Alternate Reality at the Smithsonian
Museums aren’t usually the place you go for a gaming fix. An art fix, yes, but not the place that immediately comes to mind when wanting to shoot invading alien hordes or survive in the devastated landscapes of a post-apocalyptic 23rd century; perhaps with the exception of the Musée du Jeu Vidéo in France. But that’s now changed thanks to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and a multimedia alternate reality game called Pheon. It launched this past weekend, and is basically a version of Catch the Flag (replacing the flag with a virtual talisman called the pheon) which you must’ve played, either in a video game or real life. The game is set in a virtual world called Terra Tectus where two tribes, Staves and Knaves, are at war after real world intruders, Seers, have upset their equilibrium. After determining what tribe you belong to by completing an online questionnaire, you then get to complete mission-based objectives relating to the exhibits and collections at the museum. The aim is to recapture the pheon and restore order, while progressing through three stages along the way—Neophyte, Acolyte and Lamplight Council—before advancing to the final level where you can create stages for the lower level players. Unusual though it may seem, this isn’t the first time the Smithsonian has featured alternate reality gaming, back in 2008 they ran the game Ghosts of a Chance where players deciphered codes and found treasures in and amongst the museum and online. At the launch event on Saturday, clues were to be found in a live belly dance performance and in this online video. Now that the games have begun, the saga will unfold online via Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet Archive. So, although the game is based on the Smithsonian collection, it can be played throughout the world over the next year. To get involved go here to get started.