When I first entered the room for Bad News, I was pretty confused as to how the game would be played. He chose a member of the audience to be the main player of the game where she would have to go town person to town person to deliver the “Bad News” of who had passed away. They ran a simulation program and generated a virtual town with backstories and different characters that the player could ask questions to as the main actor would pretend to be those characters.
What stood out to me was how real the “fake” characters actually were. Each backstory was perfectly woven into the narrative even though it was completely simulated. Another thing that stood out to me was when the game was over and the creator of the game insisted that these virtual people were very real. It had a Westworld vibe in that the characters had back stories and could interact via code. It was interesting to get that perspective. Over the course of the game you do in fact get to understand the characters better and feel like you know them even though they are not real.
I was reminded of the writing in S.E.E.D creating and implementing an Alternate Reality Game when discussing different forms of Alternate Reality games. They define ARG’s as “These media may include (but are not limited to) videos, radio broadcasts, blog posts, social media, and invisible theater performances that unfold in public or unconventional spaces. As players move through the narrative, they encounter an assemblage of short games, puzzles, and playful experiences that use both physical and online spaces as their platforms. Explicit gameplay challenges may require players to crack codes using cryptography, engage in social engineering experiments with non-player characters and actors, and play traditional digital or analog games.”
We used many elements of this while playing the game. For example, there was an invisible theater performance with the unseen actor, and we were all encountering a puzzle on an online platform. I was also reminded of the Yes, and : Acceptance, Resistance, and Change in Improv, Aikido, and Psychotherapy by Earl Vickers. The entire performance was essentially a “Yes And” where the actor had to improvise given the descriptions of the characters he was given.
Overall, it was a very unique experience. I was skeptical of how it was all going to work at first, but it was very fun to participate and watch.