By Alicia Bolick and Marcus Richardson
Both of us are intrigued by immersive and interactive stories and are especially interested when the player or participant is so immersed that they begin to feel like a character in the story. “Blackmail Tour” is an interactive podcast experience; a situation that draws in our audience using nothing but audio. With a voice in their ear telling them what to do and where to go, we wanted to create a fun, yet tense, blackmailed hostage scenario that would take the participant around BYU campus. We quickly figured out that integrating geolocation technology into the podcast would help it feel more real, as it would only continue once they reached certain locations.
We watched and listened to several different media in preparation for our project. We watched an episode of “Numbers”, where the protagonist is being led through a city to complete arbitrary tasks by a criminal to resolve a hostage situation. This was part of our inspiration for our project. We opted to have our story be relatively casual, without difficult tasks, intense running, or significant time limits, though each of these aspects could add to the overall experience if we endeavored to create a longer, more dramatic audio experience. We also listened to various podcasts, including BBC Radio’s “POD PLAYS”, available on the itunes podcasts. Each pod play encourages the listener to begin listening in a different real-world location (bed, park, bathroom, etc.). Then the listener closes their eyes is transported to a new This informed our understanding of what was possible in the audio medium. They utilize panning and audio techniques to give the illusion of a physical space. The pod plays inspired us to implement some audio effects, for example panning the criminal’s voice to one ear to make it feel like an earpiece, panning the police officer to the other ear to make it seem as if he was speaking a from separate location, and adding glitch sound effects, EQ, and filters to have the voices sound like transmissions rather than voices from physically present people. However, our project was unique from these recordings in that we had the listener move to different physical locations.
This creative exercise was absolutely a learning experience. It gave us the opportunity to write a story told almost exclusively through dialogue. We also learned some of the unique aspects of gaming and geolocation. You have to plan for contingencies and diverse player actions. For example, we had to think about the various walking speeds of those who may experience our story.
There is a lot of potential for this kind of storytelling. If we were to do a project like this again, we would attempt to make it even more immersive, through audio techniques and through more options to move around and explore physical locations. In hindsight, the brief moments of interaction between the recording and the physical environments around the player made for the most compelling moments of our short auditory experience. Geolocation-audio could capitalize on the large podcast market, while captivating listeners in a bold new way.