After months of development and testing, the new social networking game Casablanca launches today. As a winner of mtvU and Cisco’s Digital Incubator 2.0 competition, the four NYU University students behind the game received a $30,000 grant towards the development of the game.
Set in the city of Casablanca during World War II, players are assigned roles working for the Resistance or Occupation forces. While Resistance forces are striving to create large networks of contacts, Occupation forces are attempting to infiltrate the Resistance cells. Resistance forces can check to see if their network is compromised seven times during the course of the game. NYU students engaged in the beta-test of the game went to extreme lengths to ensure the sanctity of their networks and communications, including the establishment of password-protected websites. Gameplay can proceed on the website as well as through a special text-messaging service.
The real appeal of Casablanca is its scalability. The crew behind Casablanca encourage groups to play Casablanca as an ice-breaker or for team-building, combining the gameplay with live meet-ups. Anyone interested in facilitating a local running of the game merely needs to contact the staff, load up the email addresses of prospective players onto the site, and choose the duration of the game. Promotional materials are available upon request.
Fittingly, Casablanca started out thanks to a chance meeting at a bar between NYU students Ed Purver and Charles Pratt. The two shared an interest in the cross-over between games and theater and its intersection with the ARG world, and agreed to enter mtvU and Cisco’s Digital Incubator competition. Fellow NYU students Josh Knowles and Robert Moon joined the team, and the four became finalists in the competition in mid-May, qualifying for $30,000 to develop the concept. Casablanca and the other four Digital Incubator finalists for 2007 are now in competition for a $100,000 grant to carry out their plans. Future goals of the team include introducing RPG-like elements, VoIP integration, and real world gameplay elements such as flash mobs.
Many of the concepts underpinning this game will be familiar to ARG players, whether through participation in rousing bouts of Cruel 2 Be Kind organized by Jane McGonigal and community members, or time spent playing faction-based ARGs like Deus City. So don your trenchcoat and fedora and head over to test your networking and deductive reasoning skills in Casablanca.