The Parasite was a week-long alternate reality game designed for the University of Chicago Class of 2021 during their Orientation Week.
My Role: Game Designer
Client: The University of Chicago
Project Duration: 9 months, 2017
Team: Laura Ashlock, Corrie Besse, Mollie Braley, Ben Carcerello, Dave Carlson, Derek Chan, Cass Cohen, Heidi Coleman, Christine Fleener, Arianna Gass, Hugh Graham, Julianne Grasso, Omie Hsu, Bill Hutchison, Patrick Jagoda, Rachael Koplin, Daniel Lipson, Jesse Martinez, Grace McLeod, Peter McDonald, Ben Nicholson, Liam Philiben, Jenny Pinson, Jordan Pruett, Samantha Rausch, Nathan R. Rohrer, Sarah Ann Saltiel, Kristen Schilt, Zoe Smith, Ashlyn Sparrow, Sandor Weisz, India Weston, Dav Yenkler
What is The Parasite?
The Parasite was an alternate reality game designed for the 1,750 incoming students of the University of Chicago's Class of 2021's Orientation Week. It was developed by Professors Patrick Jagoda, Kristen Schilt, and Heidi Coleman and a team of graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Chicago beginning in the fall of 2016.
The game was played in earnest over the course of Orientation Week, in which students interfaced with issues regarding the social and cultural climates of today's universities by participating in a narrative told through video, audio, social media and live-action performances. Players (known as "Seekers" in the game) interacted with the narrative of the game through various site-specific puzzles and experiences set throughout the university throughout the week, as well as through a variety of digital content, ranging from puzzles embedded in tweets to an online course run by a member of the secret society important to the game, given to them during the summer months before the campus portion of the game.
Once every 11 years, The Room materializes on the campus of the University of Chicago. It is a place that exists outside the bounds of our reality, yet adjacent to it (a para-site, if you will). Contained within are a set of 121 Objects, items from the present, past, and future whose familiar countenance belies their true power inside The Room. Charged with understanding these Objects and keeping the secret of the room is the secret society of P.S. However, before The Room's re-emergence in 2017, all of the Objects contained within The Room mysteriously disappeared and were scattered across the university's campus. It is up to the Seekers of the University of Chicago's Class of 2021 to gather up all 121 Objects and return them to The Room so that they might meet the enigmatic entity of Ｔｈｅ Ｐａｒａｓｉｔｅ.
I worked on The Parasite primarily as a Game Designer, but also assisted the project as an Audio Visual Designer and Actor.
As a Game Designer, I helped to design, iterate upon, and playtest the various puzzles present in the online and campus aspects of the game. I also performed as several members of the various sects of the secret society presented in the game, as well as a member of the enigmatic Reticulites (the red monks).
I was also responsible with assisting with the conception and creation of the hub site of the game (found here), in which players could find all the pertinent information necessary for progressing in the game in a format that was both organized and designed to match the aesthetic of the game.
In addition to this, I was tasked with organizing and executing the multitude of photo shoots, either staged or in the style of "found footage" photography, which were then used in the digital content produced both in the lead-up to the game and in the game proper. I also assisted with the construction of the several of the necessary assets required for site-specific elements of the game, such as an original intertitle template for a screening of the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.