You are on page 1of 2

[

dRAMA & ny TEknoLogi

play, forward

]

[

dRAMA & ny TEknoLogi

play, forward

]

elena Perez maría elena Pérez rodríguez is a Phd-candidate (2009-2013) at the department of art(s) and media studies, ntnu. she is also a practitioner; experimenting with how new media technology is being applied to contemporary theatre and performance. she created Chain reaction together with other graduate students and gamers while on a visiting scholarship at uC Berkeley in 2009.

pervasIve Games and TheaTre:
ParticiPation and oPen Source
TEK ST: EL Ena PEr Ez

imagine making non-theatre audiences thrilled with theatre. imagine seducing spectators into playing with strangers in the city. imagine audiences performing. Pervasive games and theatre offer renewed formulas in the age of game culture through new media technology and open source philosophy that promise to shake the very foundations of theatre.
Pervasive gaming is an emergent genre in which traditional, real-world games are augmented with computers (magerkurth, Cheok, mandryk, & nilsen, 2005, p. 1). Gymkhanas and scavenger hunts, for instance, are traditional games that can be traced back in history and across civilizations. But it is the application of information technologies – The Internet, mobile phones and position technologies – that have provoked its rapid proliferation and development (montola, Stenros, & Waern, 2009, p. xix). Pervasive games pervade the real world; they use objects, people and interactions of the real world as play elements. They do not take place on a space apart within ordinary life – around the table (board games), inside of the stadium (sports), or through a computer interface (video games); they use the real world as playground and ordinary life as material for play. This successful marriage of technology and game culture has taken not only gamers out of their rooms into the real world, but also engaged other audiences that are familiar with game culture. They are excited to use their gadgets in a new setting, and are looking for new ways of entertainment that are free of costs and truly participatory. Since the turn of the century, pervasive games are becoming increasingly popular in the Western World, games being organized all over the US, Canada, australia and Europe. In Scandinavia, Sweden and Finland are the most engaged with this increasing phenomenon. Interactive Theatre is a genre that uses a varied range of strategies to break the “fourthwall” that separates actors from audience. It aims to include the audience in the creative process verbally and physically, so that the theatre piece is a result of the interaction between actors and audience -then and therenot a pre-fabricated piece in which the audience is a mere receiver of the message and meaning that somebody else has conveyed. Strategies may go from providing performance suggestions (improv. theatre), becoming characters in the performance (forum theatre), holding props, etc. Pervasive theatre Pervasive theatre is the interaction of pervasive games and interactive theatre. It is a hybrid form, which goal is to make participants engage in artistic activities as a result of their interaction with the environment and with each other. Easily put: pervasive theatre is shaped as a game with a strong artistic agenda. Blast Theory is so far the most successful theatre group / artist collective that has been creating games for the last ten years, receiving attention from audiences, media and academia. among the most famous productions we find Can you see me now? (2003), rider spoke (2007), and day of the Figurines (2007), staged in renowned theatre touring venues such as the Barbican theatre in Lon-

TraVErSInG THE CITY: a player rides a bike with a mounted computer on the handlebar in Blast Theory’s rider spoke. (Photo: Blast Theory)

don, the Hebbel am Ufer theatre in Berlin, and the national museum of Singapore. The production of pervasive theatre and games is not limited to established artists groups or game design companies. It is the players themselves – organized under the platform of various collective game organizations based on the Internet (i.e. SFzero. org or antiboredom.org) - that produce the most successful and populated game events. as an example, Journey to the end of the night gathered over 600 players in the Halloween event in San Francisco 2009. This situation started a few years ago when players, encouraged by a) use of new media, and b) use of the city as platform for play - as opposed to having to program graphics or computer animations - turned the tables and saw the possibility of producing their own entertainment rather than having to pay for it. Examples of pervasive games and theatre organized by groups outside of the cultural institutions are Journey to the end of the night (Kizu-Blair, mahan, & Lavigne, 2009) and Chain reaction (Perez rodriguez, 2009), respectively.

Why the game? Games, in the generic sense of the term, are not new to theatre practices; they have always been part of theatre making processes. However, they have always been used as a tool to access the creativity necessary to making theatre, which happens after the games. In devised theatre, for instance, games are used as facilitators, mandatory early steps that create an atmosphere, a mood, a sense of belonging to a group that make the actors ready and open to the true theatre-making situation in which pieces are put together to make a whole product that is then shown to an audience. In Pervasive Theatre, on the other hand, the game is the main event. Why is theatre being framed as a game so explicitly? What does the game element add to theatre? To begin with, games lower the threshold of participation. Players - as opposed to spectators - must act continuously through the whole for the event to come to life. This is one of the most unique features of games, as Espen aarseth puts it; Games are both object and process; they can’t be read as texts or listened to as music,

they must be played. Playing is integral, not coincidental like the appreciative reader or listener. The creative involvement is a necessary ingredient in the uses of games (aarseth, 2001, p. 2). Secondly, games make interaction with other players natural and meaningful, which results in very pleasant social experiences. Games give large numbers of people a motivation to interact, a readily understood means to do so, and a highly varied landscape to explore that allows each player an almost unique experience (adams, 2009, p. 237). Thirdly, games encourage players to display transgressive behavior and dare to do things they would never do in everyday-life situations (Poremba, 2007), (Pérez rodríguez, 2010). Being within the magic circle of the game, that is, complying to the rules of the game, not to the rules of the world – players are able to overcome embarrassment, fear of ridicule and various insecurities that come up the moment they are asked to be creative in a theatre situation.
d r a m a n r .o 4 _ 2 o1o 7

