Last month I reported live from the Synthetic Worlds Initiative‘s Ludium II conference at Indiana University in Bloomington. The Ludium was designed by one of Indiana’s finest ARG companies, Studio Cypher.
At this point you’re probably wondering what a Ludium is exactly. Thomas Malaby, the spokesperson elected at the conference, explains it best on the Terra Nova blog, “The Ludia are conferences structured as games, and this one was modeled on a political convention, the first Synthetic Worlds Congress.” The goal of this Synthetic Worlds Congress was to develop a set of guidelines pertaining to virtual words that would be sent to all of the major 2008 presidential candidates along with members of Congress.
In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if Alternate Reality Games were at all similar to virtual worlds like World of Warcraft or Second Life. I was reporting on the event purely because it was a Studio Cypher project and I was looking for ARGish elements in the Ludium’s game design. By the end of the conference, I had become a full and willing participant in the Ludium fighting for what I thought fair and just much like the other attendees. I realized that many of the issues facing virtual world designers are the same or at least quite similar to the issues facing alternate reality game designers–issues like developer liability and freedom of expression.