Previews// Alt-Minds

Posted 17 Sep 2012 17:53 by
Lexis Numerique's Djamil Kemal
Lexis Numerique's Djamil Kemal
We all play computer games for a bit of escapism. It?s good to immerse yourself in someone else?s world for a short period of time. But what if the lines between reality and fiction were blurred? What if you were at the centre of a story that was being played around you, in real life?

Such ?transmedia? experiences are nothing new, but French studio Lexis Numerique wants to go further than anyone else has gone before. Using the power of social media, mobile applications and real-world events, the company is planning an eight-week drama titled Alt-Minds, in which the players assume the form of... themselves.

Crazy, huh? Here?s the skinny - five scientists, working for a mysterious foundation, have gone missing, presumably abducted. Worried about the kind of top-secret information these valuable employees may leak to the world, the foundation hires a group of field investigators to help get them back. You are an innocent bystander, keeping tabs of the progress made by these investigators and helping them out whenever you can.

The vision of Alt-Minds is mostly realised through official apps and websites, made available on PC, Mac, iOS, Android and even PlayStation Vita. The iOS app, in particular, acts as a simple ?news feed? which rolls off messages from the field investigators in real time, and from time to time will stage Augmented Reality missions.

Some of these messages are innocuous - minor comments thrown in to add some colour to the mystery. Others will provide clues to help you progress through the game. Every now and then, you?ll be given image and video evidence that you will need to analyse in order to get ahead of other Alt-Minds players.

Missions will require plenty of lateral thinking. I?m given an example where the investigators are trying to track a suspect - former military - and you need to find out his nationality using evidence discovered in a hidden factory. It turns out that, on closer inspection, the evidence conflicts with one another, leading you to turn to Google in order to find more answers.

Google? Yep, it turns out that Lexis Numerique has partnered with a number of social networking sites and search engines to help make its AR game feel that much more realistic. For a start, the studio is working with mobile company Orange to facilitate image and video for Alt-Minds, while fake websites related to the game rank high on Google when entering the right search term.

Another landmark partnership the company has made is with Facebook, the outfit notorious for keeping its APIs under lock and key. In fact, Lexis Numerique tells me that it is one of only six projects that has total access to the social network?s engineers and technology. It allows the studio to create accounts for Alt-Minds? actors - characters who will be integral to the game?s solution, but innocently blend in with the millions of real accounts already on the service.

The missions and subject matter will likely touch a nerve for those who are a bit apprehensive of the blurring lines between fiction and reality. Alt-Minds will at times ask you to go out to real-world locations and look for various clues, almost like a hi-tech treasure hunt, with themes touching on extreme science and the philosophies behind pushing the limits of humanity too far. While the studio admits that it might get a bit too creepy for some, rest assured you won?t get any real-life actors interacting with you in a legally questionable manner!

But, with the video game industry currently in a state of transition towards more social, interactive and mobile experiences, perhaps it?s not so extraordinary to consider that transmedia games such as Alt-Minds could be a part of our gaming future too. If done right, of course.

Should this sort of thing be right up your alley, you?ll be able to take part in Alt-Minds when it launches in November. It?s a subscription-based affair - the first month of interactivity using the iOS app is free, but then a small fee per week is required for continued play - but Lexis Numerique said there are some nice prizes and rewards for those who stick with it to the end.

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