It was late 2001, I was sitting at my desk waiting for the phone to ring. I was expecting a call from a mysterious stranger who had promised to give me information about the death of a video game developer. I wasn’t a police officer or a journalist, just a college student exploring a new world. I was playing The Majestic, one of the first Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) publicly known. Suddenly I wasn’t controlling a character on a screen, I WAS the character, and it was happening in real life.
Majestic had its flaws and ended early, but it was a key inspiration to how I thought about what a game could be. Later that year I was introduced to the film The Game, in which Michael Douglas’ character gets put into a mind bending, life changing series of events all orchestrated just for him. And I thought, “What if I could do that for people?”
Since then, I’ve been involved with as many ARGs as I could find. I made it a point to look for small, individually run games, delighted to see how people took the ideas and made it their own. My personal favorite though was a much larger commercial game, Perplex City. Perplex City was based on puzzle cards you could find pretty much anywhere, but lead to a deep and complex world built online including unique characters, locations, even music.
The majority of the games I followed were commercial endeavors, marketing campaigns for entertainment like the famous I Love Bees, and all of Nine Inch Nails promotional games, and I started seriously wondering why I wasn’t doing this myself. I started creating my own games and giving them to friends and family to solve. From simple scavenger hunts to more complex games, I was hooked on creation. A particular highlight was when I had a friend find and “steal” a car, then follow directions to drive across Los Angeles. Good times!
Now that friend and I do that for other people, and it’s amazing. Immersion has always been about blurring the line between the game and reality, and having the freedom to create is really the best experience I could wish for. We aren’t quite at the level of The Game, but it is our long term goal. Eventually we want to have everyone wondering, is this real, or is this Immersion?