Principles in Practice: USC's Pervasive Game "Reality Ends Here"
"Reality Ends Here" was designed for students in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California as a 15 week long alternate reality game (ARG). Students across the various departments in SCA are given a series of cards, and prompted to collaborate on media-making projects (or "deals") that are then produced, theorized, and shared online in exchange for points:
We offer this as an example of transmedia scholarship, in addition to its function as transmedia education, in part because one of the game's lead designers, Jeff Watson, actively theorizes the game as part of his broader research investment in transmedia interactive design and pervasive games. As such, "Reality Ends Here" doesn't just present an impressive example of student engagement, but an example of how productive intersections might be built between notions of transmedia education and transmedia scholarship.
In addition to immersing students in the culture of USC's School of Cinematic Arts (or, arguably, endeavoring to create a new culture that blurs departmental lines through students' immersion in the game), "Reality Ends Here" encourages the creation of extractable elements, such as these "character artifacts":
"Reality Ends Here" embodies many of the core concept and principles of transmedia design:
- It is a robust example of co-creation, both in the large number of collaborators who designed the game, and the student/players who worked together to make "deals" by producing media collaboratively
- The game uses a procedural mode of play, using cards as prompts that offered some rules, even as they gave students the agency to author their own interpretation of these elements
- It actively promotes collective intelligence by creating spaces for these knowledge communities to gather
In a November 2011 Transmedia Talk podcast, Jeff Watson discussed the immersive and extractable transmedia properties of "Reality Ends Here," and how they came about:
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