Bad News: A Game of Death and Communication

TitleBad News: A Game of Death and Communication
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsRyan, JOwen, Summerville, AJ, Samuel, B
Conference NameProceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Date PublishedMay
KeywordsEIS, deep simulation, games about death, live performance, mixed reality game, solemn games

Bad News is a game about death notification that combines deep simulation and live performance. After discovering a dead body, the player is tasked with tracking down a next of kin to inform him or her of the death. To do this, the player must discover the identities of both the deceased and next of kin, as well as the current location of the latter. Gameplay is underpinned by a rich simulation of a generic small town inhabited by several hundred non-player characters (NPCs) who build up subjective knowledge of one another as the simulation proceeds. The player interface is serviced by Wizard-of-Oz techniques, and the core gameplay interaction is embodied conversation with live-acted NPCs. Stationed out of sight from the player, a 'wizard' executes his or her commands (as they are spoken aloud) by live-coding modifications to the simulation. When the player encounters an NPC, an actor reveals himself to perform the character live. Crucially, the actor's improvisation is constrained to the underlying simulation—particularly the personality, life history, and knowledge of the character he is portraying—which is expressed to him via a discreet interface.

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