play / 2014

Flight of the Angels - A Pervasive Audio Game About DTLA

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Psychic Bunny

@PsychicBunnyInc is building a pervasive audio adventure game about Los Angeles – location-based participatory audio drama! #Fligh


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

We want to create a game about the past, present, and future of Los Angeles that motivates exploration of the real city and allows other peo

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

For the past ten years we’ve made our home in DTLA and become immersed in the history of it. Last year we made an audio adventure game called FREEQ that was all about eavesdropping on radio and phone calls. In the process, we built a “shell” that we could make other audio adventure games inside of.

Now we want to make a new audio adventure – but one that’s way more ambitious. We want certain parts of the game to be accessible only if you actually visit the locations referenced in the game. We want to tell the story of DTLA’s past, present, and possible future – one we’ve seen glimpses of out our windows in the decade we’ve watched our neighborhood revitalized to its former glory.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Our game FREEQ did a lot of cool thins - it created an audio world and a mystery to solve that was highly reactive to the choices players made. It’s the kind of game anyone can play (in fact, even the blind can play FREEQ with just their ears and their fingers) – and one that rewards exploration and discovery. It’s a game, yes, but it’s also a mobile journey. We think it’s what Playing in LA2050 is all about.

The game we built last year isn’t location sensitive. We want to build in some GPS hooks to not only hide clues and content but also provide guidance. Even if you don’t want to get too deep into the game, we want to build some “tour modes” that take the idea of a museum audio tour and crank it up to 11. We also plan to expand the device compatibility of the project so that anyone with a phone they bought in the last few years can definitely experience and enjoy it.

iBeacons are an example of a new technology that uses low-power Bluetooth to recognize when a user is close to the Beacon to trigger unique content. We plan to, with the participation of various locations, install iBeacons throughout DTLA that will add additional hooks for the game experience.

But that’s the technology side. On the practical side, we have a game to design, new audio content to write, and exciting new partners we want to work with who are as versed in the history of the area as they are experienced in using unconventional technology to experience it.

Finally, we know there are other storytellers out there and other experts who could give their own fascinating tours. We plan to use some of the funding to make our authoring system open source – allowing other LA denizens to put together their own adventures and tours accessible via download inside the mobile application.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

For the past ten years we’ve made our home in DTLA and become immersed in the history of it. This is extra amazing because some of us weren’t totally enthusiastic about locating our office in such a questionable neighborhood. But then a funny thing happened - we walked the streets and discovered and explored. And soon it wasn’t so questionable and we didn’t feel as unsafe. Other artists and creatives also discovered the neighborhood and also went out and explored and that also made everyone feel safer and more connected. Now more people live there. There are parks and cafes and monthly celebrations of art and culture – and we still can’t convince terrified suburbanites to come and visit us. We think they need a reason to walk the streets and see and learn.

For a young city on the global scale, Los Angeles has a rich history and some of the most interesting architecture in America. It’s also got its secrets. Small parks hidden away. Delicious food down an alley you’d never think to traverse. One-of-a-kind things in one-of-a-kind shops. We think FLIGHT OF THE ANGELS is absolutely a way to help people discover that great opportunities to play are already all around them. Hopefully we point out a few new ones.

Playing the game itself will also be incredibly rewarding. DTLA has such a colorful and diverse history, and it has a future that now makes us more excited than ever to be a part of it. Science fiction used to be inspiring – we think we could tap that and inspire new play and new experiences through the narrative and visions the game projects over the world the players already live in. By 2050, layered experiences with the digital world overlaid on the physical one look to be more and more likely – this project represents an important opportunity for Los Angeles to take a step forward towards being a city of the future.

Whom will your project benefit?

Flight of the Angels benefits the people and business of DTLA and its surrounding neighborhoods, first and foremost. It’s a way we can give back to our neighborhood by inviting more people to experience its vibrant rebirth and see the potential for future growth and beautification.

It also benefits anyone who has ever lived in the city but wants to know more – or wants to share more. We’re very excited about having the ability to open up the content creation process to passionate knowledgeable Angelenos to see what they create and add to the repository of play experiences.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We’re partnering with two important collaborators on this project: Firstly, our good friends at Wise Guys Events are geniuses when it comes to creating live play experiences that bring people together for an unexpected good time. We’ve had the pleasure of exhibiting games next to them at a number of games festivals, and hold each other in high regard. Last fall they came up with a brilliant play experience set in DTLA and rooted in the history of the place – they were not able to secure funding, but we’re kindred spirits on wanting to do something cool about DTLA, and we’ve agreed to join forces if the project gets a green light.

Another confirmed collaborator – Nathan Masters is a writer specializing in Los Angeles history. He’s written for KCET, Gizmodo, Los Angeles magazine, and is manager of academic events and programming for the USC Libraries. We worked with Nathan on a previous pervasive media experiment and we’re excited he’s agreed to collaborate with us on this.

Three critical success factors: communication, participation, and balancing of interests. The game needs to be fun, we want it to be informative, and it should have the right mix. We’re pretty sure the three of us work well together – it’s all about balancing what we each bring to the table.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
  • Attendance at major league sporting events
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

As we mentioned before, we think the game has the potential to move the metrics by motivating discovery. Our experience in our neighborhood has been that the more people come out and start using a space, the better and safer the space and its surrounding area becomes. We think the game is a great way to make people aware of spaces and opportunities they may not have encountered – ironically by using a smartphone that so often distracts from these sorts of beauties. We look forward to those moments when players lift their eyes from the screen and see amazing things in their own physical world.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Because it’s an electronic game tracking locations and play patterns, we’ll be able to access some very specific metrics, including:

  • Unique visitors to specific locations
  • Frequency of returns to those locations
  • Heat maps of peak usage for specific locations As well as metrics from the creation side, like number of content authors, total number of locations tagged with metacontent, and popularity of specific authored adventures and tours.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

1) People Make a Neighborhood If you’re waiting for the police or lawmakers or sanitation to make a street perfectly clean and safe and habitable, it’s not going to work. It takes people living there who care about their neighborhood and who want to make a life there. We saw such a change in DTLA when people started returning to it as a neighborhood and not just a place where business and government appeared from 8-5 and then vanished. 2) Tell Good Stories We’re storytellers by profession, so we obviously place a premium on this, but we truly believe story is a powerful motivating force for discovery. We all want to know “What happens next” – and we see a lot of potential when “what happens next” is in part a question you ask when you look at the neighborhood around you.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

The core technology for the game already exists. What we’re looking to do is expand its features and populate it with new content. That’s extremely achievable and it builds on our core competencies and those of our partners.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

1) Technology We want this to be accessible – this shouldn’t be a toy for the rich who only have the latest and greatest gadgets. What we want to spend some time doing is finding a way to make the game playable on a wide variety of devices, including budget models. That’s difficult, but it’s a challenge we’re giving ourselves.

2) Participation The game works better if we have the help of the places and institutions of DTLA – we’re going to work hard to make them part of the game, and build it out as more of a community effort.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)