6

d r a m a n r .o 4 _ 2 o1o

[

dRAMA & ny TEknoLogi

play, forward

]

[

dRAMA & ny TEknoLogi

play, forward

]

[

the same way designers use open source technology to produce pervasive games and theatre, pervasive games publish their game model on the inter net for others to orchestr ate it and pl ay it.

]
LEFT: SHoW TImE. a group of players in Chain reaction perform a drama exercise to the rest. in this last mission, players were asked to make a tv commercial putting

The role of new media technology in pervasive games and theatre can be categorized in three large blocks: First, dissemination through social media. The role of the Internet and social media is fundamental in advertising mixed media events organized outside of cultural institutions. Game culture’s platform is online, and distributing information through web pages, blogs and even Facebook events work as an efficacious word of mouth. Second, online documentation of the play session. In most games, players are encouraged to use their cell phones to take pictures and make videos to document their experiences in the game through text, pictures and videos. This is the only way one can construct an overview of what happened in the game, by looking at the pieces of information that each player has posted. Each game has therefore two lives: the physical event (playing the game) and the digital event (once the game is over, the documentation process starts). Players document their playing as a way of claiming the value of their actions, making themselves visible as a community, raising awareness over their playing as an aesthetic activity. Third, the technology that the game requires; devices and software that are fundamental parts of the game. rider spoke uses a handheld computer mounted onto a bike where you can operate an application specifically developed for it. day Of the Figurines consist of players sending SmS through their cell phones and connecting to the game’s webpage to observe a control board, real-time, through a web camera.

Some of the non-established groups make more of a low-tech use of technology that doesn’t allow them developing new devices or software, but adapting existing technology for their purposes. Thus, it is fundamental for pervasive games and theatre to follow open source philosophy, that is, to use technologies that open the source code for everyone to use for free. The same way designers use open source technology to produce pervasive games and theatre, pervasive games publish their game model on the Internet for others to orchestrate it and play it. In most game websites and blogs there is a section on “How to host / orchestrate your own game” in which the game model is revealed and instructions are given away. Consequently, a game model that is repeated several times and is also orchestrated by different organizers becomes a popular game. This success relies in the agility and flexibility of the game model to integrate the changes that players introduce. It therefore proves the benefits of collective authorship.

references

Aarseth, e. (2001). game Studies, Year one. game Studies, volume 1, issue 1. Retrieved April 22, 2010, from http://gamestudies.org/0101/editorial.html Adams, m. (2009). mixed Reality Arts. In m. montola, J. Stenros, & A. waern (eds.), Pervasive games: theory and design (pp. 236-240). USA: morgan Kaufmann Publishers. Kizu-Blair, I., mahan, S., & Lavigne, S. (2009). Journey to the end of the night. Retrieved november 15, 2010, from http://totheendofthenight.com/about magerkurth, C., Cheok, A. d., mandryk, R. L., & nilsen, t. (2005). Pervasive games: bringing computer entertainment back to the real world. Comput. entertain., 3(3), 4-4. montola, m., Stenros, J., & waern, A. (eds.). (2009). Pervasive games: theory and design. Burlington, mass.: morgan Kaufmann Publishers. Pérez Rodríguez, m.e. (2010). designing Pervasive theatre: the Chain Reaction Case (pp. 73-81). Presented at the games: design and Research Conference, volda. Pérez Rodríguez, m.e. (2009). Chain Reaction | Street game. blog, . Retrieved november 15, 2010, from http://chainreactionstreetgame.wordpress.com/ Poremba, C. (2007). Critical Potential on the Brink of the magic Circle. digRA digital Library. Retrieved may 24, 2010, from http://www.digra.org/dl/display_ html?chid=http://www.digra.org/dl/ db/07311.42117.pdf

together the materials they collected throughout the game - a song, a movement piece, a theatre sculpture and a short literary text. (Photo: anders sundnes løvlie)

rIGHT: moVEmEnT mISSIon. Players perform a short movement piece inspired in the environment – a museum’s garden - in Chain reaction. The piece must last 20 seconds, and contain a jump, a spin and a fall. (Photo: anders sundnes løvlie)

ConTroL Board: Players move their figurines across the control board via sms in day of the Figurines. They can see the board through a webcam installed in the museum. (Photo: Blast Theory)

FIrECraCKEr: a player in Chain reaction, documents how they fulfilled the ”sound” mission in the game’s blog. notice the textual description, the Youtube video and

the hand of one of the players using his cell phone to record the sound. to see the whole documentation go to www.chainreaction.wordpress.com

8

d r a m a n r .o 4 _ 2 o1o

d r a m a n r .o 4 _ 2 o1o

9