8th Wonderland: A Virtual Nation Up in Arms
How do you fight a country that doesn’t exist? Scattered all over the world, everyday people are sick and tired of political systems and being controlled by the media. They decide to create a virtual state and restore democracy, but “real” states view them as terrorists. An extended experience to accompany the 8th Wonderland film, interested participants can meet the ambassador and register for citizenship on the country’s website. Every week, citizens can propose motions related to the economy, health care, and politics, among other issues, and motions are decided by referendum.
Produced by the French company Mad Films, the mainly English-language 8th Wonderland film will be released in France on May 12th and in Germany on August 12th. There are no immediate plans for a US release, but in 2009, 8th Wonderland won Best International Film at the inaugural Politics on Film Festival in Washington, DC, and Best Screenplay at the Phoenix International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival.
Although the 8th Wonderland extended experience may not fully be an alternate reality game, the idea of citizenship in a micronation or a virtual state is not entirely foreign to the ARG genre, as several recent grassroots games, such as West Unfictionopia and Purity Towers, have used politics as an organizing principle in their gameplay. As a storytelling device, the virtual nation seems a simple and effective way to build a community and introduce conflict to drive plots. And then there are countless “real” micronations, of varying degrees of playfulness, that seem to enjoy declaring war on each other. Personally, it is a heuristic device I would like to see more often in the ARG genre.
Currently, the 8th Wonderland website boasts over 1,300 registered citizens who discuss and vote on motions in both English and French. The website also includes some content not otherwise publicly available, including footage of an 8th Wonderland commando projecting subversive messages on cultural and political landmarks in Paris. Check out the 8th Wonderland website to learn more about citizenship and how to participate in this virtual, international democracy.