All The World’s A Stage: Applying Live Action Roleplaying Design Principals to Augmented Reality Games

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At 10:15am on 4/19/2017, I attended All The World’s A Stage: Applying Live Action Roleplaying Design Principals to Augmented Reality Games, presented by Heather Albano, at the 2017 East Coast Gaming conference in Raleigh, NC

Augmented Reality Business Card

All The World’s A Stage: Applying Live Action Roleplaying (Larp) Design Principals to Augmented Reality Games

She does most work as a freelance writer for choice of games in text-based choose your own adventrure game, only better. She had a great history with LARP in college and from then on its been a game design paradise.

Live Action Roleplaying

LARP is an enactment experience where players enact characters in an alternate setting. Rotating GMs help to keep the story rolling, and while each event is a story in itself, all games follow along in the same vein. Heather has run 5 interlinked LARP games, and then branched out to several other gaming sessions.

Within the 20 years she came to one conclusion: LARPS are the most frustrating medium ever. Rather than being constrained by the system and rules, LARPs are often stopped by conflicts, personality conflicts, venue closings, sickness, lack of bathrooms, etc.

So why would anyone tell stories this way? Larping gives people a more deeply experienced event than something which is merely imaginative or shown to the viewer.
They experience BLEED- the border between player and character become more transparent, and they seem to identify with both at the same time.

Game immersion types:

  • Tactical: feeling in the zone, sensory-motor
  • Strategic: Mental challenge
  • Narrative
    • Emotional- investment in the story
    • Spatial- being in the story

In gaming, you need to make the player overcome the illusion and actually believe it. Actually living the adventure makes it real. LARPs have been the quickest way to achieve this in the past, but with AR, things are different now.

Augmented reality

AR is anything technological or otherwise which adds a layer of anything over the reality of the world. GPS or GEOCACHING can all be parts of Augmented reality. While virtual reality creates a totally artificial environment, Augmented reality is the overlay of anything within reality. Many VR and AR groups used to be a single group, but they’ve split off into their own groups.

Mixed Reality seems to be a subset of Augmented Reality. It is discussed as an augmented experience in which items can be treated like real ones. So how can we combine these items together?

Combining in 5 steps

  1. Work with the environment
  2. Work with the tech
  3. Use kinesthetic gameplay
  4. Give NPC roles that play to their strengths
  5. Learn to let go

Work with the environment

Don’t use a forest to be an office. Find an actual office. if you have a spooky house, use an actual house.

When you have to work with the imagination, people suspend their disbelief all the time. Consider the AR Application: Coderunner. You take to the street with real GPS, go to actual locations. Uses Foursquare and other materials to adjust your materials to be like your location.

Work with the tech

Don’t work against the technology. In a LARP it is easy to simulate some things, and difficult to simulate others- like flight. Rules to simulate this are unnatural and hugely unfair. Similarly, AR has problems.

GPS might work in some spaces, but not others. YOu can guarantee a bank, but not a door. A specific thing (qr code or illustration) can be done. General objects (scan a vase, place a chest at a “tree”) will not work well. SOme items will not work well in bright light. While you’re waiting for tech to catch up, work with it. Consider ghost stories.

Use kinesthetic gameplay

Also called full-body gameplay. It is easier to understand in devices. To run from monster, run. To swing sword, swing the device. To simulate doing the thing, do the thing. Extract the gameplay. Rather than tokens for a missing clock, consider a jigsaw or plastic gear to as pieces to create the item. How do you know how to get to the place? Surprise: Go to the place. Kinesthetic really covers the brain as well as the body.

Give NPC roles that play to their strengths

Don’t give your friends roles they cannot do. while its easy to keep your friends close, it may not be prudent. Don’t cast leaders who don’t like to speak in public. Don’t cast wizard roles with someone who doesn’t know about the spells. Cast people who know what to do. Make it easy to keep people on track.

In AR, its easy at rules, not easy with improv. While getting better, its not close to human level. This seems like a variant of rule #2. Rather than trying to stop a player from conversing with a character, make them not WANT to discuss it. You’ll need to build in a way for this to stop or by giving penalties for missing. Just act normal.

learn to let go

VR is very philosophical. Augmented builds on things which are already there. Heather is a narrative designer. If you’re following the guidance, you’ll have a great time. If you don’t you’ll end up elsewhere and off-point. In VR, its all illusion. In AR, you are part of the story without being Captain Kirk. You’re not in control, so go ahead and embrace that.

Rather than railroad them and force them into your own plot, let them experience the fun they want. Ambiguity is part of the immersion. Let them connect the dots. The human brain is good at that.


Speaker was knowledgeable, but read off of her notes for most of the this. It was a bit difficult to hear, and most of the info was already on the screen. Would’ve liked to see more personality in there, but it was a good talk.