The General Project
The General is an experimental story designed for my undergraduate senior capstone experience. It was devised out of research into interactivity, engagement, and augmented reality gaming. Volunteering participants were introduced to a linear, interactive story. This story features the character of The General. The General acts as the liaison between the “players” and the story. Throughout the project, players were given tasks to complete in order to advance. There was both a briefing and debriefing before and after the five day project to provide story content and prepare the players in accordance with research test subject protocol.
The story of The General project begins with a call to action. Participants are told they have been selected as temporary recruits for a secret branch of the US Air Force called X-Air Force. They have been selected for a special mission in order to catch a man who has stolen secret technology. If the man, called Carlos, gets away with the technology, he will sell it to the highest bidder. Such an event could prove catastrophic for the world. However, he is also smart and familiar with the ways X-Air Force operates. To counter this, students of Muskingum University have been selected for the mission. They are perfect for remaining under cover without arousing suspicion.
As the week progresses, the tasks take the player along the path of discovering more about Carlos, the General, what the technology is, and devising a plan to bring Carlos down. This is done using special technology downloaded into the phones of the participants.
Below is a playlist of all of the videos used in the project.
Interactive Process and Conclusion
The players were required to have smartphones so they could download QR scanning apps. QR codes, which linked to relevant YouTube videos, were used to act as communication with the General. Each day, missions were given to the players via email in the mornings. Throughout the day they would have to seek out clues which would eventually lead them through a series of QR codes. Upon completion of the day’s story events the players took a brief quiz designed to test engagement. At the end of the week, players had a debriefing time where they were tested on their knowledge of the storyline.
Though the week was completed successfully, the numbers of participation were quite low. There are many potential causes for this. My choices for participants were fellow students and it was nearing the end of the spring semester. Additionally, fewer students at the time had adopted smart phones. Lastly, students simply were not interested. The story was apparently not presented in a way that gave the experience intrinsic value in its advertising. There was no ultimate reward for completing the experience so there was also no extrinsic value. With such a limited amount of participants the project yielded no statistically significant data.
For my part, I enjoyed the process of creating an augmented reality experience and forming the character of the General. I must thank my actor Ben Pasley for playing the role. I’m not sure if QR code technology is the best option for further experimentation. Using features such as geolocation might prove to be better options for future projects.Read the full document of my research project.