As we wade through laboured viral campaigns, lacklustre Facebook activations and a steady wave of projection maps on a daily basis, every now and again we uncover an innovation gem that, although sometimes a little rough around the edges, gets us genuinely excited about its future possibilities.
‘The Witness’ is a new style of movie played out as an interactive urban game, that taps into a long history of urban gaming while pointing to a more consumer friendly version of the often overly geeky alternative reality gaming (ARG) sector.
Billed as the 'first ever movie in the outernet’ the game, based in Germany, seeks out its players via an online selection process. However, that is the only role the traditional Internet gets in this innovative cinematic production.
Once the participants are selected, they are invited to a Hotel in Germany, placed in individual rooms and tasked with saving Nadia, a prostitute, from the Russian mafia. Players can see the drama unfold on their mobile handset thanks to a clever meld of GPS and an augmented reality layer.
The game/film starts as the players watch Nadia being kidnapped from the hotel room. The game then sends players on a sprawling search across various locations in Berlin, from subways to rooftop balconies, as they attempt to unravel the clues to solving the crime. Gamers can communicate with other players and are required to take an active role in the proceedings, gathering data and clues as the story unfolds whilst also risking their own virtual lives in the process.
Gameplay is based on a simple choose-your-own-adventure style mechanic, meaning that the interactivity is actually quite low on player input. Players are also required to stand on key hotspot graphics on the floor to ensure they are in the correct space to trigger the overlaid video action. Some of these elements can take away from the game's fluidity. However, the game’s ability to put a viewer at the heart of the action, turning mundane backdrops into an engaging, gritty, crime thriller is to be commended.
This type of gameplay and the innovative use of augmented books seen in the Storytude app we covered recently highlight how stories are now coming off the page and out of the screen into our physical surroundings.