Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It is in games that many men discover their paradise

On Monday I participated in the City of Masks, a sort of pseudo-interactive theater walk through parts of Stockholm. It's a part of Maskspel, an ARG run by Interacting Arts.

It's been a long time since I was involved with anything even resembling the City of Masks, and it's only the second time I've been in an ARG. My other live game experiences have all been in a closed environment.

The experience, from within the game itself, is outlined in my post yesterday. Before I go into specific thoughts on it, I need to explain my standpoint when it comes to Interacting Arts. They have a lot of interesting ideas, especially regarding stepping outside your comfort zone, which I talked about here.

However, a lot of their ideas and events, including the City of Masks, contain undertones of both anarchism and primitivism, philosophies that I can't say I know a lot about, really, but which don't appeal to me. At all. Vandalism of public or private property is not my cup o' tea. Rejecting modern society isn't either. I like my TV, my Xbox, my iPod, my hot water, public transportation, etc. I'm not Tyler Durden. In any way, shape or form.

The City of Masks took the form of a long walk through various parts of Söder in Stockholm. We got a small pamphlet, with several maps and pages of texts, and downloaded sound files, that we listened to at set places along the way. A very interesting way of conveying a story/alternate reality game.

There were definitely moments when the story pulled me in, and I found myself living within the reality of the game. Above all it was when we walked through a series of allotment gardens, along winding paths, poking around a shed marked on the map and marveling at how the gardens climbed the hill above us, and when we walked through the crowd of people prepping the piers for summer, something which I believe was just a happy coincidence and not an actual part of the game. At times it did feel like we were in some kind of modern fairytale.

My main problem with the whole thing is that there were too many parts of the walk where nothing happened. We walked for a long while along Ringvägen without anything to listen to, and there were several places where they could have added a little something, someone in a mask, a madman, a Kerberos security guard, whatever, that could have heightened the experience considerably. As it was, there were too many places where we felt like reality intruded on the story, and we moved outside the alternate reality of the City of Masks.

My other gripe is that there wasn't enough story. I've read some of the background material, but not everything, and some hadn't read anything at all. I would have liked to see more context, more plot, if you will.

The overall experience was good, but I find myself a bit disappointed that the event didn't deliver the way it could have. I will, however, keep my eyes peeled for more events tied to the same ARG, and also other things Interacting Arts arrange.

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