“Where is Frank?” cries Adelaide

A ‘world first’ 3G mixed-reality game being played in the streets of Adelaide and online has left some players in tears, according to organisers.

The game, called I Like Frank in Adelaide, runs daily as part of this year's Adelaide Fringe Festival, and has united crow-eaters with people across the world in the search for the mysterious Frank.

Created by UK multimedia performance group Blast Theory, the game is about technology and isolation, said Blast Theory's Matt Adams.

"Frank is an idea. You never meet him in person. The idea of looking for him is [our theme] that technology creates a sense of loss," he said.

Street players begin by buying a $5 ticket at the University of Adelaide. They are loaned a 3G phone to talk to and message other players, but must hand over all their possessions to game staff, such as wallet, mobile phone, and watch.

Game staff photograph the player and upload the image to www.ilikefrank.com, for online players to see.

The street player then has 40 minutes to scour the 1km2 playing area of Adelaide's CBD to find Frank.

"We've had a few people in tears in the course of the game," said Adams.

"It's a very challenging environment. You're out there on your own with no money, no watch..."

The 3G phone shows the CBD as a virtual model, which the designers, who've spent the last few months in Adelaide, built from scratch. Player indicators show each player's movements. The same view is shown to online players on the Web site.

The game permits up to 10 players on the street and up to 20 online, and encourages both groups to share clues and work together simultaneously.

To find Frank, both sets of players must search for postcards (visual clues), hidden throughout the playing area, said Adams. Actors on the street also offer clues.

Online players, however, must get their postal address on one of the hidden postcards in order to progress to the next stage of the game. This can only be done with the help of a street player, said Adams.

Both player groups can message each other by clicking on-screen names. Until recently, street players could also reply by phone, with the voice message transmitted via the Web site. However, user difficulties switching between call mode and the game forced organisers to remove the call capability.

Street players' games end with a video call from an actor, said Adams. Some have even been lucky enough to receive the call that they've found Frank, said Adams. Should this occur, others players' games still continue, as they must find Frank themselves.

The game took 18 months to develop. Blast Theory has no immediate plans to stage another game in the city because the group's next games will be for Europe.

I Like Frank in Adelaide runs until Friday.

Screenshot

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Steven Deare

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