Chasing Down a Healthier Heart: Cryptozoology is Hard Work

ninja-rabbitI saw a ninja rabbit this weekend.

Even for San Francisco, that’s a little out of the ordinary. But if Jane McGonigal and the American Heart Association have their way, you’ll be seeing a lot more of the elusive ninja rabbit and its cryptid compatriots over the coming months as part of Cryptozoo.

Cryptozoo (pronounced crypto ZO-oh) asks players to put themselves in the role of cryptozoologists, searching the city streets for cryptid tracks in the hope of a rare encounter with an elusive cryptid. Each cryptid has a particular method of running, and will be scared away unless the cryptid chasers match its movements. For example, cryptozoologists searching for a Slamina run backwards, making sure they don’t step on any cracks. More competitive cryptozoologists can challenge teams to a race mimicking one of the thirteen different species of cryptids. Players keep track of their steps with pedometers, and after completing 5,000 steps are inducted as official Cryptozoologists.

The first two official Cryptozoo chases occurred in San Francisco on June 5th and June 7th. Next week, the game is moving to New York City, where cryptic cryptid clues will be broadcast on the MTV screen in Times Square on June 12th from 11PM to 1AM. A second chase will occur in New York City on June 13th.

The game was spawned due to a prediction from the Institute for the Future that by 2019, the dividing line between exercise and play would erode. The American Heart Association challenged IFTF to make it happen sooner, and Jane McGonigal and her team picked up the gauntlet. Drawing heavily upon parkour for inspiration, Cryptozoo lowered the barrier for entry of the activity by focusing on simple tasks that transform urban environments into playgrounds such as running along curbs, sliding under railings, using parking meters as vaults, and spinning around trees. Natalie Cartwright created character designs and costumes for the various cryptids to add an additional layer of adventure to the experience. San Francisco cryptid chasers encountered a Slamina, Triptree, and Ninja Rabbit. Large gatherings of players organized on the Cryptozoo homepage may lead to additional appearances of wild cryptids.

Chasing cryptids is tiring work, but the experience is fun. Really fun. A number of random passerby joined the group for Friday’s late night run through the SoMA streets and gardens. And although this past weekend was the official launch of Cryptozoo, multiple groups met up in the United States, England, and New Zealand to give the game a try. Jane McGonigal explains that as people interact with their environment more in their day to day lives, there’s less of a need to go to the gym to get a workout. Her hope is that players will start to look around their communities and wonder:

Wouldn’t it be fun if I…

Deepwell: Tell It to Someone Who Cares


The Institute for the Future once again opens a window into tomorrow’s world, this time letting us peer into 2010 where in the town of Deepwell a woman’s mysterious will has the townsfolk in an uproar. On December 7, 2009, the citizens of Deepwell learned that a woman named Ruby Wood left a “substantial” sum of money to their town, but with one condition – that the townspeople learn to take better care of each other. Who is Ruby Wood? No one in the town seems to know. The town will learn more when the last will and testament of Ruby Wood is opened on March 9, 2010.

In order to get a little outside help and advice on caring, the citizens of Deepwell have launched a website called Ruby’s Bequest, along with a town blog, Deep Into Deepwell, where citizens can discuss the bequest and other town interests. Accusations of being “the town that doesn’t care right” and the tragic death of an elderly citizen have upset many of the townspeople and sparked a debate about caring.

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Dr. Jane McGonigal Featured in BusinessWeek’s “Innovation” Section

janemcgonigal.jpgBusinessWeek’s November 10th “Innovation” special report features none other than Dr. Jane McGonigal, the Institute for the Future‘s Director of Games Research and Development. Dr. McGonigal is known for her work on Microsoft’s Halo promotion, “I Love Bees”, the award-winning “World Without Oil” game, “Find the Lost Ring” and her current project, “Superstruct”. In her article, “Jane McGonigal’s Brave New Worlds”, BusinessWeek’s Innovation Department editor Reena Jana gives an overview of Superstruct and its goals, as well as insight into how information gathered through Superstruct’s scenarios will be used once the game is concluded.

In a short video embedded in the article, Dr. McGonigal answers five questions about Alternate Reality Games. The questions:

  • Can you define exactly what an ARG is?
  • Can you give more insight into the collaboration skills of “signal/noise management” and “multicapitalism”?
  • Are ARGs more affordable and more efficient than expensive digital graphics and virtual worlds?
  • How will “Superstruct” serve as a real-world tool for companies and individuals?
  • Are you still working on promotional games?

