Home Events [Livestream] Nominee: Terrarium: An Alternate Reality Game


Oct 18 2020


4:00 pm - 4:45 pm

[Livestream] Nominee: Terrarium: An Alternate Reality Game

Presenting the 2020 IndieCade Nominees: Terrarium: An Alternate-Reality Game

Terrarium is an alternate reality game (ARG) scaled for approximately 1,700 players during the University of Chicago orientation for first-year students in 2019. This five-month experience used transmedia storytelling and gameplay to increase engagement with climate change.

Terrarium was an experiment in mixed reality storytelling that combined the streaming platform Twitch, Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) software for live streaming, live-action performance, video game mechanics, team-based scavenger hunt tasks, and transmedia puzzles that stretched across websites and augmented reality experiences. Our mixed reality platform allowed users to engage in real-time text interactions with performers who respond via voice, text, or gestures in a designed environment.

Through several phases, this ARG invited players to participate in co-imagining a preferable climate future. In May, players discovered “wormholes” that initiated a large-scale online scavenger hunt and transmedia puzzle trail. Following two months of intensive play and coordination via Discord, players began interacting with characters from four versions of 2049 who were trapped in “inverse escape rooms” accessible only via Twitch. In order to facilitate character escapes, players solved multimedia puzzles, improvised interactions, and played live-action networked games.

The game used asymmetrical cooperation mechanics that connected live characters with players, who had different information to share via Twitch chat. While the entire game was focused on climate change, the four future scenarios adopted themes of CO2 emissions, nuclear disaster, surveillance, and population growth. The experience culminated in September with the live “Futures Design Challenge” in which players pitched ideas linked to the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts that could combat climate change.

Terrarium combines a site-specific experience that is personalized and improvised with a flexible design that can be replicated and distributed digitally across contexts.

The following short documentary demonstrates the overall design and levels of Terrarium: https://vimeo.com/398398843.


Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Oct 18 2020
  • Time: 7:00 pm - 7:45 pm

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