The Complexity of Interactions: A Community Problem

One of the themes we explored in Dungeons + Dreamers was the computer game designers attempt to graft the real-world interactive and communal experience of paper gaming with the virtual world experience.

This is a powerful idea because virtual spaces remove geography and time from experience. When you remove those two elements from an experience, we can create a world where every human has the ability to experience aspects of the planet from which they would otherwise be shut off.

In turn this allows us to make the world less faceless.

The problem we’ve experienced in this pursuit is understanding how to craft environments that allow people to move between the virtual and the real.

I took a shot at The Soho Theater in London a few summers ago with mixed results. And this year the Tribeca Film Festival has created a digital storytelling and transmedia space meant to merge real and virtual space. (Plus: there are countless alternate reality games, transmedia books, and digital stories exploring this realm. I’ve listed two of thousands.)

When these spaces fail (which they do often), I think they can be traced to the fact that the real and the virtual require difference interactions that aren’t compatible, not unlike the experience of a book and a movie. You are forced to apply one set of tools, e.g. real space interactive tools, to the wrong palette, e.g. digital spaces.

All of this comes to mind because I’m currently sifting through one of our new chapters, which explores the inevitable expansion of computer games into the alternate reality game (ARG) world. These ARGs are an outgrowth of combining that communal game sporty with ubiquitous mobile technologies, and yet they face this same “interactive” problem when these two spaces are brought together.

Outside writing the Second Edition, I’ve been considering this idea in terms of art and storytelling. As I’ve expanded my range of storytelling off the page, I’ve experienced the growing pains related to moving an audience between these two spaces. Many time I’ve felt as though I’m retro-fitting a transition in order to move people instead of focusing on telling a great story.

Of course, the producer-side fun with these emergent storytelling and game playing environments is figuring out how to create beautiful (or entertaining) art that spaces the virtual and real spaces in order to make the world a little bit more communal.