Always looking for ways to turn real-life tasks into games, Dr. McGonigal set her video camera to stop recording at the six minute mark in her attempt to answer all five questions in five minutes. At the end of her video, she asks viewers to give her feedback on the interview and help her earn level-up points for her personal gamer stats by visiting +1me.com.

SuperStruct: It’s The End Of The World As We Know It… And We Feel Fine!

superstruct.gifThe year is 2019, and the world is caught in the grips of several SuperThreats, fighting for it’s very survival – but the citizen/players of this world aren’t taking it lying down. They’re creating survival plans, researching the SuperThreats, searching for allies, and making SuperStructures – plans and organizations created to survive, and combat, the SuperThreats – and in the end, helping to save the world!

Such is the premise of Superstruct , the new “massively multiplayer forecasting game” by the Institute for the Future (IftF), an “independent, nonprofit research group with over 40 years of forecasting experience”. The game’s Director of Game Research & Development is a familiar name to the ARG-Faithful: Jane McGonigal, fresh off her “Find The Lost Ring” success. With SuperStruct, the IftF gives players a possible scenario of what life is like in the year 2019, and players tell them how they’re coping, surviving, or even thriving, in that world.

So far, the players are doing just that – via blogs, wikis, discussions, they are creating their future personas and shaping the world of 2019. There are a lot of players participating in the shaping – 127 “Super-Empowered Hopeful Individuals” (or SEHIs) in the first hour, and almost 1000 in the first 24 hours after launch. The site experienced a brief outage, which was restored in a matter of hours, and more than 1900 players had signed up by Day 2. At last count, 4481 players have registered.

Surviving in IftF’s 2019 isn’t easy. The 5 SuperThreats are daunting – Quarantine (of people infected with a contagious respiratory disease), Ravenous (hunger caused by widespread food shortages), Outlaw Planet (hackers and criminals causing major disruption in vital networks and the political process), Generation Exile (natural disasters forcing people to migrate seeking refuge), and Power Struggle (conflicts between the oil-rich countries against alternative energy sources). It is the task of the SEHIs to form Superstructures in order to combat and survive the global threats. So far, the SEHI’s *are* surviving, and apparently very successfully. In the 10 days since Superstruct launched, players have added 5 years to our survival horizon.

There is a mild competitive aspect to the game as well – players can earn “badges” by completing tasks and missions in relation to the Threats. Winning badges and other recognitions can lead to several honors, which will be selected and awarded by an A-list of celebrities, such as Tim Kring (Heroes), Warren Ellis (comic and Science Fiction author), and Ze Frank (Internet comedian).

What’s it all for? Besides being plain good fun, at the end of its six-week run, the IftF will release the official “Superstruct Report,” detailing insights gained and best tactics discovered for surviving future threats and creating superstructures. The report is expected to be released in April 2009 and will be emailed to all registered players. Even after the official game is over, the Superstruct site will remain live and open in archival form, for players to share their accomplishments with friends and family.

So, think you have what it takes to survive in the harsh world of 2019? Think the future needs what you have to offer? You have about 4 weeks to prove it, so get going! Superstruct is scheduled to end its run on November 17, so get in there and save the world!

Game Launch: World Without Oil

wwo_logo.jpgAfter almost two months of anticipation, World Without Oil officially launched today. Announced at ARGFest 07, the game is a “live interactive month-long alternate reality event” that will explore the idea of a worldwide oil shortage. Jane McGonigal (IFTF) and Ken Eklund (writerguy) have led a team of “some of alternate reality gaming’s most experienced puppetmasters” in creating this game, part of the Independent Lens Electric Shadows Web-original programming. With the official launch, the WWO trailhead site has a new look and new features previously not open for the public.

The self-proclaimed grassroots experience bills itself as “an insight into what happens when a great economy built entirely on cheap oil begins to run short,” as it looks at the “impact on people’s lives — work, social, family and personal — and explores what happens when our thirst for oil begins to exceed supply.” It’s not immediately clear as to how the game will take shape, but it seems that player-generated content will be at the heart of the experience, as the game will revolve around “citizen stories in blogs, videos, photos, audio and phone messages posted all over the Internet.”

You can get involved by reading the player wiki, official game blog, and the MySpace blog. You can also register at the trailhead site, and check in with developments at the Unfiction forums.

Source: PR Newswire