picturetheimpossibleThis article is the first in a series on “secret tourism” spots: cities that provide immersive experiences to residents and tourists alike, as long as you know where and what to look for.

The Rochester Institute of Technology and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper are teaming up with Microsoft Bing to transform Rochester, New York into an urban playground between September 12th and October 31st with “Picture the Impossible“. The alternate reality game plans to showcase the city of Rochester through a series of online puzzles, live events, and clues hidden within the daily newspaper. Mobile-enabled participants can even test their wits against geo-locative puzzles designed by SCVNGR. Participants are encouraged to join one of three factions, each supporting a different local charity. Players in the Tree, Forge, and Watch factions raise money for Golisano Children’s Hospital, Foodlink, and Wilson Commencement Park, respectively. The experience culminates with an invite-only Halloween ball for the top 300 contestants. Players also have the chance to win prizes from Kodak, a company originally founded in Rochester.

“Picture the Impossible” provides an excellent opportunity to develop community bonds through play, while promoting local charities at the same time. If you live in the Rochester area, give “Picture the Impossible” a try, and see if it makes you look at the city in a different light. If you don’t live in the area, maybe now is the time to visit. While the game doesn’t start for another week, registration opens today at PicturetheImpossible.com. You can also follow along by becoming a fan of the game on Facebook.

Alternate reality games are often touted for their ability to capture attention on a global platform. For example, last year McDonalds sponsored The Lost Ring, a massive alternate reality game that reportedly attracted millions of players across the world, from Beijing to Buenos Aires. The same techniques that lead to the formation of massive global communities can also serve to foster closer connections within local communities, while providing unique ways for tourists to experience cities. With hope, we’ll be seeing and writing more about these experiences in the near future.

Click Here to learn more about the game at the Bing community blog.
Click Here to learn more about the game at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.