In the summers of 2006 and 2007 I had the opportunity to intern with area/code, an incredibly unique game design shop that explored the intersection of digital games and the real world through a wide range of projects. During my time, I was privileged to work alongside Frank Lantz, Kevin Slavin, Kati London, Kevin Cancienne, Mark Heggen, Dennis Crowley and Chris Paretti on a handful of really inspiring projects.
While working with area/code in New York City, I contributed to the design of the ARG Primacy (built for the CBS show NUMB3RS), and its casual game offshoot, Chain Factor. The flash game was intended to combine the simple arithmetic joys of Sudoku with casual blockbusters like Bejeweled. area/code later took this same design to the iPhone with Drop7, which has been critically acclaimed as one of the best titles available for the platform.
As part of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, area/code developed a real-time exploration game that used real-world data. Sharkrunners allowed players to crew virtual research vessels to observe and research actual sharks being tracked in the ocean. Cell phone alerts would inform players when their virtual ships were close to the sharks, prompting them to log online and engage in observation missions. I contributed to the project by writing a great deal of the creative copy that appears in-game, as well as playtesting. I even appear in the game as disposable crew member Jon!
The Sopranos A&E Connection
area/code had a fascination with how real-world events could engage and interact with digital systems. Several of their projects focused on live television, but the earliest was The Sopranos Connection game, made to promote the syndication of The Sopranos on A&E. Ads for the show’s debut on A&E could be photographed with cameraphones to collect game pieces, which could be arranged on a grid. During each episode, characters who appear will cause pieces you’ve collected to light up and earn points, with bonus points going to adjacent pieces appearing onscreen at the same time. I spent most of my time on this project photoshopping all the board elements, but I was grateful to just be in the room for most of the game’s design discussions.