One of the things that I've felt it would be cool to do would be a Metropolitan Area-Scale combination of LARP and ARG elements. I've argued there is a fine-line between the two before, but I'll summarize things a bit here. Both game types build synthetic worlds on top of real world topography. LARP does this through game rules similar to those of a paper role-playing game (like Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering), albeit with a focus on real time actions and props. The most common LARPs are the Vampire LARPs scattered around the country and fantasy tales held in forests and parks away from major civilization. ARG does this through interactions within communications media such as websites, phones, emails, et al.

By focusing on one Metropolitan Area you get more opportunities to interweave the two related types of game styles. (Some ARGs have attempted to do this on a national scale, by scheduling events in multiple locations simultaneously, but its much harder to organize.) The trade-off then is in the number of potential players that you can claim "out of the box" would play the game, should you try to pitch it for capital. Right now both game types are seen as niche gaming markets. Interestingly enough this means that for the most part they aren't very commercialized, and no one is really making money off of them. (Obviously, I see this as a fun place to try to commercialize, be the first to market, or at least first to market well, and attempt to cash in...) For LARPs, the largest organization, the major Rules organization, is NERO, which is basically a "Player's Guild"; not that they don't seem to make money, but most of the money appears to go right back into the craft, and most of the craft is influenced directly by the players. For ARGs, the commercial attempts have all thus far been unsuccessful commercially. The most well known attempt was Majestic, a spy game that charged a monthly fee to help you become much more paranoid. (The odd thing here is that several of the most interesting and successful ARGs were paid for by major companies, but not done as profit-making vehicles; instead they were interesting ways to funnel large amounts of money through Marketing budgets.) Most of the current ARGs are for-players, by-players organizations that are often formed from teams that played through previous ARGs together and decided to make their own.

Part of the reason here is that a for-players, by-players cooperative is easier to bootstrap than a corporate attempt because you have to convince either some existing company or some venture capitalist that you can make some sort of useful profit. For a Metro-Area ARG/LARP you have some advantages as a cooperative. I think that GLI (Greater Louisville, Inc.; the Chamber of Commerce) is hip enough to see the fun and the use in supporting a public "game team". I really want to involve the local companies in such an endeavour. You really can't deal with the local topography without dealing with the local companies. Plus, I just think it would be really cool to have someone like Humana or Yum! be at the center of some villainous in-game conspiracy. (Think of the marketing pitch here: We want you guys to pretend to be bad guys. Imagine all of the people that might be saying your company name, visiting your company website, and thinking about your company as they try to solve some big conspiracy mystery!) Plus, Louisville is extremely supportive of its arts (one of the few major cities left with all the major ones: Orchestra, Opera, Ballet, Theatre, Public Radio) and I think that if people were introduced to "games as civic art" it could take off; the synthetic world entertainment equivalent of public radio.

So, I came up with the name "Louisville Augmented Reality Cooperative". The cool part of this is the acronym LARC, which both isophones with "lark" and follows the Louisville *ARC civic utility naming scheme (TARC, PARC, TRIMARC), albeit with a different ARC meaning (in the other three it stands for "Authority of the River City").

Maybe I'll follow this up with some plot ideas in a future post...