Reality Ends Here brings gamification into cinematic production at USC School of Cinematic Arts
The education world has been learning how to apply gamification for academia and the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) is doing just that with SCA Reality. Known also as Reality Ends Here, the project is a collaborative production alternative reality game that takes place over 15 weeks at the SCA. Developed by Jeff Watson and two of his colleagues, this ARG encourages media experimentation, networking, and creativity among students from all SCA departments.
The success of Reality Ends Here can be largely attributed to the open ended game dynamics which grant students the freedom to explore and experiment. To begin, each player are given a deck of 10 trading cards with specific challenges found on each card. Beyond that, players are given creative autonomy in deciding how to complete the challenges. Thus, when players want to create richer narratives, they would collaborate with other players in creating larger card combinations. The lack of constraints in the game dynamics enhances a player’s gameplay experience while enabling them to form meaningful relationships with other players.
SCA Reality also reinforces the concept that a gamification system is more effective when it is carried out by a player’s own initiative instead of being forcing it upon them. The SCA faculty did not make the game mandatory for all students nor was it widely publicized it in school. Players voluntarily took their own initiative to discover and participate in the game. While there would be more players if it was made mandatory, the game would carry no meaning nor motivate those who were forced to play.
SCA reality has many other exemplary gamification components that others should take note and emulate. Nevertheless, the project highlights the importance of the role played by the designer. To ensure the effectiveness and longevity of a gamification system, a designer must consider what game mechanics should be implemented as well as understanding a player’s desired social engagement loop. Thus, Reality Ends Here is an ideal food for thought for gamification and game designers alike.