered that we also completely lacked the experience to design a game of this sort and scope.
  • So, I panicked. It’s not just necessity that’s the mother of invention—terror can serve that role as well.I started what eventually became an elaborate smoke-and-mirror production to procure the resources we needed.I went to the newspaper, and telling them that we couldn’t possibly do this project without bringing in a consultant to help us with the planning. I pointed out that RIT was essentially donating my valuable time, and that in return they should find a way to pay the consultant. They agreed!
  • We brought in Elan Lee, and he helped us enormously in the planning process. I went to RIT and said “the newspaper paid for the consultant, and is donating developer and photographer time; the least we can do is allocate funds for me to hire grad students over the summer. They agreed! I went to the marketing staff at Bing search and said “we’re going to be running a game that relies heavily on maps and local information; what would it be worth to you for us to have all of that done with Bing, and to give Bing prominent credit on our site?” They gave us $13,000 for supplies and the gala party.That was *it* for our budget. All the labor, with the exception of the two students who built our flash games and achievement infrastructure over the summer, came from faculty, students, and newspaper staff who had to balance the game development with their existing jobs.
  • The newspaper really wanted to target “young professionals,” and that shaped a lot of our early design of the game.With Elan’s help, we identified the kinds of activities we wanted our players to engage in. Later, with Jane McGonigal’s help, we focused in on the VERBS that we wanted to associated with our game play.
  • Working with Rebecca Edwards, chair of RIT’s history department, we brainstormed key figures, events, and inventions associated with Rochester’s history.
  • Then we fit our various themes into the space between classes starting and Halloween, trying to match themes with local events—the game kicked off during the annual “Clothesline” arts festival, for example.
  • Spring was planning, with the help of a seminar class that I taught.Summer was development—and a lot of revising of our initial plans. Three primary development tools: design wiki, mailing lists, and face-to-face meetings.
  • SOCIALIZE! ($8000)
  • GIVE! ($2K/week, $14,000)At the end of the competition, the Tree faction raised $7,600 for Golisano Children’s Hospital; the Forge faction raised $4,800 for Foodlink; and the Watch faction raised $4,600 for Wilson Commencement Park. (17K total)
  • Every week we had activities to allow people to both LEARN + EXPLOREHere’s what a typical week’s page looked like. We used Drupal as our content management system, and added in a custom interface for assigning achievements to users.
  • Coded tickets provided at 5-6 locations related to weekly themeCustom coupons can be printed on ticketAdvertiser location can be located near a landmark if it’s not related to themeCost: $500 per week
  • EXPLOREWe looked at the neighborhoods that we thought our players would enjoy exploring, and the events happening in the fall that we could coordinate with.
  • Need gears here
  • 14 tied for first place, having gotten EVERY point available in the game
  • This doesn’t include the cost of the time of the faculty and newspaper staff who worked on the project!
  • GDC Serious Games Summit: Picture the Impossible

    1. 1. Picture the Impossible:Creating a city-wide ARG on a shoestring budget<br />Liz LawleyRIT Lab for Social Computing<br /><br />
    2. 2. +<br />
    3. 3. Let’s get some kids together and put on a show!<br />Let’s get some programmers together and put on a game!<br />
    4. 4. Starting<br />Budget: $0<br />Flickr: mtsofan<br />
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    7. 7. Flickr: laughingsquid<br />
    8. 8. Learn<br />Explore<br />Give<br />Socialize<br />
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    10. 10. Arts and Crafts<br />Local Food & Drink<br />Rochester Firsts<br />Performing Arts<br />Imaging & Optics<br />Famous Figures<br />Social Justice<br />Celebration!<br />September-October 2009<br />
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    16. 16. Location Games<br />
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    28. 28. 2000+Players<br />
    29. 29. 6500 posts<br />907 threads<br />0 trolls/flames<br />
    30. 30. 66%Female<br />
    31. 31. 150Photosynths<br />
    32. 32. ~300SCVNGRplayers/week<br />
    33. 33. Learn <br />✔<br />Explore<br />✔<br />Give<br />✔<br />Socialize<br />✔<br />
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    35. 35. Flickr: mtsofan<br />Final Budget<br />Consulting: $4,000 (Newspaper)<br />Supplies: $5,000 (Bing)<br />Gala Party: $8,000 (Bing)<br />Summer Student Pay: $10,000 (RIT)<br />Individual Prizes: $5,000 (Kodak)<br />Donations: $17,000 (2 local foundations)<br />TOTAL: $49,000<br />