For three days in January 2004, a Masterclass with Blast Theory (UK) was held at the well-equipped Technology School of the Future, Hindmarsh SA. Participants from across Australia spent their time discussing previous works of Blast Theory and their place within the gaming performance and art realms; learning the basics of various handheld technologies, their uses and restrictions; formulating game structures and rules using mapping, instructive clues or messages, visual indicators and performance.
The afternoon of day one was spent individually walking around the neighbourhood creating our own indicators, game rules and plans that lead us in different directions, whether it be following the colour red, cigarette butts on the ground or climbing fences with ‘no entry’ or security warnings on them.
We discussed the rewards of gameplay, the intricacies within the boundaries, decisions of whether to walk through someone’s private space or not. We spent the next two days collaboratively creating experiential game/performance/clue trail environments for everyone to devour.
For five South Australians, this was just the beginning of a very fruitful time. For seven weeks the team of Adelaidians, three members of Blast Theory and four members of Nottingham University’s Mixed Reality Lab mapped the GPS grid over the city, scoured the alley ways for potential game happenings, devised instructions and gameplans for Street Players, developed a 3D virtual model of Adelaide for Online Players to explore, and created one very special person named Frank.
As a born and bred resident of this town, I am plainly aware that I have walked down every single street within the city centre of Adelaide – perhaps too many times. Looking beyond the familiar trodden paths we were asked to begin to see our city in a different light, with a new narrative emanating from its cracks.
Adelaide was now to become the place where I last saw Frank; it was 4am, warm and the sky was still dark. There was a nightclub that wouldn’t let us in – Frank said he enjoyed the freedom of being turned away. He would request Joy Division songs of late night buskers. Frank said, “There is an escape route to every situation”, and to some of the public who experienced the game, perhaps he was right.
Frank became real and as he did, so did the experiences he had, which resulted in a believable gaming structure for willing players.
To physically play I Like Frank, members of the public entered a reception area where someone would politely ask them to hand over all of their possessions. They were then briefed on how to use the 3G Phones that they would need to play the game with. The phones had an interface of a map of the game area, and on it was the position of any current Online Players. If you got close to an Online Player (who was walking around in the virtual model of Adelaide) you could communicate with them. Online Players would give instructions to Street Players that they would then have to decipher. Street Players were tracked by a GPS grid and would receive messages about Frank according to where they were standing in the street. They had 40 minutes to find Frank somewhere in the city, and the clock was ticking….
Many of the street players claim to have found or at least seen Frank. Players felt followed, stalked, and that the whole of Adelaide was ‘in on it’. They would see someone picking up a paper off the bench or ducking into a doorway, wholeheartedly believing that they had found him and set off in chase. An unrelated organisation positioned themselves on the street and convinced a few players that signing up for their fundraising was part of the game.
I feel privileged to have been chosen to work on this project, to be able to have witnessed the depth of interactions encountered by Players and Performers, and to have had a part in creating the environment in which this happened.
Unanimously, we all like Blast Theory, MRL and Frank in Adelaide.
Annemarie Kohn is an artist predominantly working with video and live performance. She was the coordinator of the SALA Festival’s moving image program.
The Blast Theory Masterclass was co-ordinated by ANAT as part of Blast Theory’s 3-month Adelaide Thinkers in Residence program. Following the Masterclass 5 Adelaide practitioners worked with Blast Theory on the development of I Like Frank in Adelaide.
Participants in the Masterclass were elendil (SA), Karen Hughes (SA), Derek Rogers, Sumugan Sivanesan (NSW), Megan Heyward (NSW), Leon Cmielewski (NSW), Troy Innocent (Vic), Kirsten Bradley (Vic), James McCluskey (WA), Michelle Glaser (WA), Debra Polson (Qld) plus the five South Australian attachments Bianca Barling (SA), Brian Degger (SA), Annemarie Kohn (SA), Aaron Stafford (SA) and Justin McGuiness (SA).
The Masterclass and attachment scheme were generously supported by Arts SA, Australia Council, Australian Film Commission and the SA Film Corporation.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia.