Active Fiction Adventure 1: Underground

Concept, Game Design & Written by: Robert L. Kline Jr.  

Paintings & Illustrations by: Dru Woodard  

Image titleSteam Hat's Active Fiction Adventure art game exhibit was originally created for the IngenuityFest 2012, Cleveland's huge Festival of Art & Technology. With an estimated crowd of over 45,000 during the entire weekend, it was a very busy but GREAT TIME! There were hundreds (possibly thousands) of people viewing and playing the game during our time at the festival.

We were thrilled to see the excitement on people's faces when they realized that the exhibit was an actual fully functional adventure game. It was amazing watching how many people literally spent a good 1 to 2 hours playing through the entirety of the game. Some of the best moments were when the crowds around the game were so large it was hard to move. The groups of strangers would actually come together and help each other find their way through the adventure, turning it into a very REAL and ACTIVE social gaming experience.

Use the links in the Picture Galleries menu to view the exhibit and the players.

To download a free PDF version of the game, go to the Download Game page.

Actual Quotes from Players

Pictures of the crowd   

“ My wife and I had a blast circling the display, using our phones as flashlights to read the cards. ”
Winner of the Crack The Code competition we ran during IngenuityFest 2012.

“ Man, I LOVED Zork and those adventure games when I was young. You guys really nailed it. I totally had flashbacks playing this. You guys did the genre proud. ”
One player said this then shook my hand vigorously while smiling and thanking us over and over.

“ I haven't had this much fun in a LONG time! GREAT JOB! ”
A player told me this while I was high-fiving him because he finally won the game after about an hour and a half.

“ OH NO!!! I died AGAIN! This is the FIFTH time! ”
One persistent young man talked to me while he was playing the game. He would excitedly tell me how he died each time but kept at it with a smile until he finally won. Then we high-fived and I asked him what he liked and hated about the game. He seemed thrilled to be able to give me his opinion. After all, the players are just as (if not more) important as the creators of the game.

“ What is this thing? Wait... check it out. It's a game. Oh my GOD! It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure game. COOL! Oh how COOL! HA HA HA! COOL!”
A young lady was screaming this while jumping up and down and clapping her hands. She and her friends weaved around the crowd for well over an hour playing it and laughing.

“ This is ****ing AWESOME! ”
This player ran up to us while we were about ready to take down the game. We had to stop to let him play it.

How the Game Works?

I wanted to create a fully functional adventure game out of found objects and artwork based on the Interactive Fiction games that were popular in the late 1970's and early to mid 1980's. The challenge was to make a game with the feel of that era without using a computer. The exhibit must be both fun to look at AND to play.

To do this, I opted to use 3 easles packed with corkboards, frames, canvases and items which hold cards that have the text and graphics of the story printed on them. Each card has a Card Number in the upper left. In the bottom right, the user has a variety of choices that point them to the next cards in the storypath they choose. The card numbers were randomized and reorganized, causing the user to look around on all sides of the exhibit, trying to track down the next part of their adventure.

The next step was to actually write out the story plots. A majority of the situations were created based off of Cleveland, the history of the IngenuityFest and all my favorite memories of those types of games. Dru then created paintings and sketches based off the situations written on the cards.

The game consists of:

The physical exhibit consists of:

The layout of the exhibit can be viewed by clicking the link below.
» Active Fiction Adventure layout (pdf)

In The Beginning

Image titleFor the exhibit, I decided that I really wanted to focus on my own passion of “Games as Art”. It is my deepest belief that computer and video games should not be seen as just mindless entertainment. Computer games stimulate your brain. They teach you. They push you to get to that next level. They suck you in. They have the ability to make you feel and care about both the characters and the outcomes. After all, YOU are the main character. They give you the ability to live within other worlds limited only to the imagination of the creators.

From the simplest text games created by a single coder to the most elaborate Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) created by huge teams. Games force you to act, react, and interact. They cause you to want to be better.

Computer games bring together so many different layers of disciplines into one product: game designers, coders, illustrators, musicians and writers.

I wanted to create a piece that works at different levels:

  1. ART: Trying to capture the feel of the old text adventure games of the 1980's but create it without a computer.
  2. EDUCATIONAL: Have content within it that will teach the viewers about the text adventure games and that time period in gaming history.
  3. GAME: An interactive piece, where people can actually PLAY the exhibit.
  4. REWARD: The rush of possible rewards, which would include contests and prizes based on games in the exhibit.
  5. RELAX: I also wanted an area for people to relax. It can be crazy and tiresome walking around a huge festival. I needed a section that will contain tables, chairs and comfy portable chairs. A place where people could sit back for awhile and where kids could play while their parents tried figuring out the games in the exhibit. A place where people could stay awhile and take it in.