The immersive online game that tests your Facebook stalking skills


“We all have this universal [online] the language … it just asks you to do the things you do in your day to day life anyway – which we thought added to the emotional part. You exist as you, in your living room, using your own skills, being yourself. It’s not ‘ah, Inspector McKenna, I’m glad you were able to make it to my office this morning in Hong Kong’.

Jones says his team enjoys creating at the “borderline where your life ends and the experience begins.” They mix the real story, the real places, and the people into the drama: it draws people into the story.

Ollie Jones (L) and CLem Garrity (R) of Swamp Motel, co-creators of the online thriller Isklander Trilogy.Credit:

“The term” immersive “is overused [at the moment], it seems to cover everything from a themed restaurant to a store with a fancy mirror, and all of those things are called immersive experiences, ”he says. “For us, we put a lot of effort into making the world feel full, not allowing [participants] to see the edges, make you wonder where the experience begins and make you feel like you’re completely engrossed in something, that you have a real agency to change what’s going on.

“Some immersive shows are happening all around you, you’re in them, but you’re still watching the performance. What we’re trying to do, with more and more stuff, is give you a role that’s absolutely essential to the story.

They must have made up a lot of the shape as they went along. Jones has since realized that they are part of a tradition of cross-genre experiences. There was Masquerade, the 1979 picture book with enigmatic clues to the location of an actual golden hare buried in the ground: it took years to solve and inspired a minor craze for ‘wheelchair treasure hunts’.

Another more recent global success has been I love bees, an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) conceived as viral marketing for a 2004 computer game, which hid clues and puzzles on web pages, and even in secret calls to payphones, which told the story of a Alien AI has crashed into Earth.

Jones likes the idea of ​​a huge experiment that is “discussed on the Reddit forums,” but he doesn’t want to lose the drama.

“The bigger they get, the fewer people finish,” he says. “People have described [Swamp Motel’s Isklander trilogy] like escape rooms, which is somewhat true, but we’re a lot more interested in people who like storytelling than challenge. We [want] to end the story, to live this adventure, rather than confusing them with numbers and hieroglyphics.

The project started with the partners running it in real time on Zoom: they now have automated software, guided by a human “manager,” who can run a handful of games simultaneously and give clues to players who seem blocked or standing. a red flag for extra help if they’re really wading.


They are still tinkering, but it’s tricky: some people are baffled by a riddle that others are going through. The biggest change came after they were sidelined from the “real” webmail providers, so they had to create one.

“Initially, you hacked into a real Gmail account,” Jones explains. “It was closed. We’ve used 15 different email accounts, but obviously these companies are like ‘it’s a little strange, there are 130 people every day trying to access this email account from different parts of the country’. It is suspect ”.

Inadvertently, their game mimicked the way organized crime uses email online – another fictional moment crossed with reality.

Jones hopes to stay in that space, potentially mixing in more “real world” elements. “Anything that fits the story we’re going to tell,” he says.


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