Zombie Apocalypse

An amockalyptic ARG trilogy where participants attempt to simultaneously survive zombies and dehydration #postworldproblems

The context

The Zombie Climate Apocalypse was a program developed to engage participants and give them a new sense of ownership over library spaces. The program progressed across three annual ‘outbreaks’, evolving in scale and sophistication with each delivery.

The nuts and bolts

As a part of the 2011 Fringe Ideas Festival, The Edge developed Future Cities: Zombie Climate Apocalypse (ZCA); a live action gaming prototype confronting six players with the challenge of surviving in a climate ravaged, apocalyptic world.

Over a 28 hour period the action was contained to The Edge building and immediate surrounds, with players camping onsite. They were presented with scenarios and problems that they had to address. Including puzzle based game play with educational outcomes related to climate science, water filtration, basic electronics and resource management, in addition to scenarios with soft skill development outcomes including conflict resolution, negotiation and team building.

The prototype Future Cities: Zombie Climate Apocalypse (ZCA), now referred to as The First Outbreak, was well received by the general public and players. It was produced on small budget, received a moderate amount of media attention and warranted further development.

As part of the Gaming programming period (September through November 2011) at The Edge, a workshop program was developed, incorporating the design and production of alternate reality games (ARGs) with our Gaming Catalyst Deb Polson. Building on the community engaged as a part of the ARG program, Zombie Climate Apocalypse was revisited with The Second Outbreak.

Moving away from the internal, closed design model, The Edge entered into a collaborative process with industry professionals and young people drawn from across Brisbane to redevelop the Zombie Climate Apocalypse. Over ten weeks this team redeveloped the concept, refining the existing model and broadening the scope of its delivery.

Delivered in mid-December 2011, The Second Outbreak had 15 players and over 60 volunteer zombies and faux military personnel taking over The Edge and State Library for a 36 hour period. Building on the educational and social outcomes of the First Outbreak prototype, The Second Outbreak further incorporated science outcomes into the mix and a richer game framework into the experience. It also focused on some of the storyboarding elements that were involved in the ARG programming period.

Following the Second Outbreak, The Edge undertook an evaluation process to lay foundations for the third and final instalment of The Zombie Apocalypse.

Focusing the event saw 16 players and 80 zombies playing in The Edge for 16 hours. Players found themselves tasked with collecting a range of clues, to hack into a corporation’s facility and steal valuable information and as a result, release ‘infected’ specimens and contaminate the facility.

An addition to this Outbreak was the inclusion of workshops leading up to, and during the event. Various workshops were given on makeup techniques, showing prospective zombies how to look the part, and NERF gun modifications, so participants could get more bang for foam bullet.

The outcomes

The event was a popular feature on The Edge’s calendar, with participation and interest growing each year. The program proved an effective framework for engaging young participants in immersive learning experiences, with varying levels of commitment (the full 28 hours of game or a two hour workshop in the lead up to the event).

The learnings

  • It’s entirely possible (and impossibly good fun) to turn your building over to a group of young people and let their imaginations run wild
  • Always brief security before unleashing a horde of zombies across the cultural precinct
  • Thou shall hereby be assumed as responsible for each and every zombie outbreak in the cultural precinct (even when you are not)
  • It’s important to know when to stop, so keep an eye on competitors and other offerings in the market

The legacy

  • Intrepid ABC reporter is potential scarred for life after going undercover in the third outbreak
  • If you look closely enough there is still fake blood spattered on walls and some furniture.
  • Realistic severed hands also pop up in storage containers every now and then (quite a shock for staff new to the team…)

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