Pervasive Playing Epcot with Kim Possible

Curator's Note

Pervasive games expand space by transforming existing “ordinary” places through playful interaction. However, the pervasive game “Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure” at Epcot in Walt Disney World introduces a situation where “ordinary” and “pubilc” are redefined within the extraordinary private world of the theme park prepared for what Montola, Stenros, and Waern term “spatial expansion.”

Starting in January of 2009, Walt Disney World began running an interactive treasure hunt game at Epcot. Based on the popular cartoon series about a high school secret agent, the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure used custom LG cell phones called “Kimmunicators” that sent parkgoers on missions at Epcot’s different country pavilions. Until recently, theme parks have not easily supported games because rides and attractions are distinct, structured experiences. Using a narrative delivered on the phone that was triggered by GPS, the World Showcase Adventure pervasive game interpreted theme park space in a new way.

Epcot—one of Walt Disney World’s four parks—is divided into two sections: Future World, where most of the major attractions are located, and World Showcase, which is comprised mostly of dining, shopping, and short films about the countries each pavilion represents. When the luster of the simulated tourism wore off and Disney was unwilling to fund new attractions or refurbishments, World Showcase became what some deemed a glorified food court. It also had a reputation for being unappealing to kids, who found dry travel documentaries boring. Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure appropriated this space by layering a familiar cartoon character, information technology infrastructure, and physical interactive installations on top of the untraversed corners of World Showcase

Parkgoers who wanted to play signed up at a “recruiting station” and recieved a ticket to visit a particular country at a specific time where they would recieve their Kimm-unicators and begin their treasure hunt. For example, players had to complete five tasks in the U.K. pavilion in order to defeat the criminal mastermind Duff Killigan. Using the locative features of the phone, players used instructions provided by fully animated and voiced videos on the screen to find interactive displays that revealed clues in a chase that moved them from location to location. These stops were typically found off the beaten path, making use of otherwise-ignored attraction spaces. Players would also need to talk to the “cast members” (what Disney calls their employees) who work in the souvenir shops and pavilions to get additional information, incorporating the perhaps most ordinary part of the theme park into the game.

Kim Possible’s high-tech scavenger hunt was eventually rebranded with the Phineas & Ferb cartoon character Agent P—the alter ego of the title characters’ lethargic turquoise pet platypus Perry. The game, which continues to run today can now be played the parkgoer’s own smartphone using the new Play Disney Parks iOS/Android app. Now that players can use their own phones, though, the transformative qualities of the LG flip phone as a new boundary object in the liminal space of play have been supplanted by the everyday convenience of devices parkgoers already have in their pockets. The end result—the Agent P treasure hunt—is the same but the change to the invitation to play alters the elaborate ritual of the original iteration.  

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