The walls between fiction and reality collapse around you as your town becomes the setting of an intense alternate-reality, GPS driven spy-thriller where you star as an undercover agent.
Loading up the game immediately plays a video. The video unfolds like a piece of totalitarian propaganda. The Government has passed a bill which places all of your private data under their control. A series of loading screens give the impression that your iPhone is being secured by the app. These screens are intercut with scenes of a number of the Everyman types carrying on with their lives, while a voice-over tells you that “your privacy is our business”.
This scene is flipped when the video is interrupted by an intrusion. Almost immediately your current location is attained through the GPS built into your phone. This contradiction slams your assumed belief that you and your private data are safe.
An impertinent voice breaks through and identifies himself as Deep 5. After enduring a series of insults, jokes and instructions, you are recruited into the Department of Privacy. Your first task is to retrieve sensitive data from a stolen smartphone.
Suspense is built immediately. The stolen phone belongs to Charlie Barker, the politician who spearheaded the Department of Privacy. The scene is deepened when we learn that he is hiding something. The sensitive data we retrieve consists of text messages, photos and GPS logs which reveals that Barker is having an affair with Katherine Beauchamp, a volunteer from his election campaign. The intrigue continues when we learn that Kat is the one who stole Barker’s phone.
Deep 5 is especially interesting as a character. Since he is the primary point of interacting with this story, this is the best way to keep the viewer engaged. His character diamond is revealed through his dialogue. He is funny and ironic:
Smart and competent:
Opportunistic and slightly corrupt:
Backstory and Exposition
Exposition is built into the story through articles that are discovered throughout the experience. Things that are added to the Data tab in the game interface are not all important. Information like the Threat Workup of the Anonymous-like activist group The Resistance certainly informs the story, however a viewer’s experience of the story is not disrupted if they missed out on reading this information.
While this story is contained exclusively inside of a native iOS application, it is most certainly constructed and delivered to the viewer in a transmedia-like fashion. Spanning across photos, video, audio clips, digital dossier files and real-world locations on a Google Map, this is an example of a replayable, personalized ARG experience.
RocketChicken have created a successful example of a self-contained ARG experience that makes use of all four creative purposes for transmedia storytelling – as outlined by Andrea Phillips in A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling.