Picture the Impossible: How an Online Game Can Change Your Offline Community

Elizabeth Lawley (Rochester Institute of Technology)
Focus on Community
Location: 2009 Level:
Average rating: ****.
(4.50, 4 ratings)

How do you move people from their computer screens to nearby streets and neighborhoods? Help print newspapers stand out in the age of digital media? Bring local history to life for thousands of folks who are busier texting, twittering and gaming in virtual worlds than experiencing the real one?

Liz Lawley, director of the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, walks us through the wildly successful alternate reality game that took over her hometown, revitalized the local newspaper, and changed the way people interacted with their friends, fellow students, coworkers and spouses. By partnering open source technologies (Drupal, PHP, and mySQL) with Microsoft web services (Bing Maps API, Photosynth) and combining online puzzles with offline challenges in local parks and the city newspaper, Rochester ended up with a game that deeply engaged a wide range of community members.

Attendees will learn more about implementing a successful online/offline strategy that will drive results, including:

1. How the game was conceived, and its target market and goals.

2. The game’s development process, from concept to implementation.

3. How offline components, such as a scavenger hunts and newspaper puzzles, were integrated into the website.

4. How the game worked with local charities and organizations to involve the community.

5. How the game leveraged unique aspects of the Rochester community and its history, and how that approach can be adapted to other cities.

6. How to encourage collaborative play among users, including which technologies breed success and which should be avoided.

7. Lessons learned from the pilot and how to apply those findings to your own local campaigns.

Elizabeth Lawley

Rochester Institute of Technology

Elizabeth Lane Lawley is the director of the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she is also an associate professor of Interactive Games & Media. Her current teaching and research interests focus on social computing technologies such as weblogs, wikis, virtual worlds, collaborative information retrieval, and gender imbalances in technology and education.

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