The Games of Nonchalance

Curator's Note

This video is a trailer for "The Games of Nonchalance," a four-part transmedia experience "woven into the fabric of San Francisco." Participation in "The Games of Nonchalance" begins with the discovery of one of the project's many "rabbit holes," some of which can be found online (such as at the mysterious Jejune Institute's website), and some of which are physically embedded in the Bay Area (such as posters pasted to telephone poles, performers appearing at live events, player-created get-togethers, low-power FM radio signals, and even "hobo coins" distributed in the local economy). Once a prospective player has tumbled into one of these rabbit holes, they quickly discover a rich story world that quite literally makes a theme park out of the city, layering story and interaction across living, breathing urban space-time. Readers who are interested in a more complete description of the experience can find one here, or can read my interview with the group's founder, Jeff Hull.

"The Games of Nonchalance" testifies to the notion of transmedia as a flexible praxis that can function across a wide range of techno-social contexts. Put differently, transmedia's true referent is not a constellation of convergent technologies, but rather a mindset put into practice. The platform for Nonchalance is the world in general, and the city of San Francisco in particular. Within these broad constraints, anything capable of carrying story and/or facilitating participation and performance is fair game. Narrative figures emerge through the aggregate effect of the creators' exploitation of the affordances of many different media forms, old and new. Immersion in this sense is a tangible reality -- that is, since elements of the story-world could appear in just about any context at any time, the player's experience is one of being surrounded. This contrasts sharply with more literal-minded "immersive technologies" that operate in tightly constrained (usually screen-based) contexts and appeal to a narrow slice of their players' sensoria.


Very interesting post. My first thought was that this is like a broad-scale enactment of something like The Crying of Lot 49. On a more serious note, I'm intrigued by your conception of this phenomenon as both narrative and game. The building of narrative here raises many of the same questions as the building of narratives in other interactive media such as MMO games in terms of authorship and agency.

At the same time, this project, along with many "augmented reality" games now being produced for mobile devices, provides a different experience than a game like World of Warcraft or EVE Online in that it is grounded in the real spaces of everyday life and provides a channel for re-imagining of those spaces. With its approach of using multiple media, the nonchalance project provokes a lot more engagement than a simple GPS based phone app could, however. I have not really given much thought before to games or projects like the one you are discussing here, but I find your post (and the linked interview) immensely intriguing and will be keeping an eye out in the future for more research in this area.

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