After Hours

Can a Web-based game alter your reality?

It seems like there's quite a bit of gaming hoopla circulating in the news lately, and some of it isn't portrayed in a very positive light. The News.com story that captured my attention this morning discusses a new Web-based game that's actually making its way out of the computer: "Collaborative gaming takes to the streets."  

According to this story, "The new Web-based game, also known as SF0, asks its players to take on and complete a wide variety of often-absurd or even borderline-illegal tasks in and around San Francisco. It's appealing to a small but growing number of people interested in the way real-world communities can take on the collaborative characteristics of Internet wikis."

"Certainly, SF0 bears some resemblance to ARGs [alternate-reality games], mixed-media games like 2005's 'Last Call Poker' that require competitors to play both online and in the real world, to work in groups to solve clues and to do so in the pursuit of a broad narrative story line." However, with SFO, the game's tasks are created by the players rather than the game organizers.

What type of illegal activities are these players being challenged to complete? "[Aaron Muszalski, a self-styled SF0 'evangelist'] pointed to the highest-value task the game offers: planting a flag on top of San Francisco's Sutro Tower, the city's tallest structure and one that's located behind well-secured fences. It's a fairly unrealistic and certainly illegal goal, but nonetheless a humorous rallying cry for game participants."

Part of me is rather intrigued with this reality-style Web-based game, but the other part of me (the mother) worries that this type of activity encourages people to push the limits and disrespect the law. I think it would be fun (in a sneaky, scandalous kind of way) to complete a silly mission that is potentially illegal, but I definitely would not want my son to be involved in this game and risk the possibility of being arrested or receiving a fine. Join the discussion: Do you think these fun and games are going too far?

About Sonja Thompson

Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.

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