I don’t know what to call this type of gaming, but imagine playing a game (casually) over a few hours, days or even weeks as you go about your daily business. I suggest the name “Occasionally Connected Wide Area Gaming” which could be short formed as ACUA Gaming (“Aqua Gaming”).I came up with this idea after discovering Dinner Murder Mysteries. If you’re not familiar with Dinner Murder Mysteries, kits to host these events can be purchased where you buy board games. If you’re familiar with the game (or Movie) Clue, then this is where the idea comes from. People attend your event Role Playing as a Character; they have a script which tells them how to act, what to do and when. Each person has a different script which directs the outcomes of the evening. After a sequence of events, a murder will take place out of room and shortly after be discovered by someone. It is the job of everyone to figure out who committed the murder. Was it the person who discovered the body, the maid, the person who left to use the bathroom?
These events can be extremely fun for most people involved, except for a couple people, especially the person who gets murdered. Some people will know ahead of time the outcome and how it happened. In this age of digital communication there is no reason why we should snail mail invitations and instructions. What if a computer could send out all of the instructions in real time as they should be carried out. Ideally these instructions would be sent by text message (or email/blackberry) to each person’s mobile device. That way, no one would know ahead of time what was going to happen next and the instructions could be extremely up to date, referencing current issues or even using the current date and time to instruct participants.
The software itself would not be particularly immersive, like many of today’s popular games, but the overall experience could be extremely immersive. To setup this type of game there would need to be a web based console where it could be managed. The host would enter all of the mobile device contact info for each person, the date and time the event will start and other event information (will there be drinking or dinner). The server will take over from there, sending invitations to all users listing any props or costume pieces the participant will need for the event (fake gun, Swiss Army Knife, flashlight, money…etc).
At the start time of the event, users will start to receive instructions on their mobile devices: “Tell everyone you must go outside for a cigarette, ask Dr. Woz to join you. Stay outside and wait for further instructions” Dr. Woz will also receive a message telling him to go (or not) with you. A few minutes later they could receive a message telling them to drive to the local convenience store and wait for instructions. Then a message instructing them to phone Mr. Smith and tell him their car has broken down, and requesting he come pick them up. While this is happening a murder could take place back at the house. When the three other people return home they could be considered suspects, although they could claim they weren’t even at the house. Because the instructions are delivered in real time, the server could assemble the event as it goes, inserting or removing instructions to lengthen or shorten the event.
This would not be limited to murder mystery events either. All kinds of real time events could be developed such as scavenger hunts, checkpoint missions…etc. These events would be great for corporate events, dinner groups and fund raisers. The downside is that someone would have to program, test and host the software to run these events. It could also be expensive for some participants who don’t have text messaging plans on their cell phone. The possibilities are endless, and unlike other computer games it gets us out of our desk chair. Also, there could be games that intertwine with you daily life. As messages are received throughout the day or week, you could respond to them or follow their instructions. Today we play computer games; someday, computer games will play us.