Process 4: Game Theory

Essays and themes in this section cover our approach to creating Internet Theatre for our clients, using a convergent media case study as an example.

Rule 9. The over-arcing theme.


12-alias-web-puzzle-west-berlinSometimes, the theme of one’s work becomes apparent over the course of experimentation, or improvisation.

Balance that, against:
Can this somehow represent something which is greater as a whole, than as the sum of its parts?

Rule 8. Make it beautiful, but more importantly, make it plausible.


12-alias-web-puzzle-postcard-printCan we make it look as beautiful as possible, without making it too beautiful?

Rule 7. Never underestimate the players.


12-alias-web-puzzle-berlin-eVisit the links to the content, backwards and forwards.

Is security important?
How easily can they find you, and what would this do to the effect of the story you’re trying to tell?

Rule 6. Create a world around that.


12-alias-web-puzzle-sao-pauloWith a fictitious character, there are so many questions surrounding that character and their world. What did they just do?

Rule 5. Revisit the backstory (and do it often).


12-alias-web-puzzle-item7741c1-eloise-kurtzIf you were to provide an account of what happened later, and try to account for their motives, what would these be?

For the overarcing theme of a film to resonate as the end credits roll, the director’s vision should appear to illustrate a principle beyond the simple summary of its parts. If a mystery were truly about the item the players are trying to recover from thieves, the story would fall flat and would appear devoid of humanity.

The problems inherent in an interactive game are that the players expectations change over time, as they learn (or influence) new pieces of information in the game, and ultimately push the games objectives themselves.

In a one-on-one game between the Player and the game’s Maker, the idea of community does not influence the outcome nearly the same way as when the players are all allowed to communicate and share what they are learning from the play… Not to mention that, within communities, there are natural leaders and often, many more followers.

It is therefore deeply crucial to check in with the backstory and to revisit often, to ensure that a Game that is leading, and not being led.

New sights are set as the momentum of the play moves in directions that are based upon user interaction and shared information.

Rule 4. How do players learn the rules?


12-alias-web-puzzle-00441aSometimes there is a rule book. And sometimes there isn’t.

In the latter case, the creators and the players will still need to agree upon some fundamentals. It is important that everyone first agree that they are playing a game. Sometimes, int he case of a reality based game, the rule book is part of the hidden content.

It is therefore crucial that those leading the game are truly consistent in their actions.

For example, if the nature of the rewards is not consistent, players will not appreciate the effect of their actions, nor will they be able to judge if they are playing correctly.

With the ALIAS information hunt, we have made a point of adding new content on Fridays.

Rule 3. Devise the backstory.


12-alias-web-puzzle-postcard-printAny creative property has a backstory; namely, the part that is interesting to the audience because it suggests the overarcing theme and humanity of the story. It is the history, and it also suggests that there will be a future after the entertainment is supposedly over. It enriches the story line and invites the audience to investigate other areas of interest as a result. Essentially, it informs real life, and determines the relevance of the story.

Anything that appears to contain an entire world of information unto itself is suitable for the creative backdrop.

When you consider what a logo or brand is, it is often an object in motion, frozen in time. It is imperative that this idea of motion be represented, not just in the context of fluid media, but in the choice of snapshot.

Since backstory is crucial, it must be incorporated into all elements of game playing, design and interactive media.12-alias-web-puzzle-item7741c-eloise-kurtz

• Does it resemble fiction?
• Does it assimilate cinematic direction?
• Can it influences emotions and gives the end player a reason to come back?




Rule 2. Create a plausible reality basis.


12-alias-web-puzzle-maroc-187273847999Namely, where there exists fact, there also exists “red herrings”…
On television and in film, much of what we take for granted is removed for reasons of engaging the viewer’s focus, and helping to present the director’s vision in a single arc with minimal distraction.

With an on-demand, or interactive basis for a web puzzle, the over-arcing principle is that there must be a balance with one’s expectations; namely, that it must blend in with reality in every imaginable way (to the untrained eye) but contain a relevance only to the initiated.

• What is entertaining and relevant?
• What is merely, entertainment?


Rule 1. Observe how people play.


12-alias-web-puzzle-00441bAs we unroll new pieces, we observe how others are playing, and ask:
• How did they play last week?
• What are they saying?
• What do they expect?
• How do we best stay out of their way?
• What story are we telling?
• What’s the bigger, over-arcing picture…a cohesive, or underlying theme defining how we present ourselves?

First things first… Where's my reward?


12-alias-web-puzzle-cia-dropbag2On ALIAS, Jack Bristow is SD-6’s principal Game Theorist. He consults in the hour of need when a strategy is possibly at risk of being undermined by hasty evaluation of the odds, or when a chief decision maker is potentially likely to underestimate the movements of the players.

The science of game theory is as much about mathematics as it is strategy, economy and negotiation. It’s a tool for understanding how decisions affect each other.

12-alias-web-puzzle-memo-cyan-mcculloughWhen we set up the websites for Felicity, there was an intentional imbalance in the audience’s understanding of reality. Namely they expected there to be a website about the show at The website would contain all sorts of acknowledgment of the show, its characters, storylines, and creators.

Of course, the way to establish that fiction is a pseudo reality, is to first deliver everybody’s expectation of reality so they can get comfortable with it.

12-alias-web-puzzle-credit-dauphine-02For ALIAS, I began by creating a brief that SD-6 was real, and actually based in the underground section of a bank in downtown LA, called Credit Dauphine. Since the bank was allegedly in full cooperation with SD-6, they would have a website, and that would look exactly like a bank’s website. It would be a boring, whitepaper read.

The bank would also have a banner ad at the bottom, for a popular new search engine, called This link would be the beginning of the mouse hunt for information, as it would lead away from the bank’s site, and take people to a website about Rambaldi, run by the official fellowship, “the followers of”.

12-alias-web-puzzle-rambaldi-backIf people were to tamper with the urls, or attempt to hack their way deeper into other parts of the site, it would produce what i called the “hexstatic” effect, which was to disorient visitors by leading them to believe that they were being redirected to another web server, where an attendant named Alisha would check in with you, and ask you what you thought you were doing.

12-alias-web-puzzle-chester-conlan-6a12-alias-web-puzzle-alishaIf people prompted Alisha long enough, or asked the right questions, she would spill information about next week’s show in a way so that the visitor felt like they were in the know. And that was the reward.