Well this will likely take the title of strangest gaming story of the day. A new startup named Alternet Reality has introduced a new type of game that puts players in control of something akin to a reality TV show.
It sounds weird, but stick with me for a moment. Alternet Reality stages each of its “games” using real actors put into seemingly real situations. For the company’s pilot outing, an actor found himself trapped on a boat, unaware of where the boat was or how to be saved. Cameras connected “players” who would interact with the actor through chat rooms to suggest what his next move should be and where to search for clues. Together the actor and players worked to surmise his location. After six hours and a maximum of 1,200 players, a number of puzzles were solved and the game was completed, the actor saved from his confinement.
Alternet Reality plans to introduce more scenarios like this one, in which actors will be placed in a situation that online players will work with them to solve riddles and puzzles to help them escape or survive their plight.
The game derived from the production of an independent film according to one of the game’s seven founders, Anthony Purzycki. He also believes the appeal comes from “the idea that you’re really saving someone. You fall into that mind frame that this is real.”
It is certainly a way to change the alternate reality genre by involving real actors in stressful situations as opposed to players simply collaborating to collect data or find locations. It is certainly an ambitious project, with eight more games planned for October, but I’m wary of what this could entail. In the boat scenario, players suggested the actor cut himself to use blood in conjunction with a black light to find a clue.
Thankfully the actor declined, but what’s to stop more frightful participants from actually injuring themselves physically or emotionally. Sure, an actor wasn’t truly buried alive in the most recent game, but with the stress of an audience and an enclosed place, an actor could easily slip into some dark places. It feels unfair to traumatize someone like that for the pure enjoyment of an audience simply to give them more of an immediacy to their ARG.
Done sparingly and in the right situations, it could be an interesting experiment, but I don’t see the enjoyment in watching a real person suffer in these types of situations. Of course, the 1,200 players of the boat scenario proved there is an audience for such a spectacle, and perhaps this is just the genre stretching its limits to see what is possible.