A concept that kept coming to mind while watching Felix Barrett’s interview is the role that space plays in how “immersive” a game ends up becoming. These Punchdrunk productions, like “Sleep No More,” aim to, as Felix puts it in the interview, place audience members “in a real world film.” Although Felix describes how the creators of the game “tried to break all the rules of theatre that [they] could come up with,” uncovering what happens when the structure of theatre is disrupted, structure is still pertinent for the success of these performances. Space is structurally foundational to performance. This reminds me of earlier in the quarter, in our first improv exercise as a class. Our classroom shaped this activity: we were told to split into two groups, navigate the room, and count objects contained in the room. The rules–or the potential breaking of them–were always conditional based upon the space we were in.
One example of how place is inextricably linked to an immersive experience is in Felix’s description of the McKittrick Hotel in New York City as a “building [that] was versatile enough” to allow for an inherently sensory experience. Without a venue like this one–where players/audience members/performers can eat, play, and even sleep–the sensory and tactile elements that are intrinsic to the production cannot be fully explored. Felix even zooms out further, admitting how the pace of NYC itself is suitable for a performance such as “Sleep No More.” As he aptly puts it, “New Yorkers [snaps] are in,” ready to dive into the individual, performance-rich elements of the production. In a way, this can also be seen as a form of collective effervescence: spaces like NYC and the McKittrick Hotel, contrary to London, as is mentioned in the interview, elevate the experience overall.
In thinking about space and performance and how the two can be incorporated into the alternate reality games we are designing in class, I think about the way that performative elements can enhance participation and investment in these games. As demonstrated by the netprov “Grace, Wit and Charm,” theatricality does not have to be the main element of a game, but can still be incorporated into alternate reality games to reach out to a broader audience. All alternate reality games are narratively based, and as such theatre easily molds to the core of the game: its story. In creating a story that is lovable, the game is also more replicable. As is mentioned, too, in Felix’s interview, “Sleep No More” is a replayable game, as the interviewer claims she has gone three times and is still uncovering new details each time.
To summarize, by entangling stories with specific places and spaces, alternate reality games can really grasp the player and thrust them into the real world, which in turn further pushes them into the game. Though transmedia is a good tool to spur players on, by paying particular attention to the spaces that puppet masters place their players in, these games can have a more resonant– maybe even more emotional and memorable–effect on the player.