Back when the videogame industry first started their foray into Virtual Reality, the goals and outcomes were to remove the player or audience from their real space and insert them, as realistically as made possible by technology, into a virtual one. We all remember those shaking and moving capsules in funfairs and theme parks, where you would sit inside and ‘experience’ a particular journey or event through sight (screen), sound (stereo) and the movement of the capsule. Now there is a large focus on Augmented Reality – particularly with devices such as the Google goggles and rumours of a similar version for Samsung phones.
Augmented reality is a large part of what’s being developed in videogame industries at the moment and a particular example is a mobile game called Night Terrors. You play it on your mobile phone, at night, in the dark, and your goal is to save a little girl. Your mobile device – an iPhone, iPod, Android phone, etc – is your only way of seeing what is around you, and it maps out your home and environment in real time in order to create a realistic experience of being chased by demons and monsters in your own home. One of the key elements in this game, however, is sound, which the creators discuss briefly in the first trailer (skip to 3:39).
Not only is sound key in creating the experience as a narrative element – you can only find the girl by following the sound of her voice – but fine-tuning of setting such as pitch, volume, reverberation allow you to understand what is where and how safe you are (or not). Sound here is used to create an immersive experience that would not be possible using only visual means.
Zombies, Run! is another great example as not only is the storytelling compelling enough to make you want to run longer distances to unlock more chapters, but being told you have a horde of undead chasing you and hearing them groaning really does get you to speed up – especially if you’re running at night. A feature that is not mentioned in the example given in the article (Behrendt, 2015) is that sometimes characters will ask you to run a certain distance and turn at certain locations to collect supplies – such as ammunition, food and medicine – or rescue other survivors. So there is also a GPS and mapping element to this game, as it uses your location to give you directions to fictional missions (*I used this app extensively as my go-to workout app when I lived in Italy so this knowledge comes from personal experience).
Following my passion for gaming and augmented reality, I decided I would approach Actionbound as a potential immersive fictional experience as most of the public examples I have seen have been educational, informational or historical. I believed it could be used to create a narrative – much like Night Terrors or Zombies Run – as it gave me various options.
I found ActionBound to be very easy to use and intuitive but like any service that is not meant for professionals or comes with a hefty pricetag, it is quite limited. The options to create “Information” stages and “Missions” have amazing potential for fictional locative experiences, but I would have liked more options of integrating sound – a free sound effect library, the ability to record sounds as a mission.
It is disappointing that no one has explored ActionBound as a platform for building a fictional augmented reality experience! This is something I would like to explore further and possibly even record the narrative and missions. The fact that you can read text and play sound at the same time is very interesting as it can provide a feeling of being “guided” through your storyline with background music and even a narrator.
I will most definitely continue to explore ActionBound as a tool for creating a locative narrative that is not necessarily bound to the city as a subject, as most examples I have seen are; there is tremendous potential as well in the city as a vague, unnamed location with no history in order to create a realistic narrative by using visual clues, without having to link them to real information. For a larger ‘game’ one could even give the player the mission of finding a way to reach a different town, such as driving or taking a train from Brighton to London or Hastings, giving the cities fictional names and backgrounds.
Behrendt, F. (2015) Locative Media as Sonic Interaction Design. Walking through Placed Sounds. WI Journal of Mobile Media. http://wi.mobilities.ca/frauke-behrendt-locative-media-as-sonic-interaction-design-walking-through-placed-sounds/
ActionBound < https://en.actionbound.com/ >
Night Terrors IndieGogo Funding Campaign < https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/night-terrors-augmented-reality-survival-horror#/ >
Zombies, Run! < https://zombiesrungame.com/ >