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A Labyrinth, a pandemic game, 2020



“A Labyrinth” was an alternate reality game developed at the University of Chicago during the COVID-19 pandemic. The game was created to spur creativity and build community online under the unprecedented and emergent conditions of the pandemic.

On April 6, 2020, “A Labyrinth” began with an opening puzzle that unlocked the game and attracted approximately 3,500 players. A week later, on April 13, the Fourcasters welcomed 73 core teams to compete by completing 140 unique quests. Alongside the competitive aspect, the game had a parallel collaborative dimension. Via the Twitch live streaming platform, players were invited to explore the alternative space-time known as Labyrinth. Once a week, via a live and collectively adjudicated interactive narrative format (a video-based “Choose Your Own Adventure” style narrative), players helped the Taur locate key hubs and hidden objects as they tried to make it back to the center of Labyrinth. They succeeded in this objective and saw the Labyrinth transform in an unprecedented way. On May 13, the game concluded with approximately 1,000 quests being submitted by participating teams.

Game Directors: Patrick Jagoda and Heidi Coleman

Interface and Game Mistress: Ashlyn Sparrow

Interactive Video Design: Marc Downie

Quest Designers: Heidi Coleman, Patrick Jagoda, Kristen Schilt, and Ashlyn Sparrow

Narrative: Heidi Coleman and Patrick Jagoda

Puzzle Designer: Sandor Weisz

Composer: Jeffrey Levin

Twitch Multilinear Script: Patrick Jagoda

Documentary Directors: Agustin Donoso and Ben Kolak

Twitch Video Production: Marc Downie and Ben Kolak

Lead Actors: Heidi Coleman (Taur), Ben Kolak (Final Labyrinth Guardian), Daisy Coleman, Sean Henry, Patrick Jagoda (Fates), Daisy Coleman and Marc Downie (Labyrinth Guardians), Daisy Coleman (Labyrinth Juggler), John Boyer (John Boyer)

Labyrinth Dwellers: Charles Ablemann, John Boyer, Agnes Callard, Heidi Coleman, Marc Downie, John “Jay” Ellison, James Evans, Heinrich Jaeger, Patrick Jagoda, Julie Marie Lemon, Deborah Nelson, Jason Riggle, Suzanne Riggle, Steven Rings, Lawrence Rothfield, Alicia Sparrow, Ashlyn Sparrow, James Sparrow, Kristen Schilt, Christopher Wild

Faculty Video Quests: Lauren Berlant, John Boyer, Agnes Callard, Jim Chandler, Meredith Daw, Melissa Gilliam, Jennifer Green, Deborah Nelson, Charlie Newell, Julie Orlemanski, Susanne Paulus, Larry Rothfield, Christopher Wild

Student Interns: Efraim Dahl, Sami Elahi, Ashby deButts, Jersey Fonseca, Peter Forberg, Kellie Lu, Briana Mendoza, Sam Schwartz, Alvin Shi, Camrick Solorio

Participating Courses: “Games-Based Improvisation in Alternate Reality Games” (Heidi Coleman) and “New Media at a Distance” (Marc Downie)

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