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October 22, 2006

Urban Interactive's Ghosts of Liberty

Last Tuesday's Boston Globe had a fascinating article by Peter DeMarco about a new "interactive adventure game" that has residents scrambling all over the city in a game with live actors and mobile phones. The game is called Ghosts of Liberty.

The company is called Urban Interactive, and creator Nicholas Tommarello began it with an interactive adventure in the Museum of Science designed as a team-building exercise for corporate employees, replacing the somewhat less fun icebreakers and trust-building games that see you falling back into someone else's arms or sharing little truths about one's self, as Harvard management says in the story.

In this adventure, teams meet at a bar and pay $60 per group to participate. They are given instructions by an actor and cell phones, with the teams working together to solve mysteries involving Boston historical landmarks in an effort to track down a terrorist, with the help of ghostly voices, a combination of live actors and cell phone messages that leads teams through an adventure that lasts for a few hours.

The intent is to create a game that both engages tourists and natives to interact with the city in a way that stretches far beyond a tour bus, as some of the participants mention in the story.

These are considered "augmented reality" games and are very much in line with our writing about alternate reality games, as well as the recent "Come Out and Play" conference in New York. These games create a fictional story that puts people in touch with the real world as part-scavenger hunt/part-mystery. And modern technology is one of the aids, as cell phones allow for a new type of communication that enables these real-time, real-world events to take place.

This game took place throughout the North End. The next one, scheduled for the spring, will take place at Harvard Square. The team with the best score over the two-week run of the game gets their choice of a variety of prizes.

The owner describes it as "part interactive theater, part scavenger hunt, part treasure hunt, part choose-your-own adventure novel. You've got to play it to understand." And I would describe it as a great example of convergence culture, with new technology enabling new forms of play and entertainment that empower and enable interactivity and user creativity by creating an immersive story world in a real physical space for an evening.

Basically, it's like a make-shift mystery cruise and a chance for enabling entertainment, exercise, and education in an innovative way.

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