Registration opened today for Traces of Hope, an alternate reality game sponsored by the British Red Cross. According to a press release we received last week, the game is “an experience in which on-screen characters reach out into the players’ real world.” The story will revolve around Joseph, a Ugandan teenager searching for his mother during a time of civil war. The experience will combine “storytelling, detective work, technology and treasure-hunt style gameplay in a compelling 21st century narrative, as players seek to reunite Joseph with his mother.” As Joseph arrives at the IDP camp, the game will focus on how the Red Cross’ tracing and messaging service offers the “last traces of hope” for displaced civilians searching for their families.
According to Dorothea Arndt, the New Media Manager at the British Red Cross, this game will provide an experience “where players will feel they are really interacting with Joseph’s world – by communicating directly with Joseph, players find themselves caught up in a hunt across the internet to reunite him with his mother.” And while the game will be interesting and enjoyable, there is a serious side to the narrative, as the action parallels the real life struggles of thousands of people around the world who suffer from the perils and hardships of conflict. Of course, in these real world situations, just as in the game, the Red Cross is there to provide aid for those in need.
The ARG was developed by Enable Interactive and partners with other organizations, including Penguin Books and Reuters AlertNet, to create a world that is “as realistic and authentic as possible.” In the press release, Matt Connolly of Enable details some of the aspects of the experience: “In developing the game we’ve gone to a lot of trouble to place clues, teasers and solutions around the internet, so the boundaries between the game-world and the real world become very blurred. Players will be going to real websites and drawing on genuine lifesaving information to help Joseph on his journey.” He goes on to add, “ARGs are at the cutting edge so it’s fantastic to be working on such an innovative project alongside the Red Cross and to be spreading a very positive message as well as making a great game.”
Readers of this blog may have noticed an influx of Serious Games recently, starting with the award-winning World Without Oil, Indiana University’s Skeleton Chase, Operation: Sleeper Cell for Cancer Research UK, and the Institute for the Future’s Superstruct Game. Whether the goal of the campaign is encouraging charitable donations, raising awareness about issues, conducting research, or harnessing the power of collective intelligence to resolve current and future problems, the ability of alternate reality games to encourage immersion and engagement allows development teams to channel “play” for good. Since all of the currently running games are focusing on different goals, it will be enlightening to compare player responses to the different campaigns.
You can see a teaser video for the campaign on Vimeo.