If I measure the success of the analog mission in terms of meeting my expectations, then it was a failure. A right-royal failure. But, this is the life of a games designer. You have to learn to live with your mistakes. You have to learn to dance in the rain. You need to harden up. I’m talking about being a games designer in the context of education. I’m not professing to be any kind of expert. I’m a newbie, but already I’m learning a few things, and that was the purpose of the analog mission.
So, what is an analog mission? I have stolen the term from NASA. Because you want to learn from your mistakes before you go into space, rather than while in space, NASA runs complex missions underwater and in the desert. These analog missions are designed to test people and equipment in harsh conditions akin to the extremes of heat, cold, and isolation that will be experienced on real missions in space.
My analog mission was a puzzle game that used digital technology for communications, but not to define or enhance the game. I chose Twitter as the communications channel, but the game itself was old school and real world. A wooden puzzle called the Locked Cross was disassembled, and each piece was packed into a luscious and mysterious blue purse with a gold cord for hanging it around a players neck. Then the purses were hidden around the venue which served as the game environment. A player who had followed the clues via a Twitter hashtag would know another player by their unusual and similar attire. The queen (the senior female present) held the key (a clue to be found in Robert Bly’s title Iron John mysteriously left lying around for players to find). This game was designed to test the concept for a fully blown augmented and alternate reality game called Fragmented, where the wooden puzzle pieces will be replaced with fragments of a narrative embedded (electronically) in a real-world learning environment. Up to now, everything was going to plan.
Then a bombshell dropped — no-one was tweeting.