Meet Jim Munroe: Developer of The Library's First Alternate Reality Game

March 14, 2013 | Ab. Velasco

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To celebrate this year's Keep Toronto Reading One Book selection, "Fahrenheit 451," the library is launching KTR 451, our first alternate reality game (ARG).

Players are invited to join the Literary Resistance by completing a series of missions. By helping complete these missions, players will help prevent the dystopian future prophesized in Bradbury's novel.

The game was developed by award-winning, Toronto-based video game developer Jim Munroe. A former video games columnist for Eye Weekly, Munroe is a founding board member of the Hand Eye Society and has produced projects such as the Torontron. He is also a science fiction writer, who publishes his works independently under the imprint of No Media Kings.

Jim-headshotWe chatted with Jim and asked him to help explain what an alternate reality game is and why he thinks "Fahrenheit 451" is perfect for an ARG adaptation. 

For those unfamiliar with alternate reality games, can you briefly explain how they work?

Sure. Also called pervasive or transmedia games, they are an experience that spans different kinds of media and often involves real world actions.

For instance, you might be told via an email to meet your fellow players at Union Station or to watch a video that has clues as to how to solve a mystery. 

What makes "Fahrenheit 451" a good source for an alternate reality game?

Science fiction often asks us to question basic assumptions about reality in "what-if" scenarios. 451, in particular, presents a nightmare future where art's thought-provoking qualities have been stripped away and only the thought-numbing parts are allowed to exist. Library lovers will find it easy to unite to fight that future from happening!

Why should people pick up the phone and join the Literary Resistance?

Captain Beatty from "Fahrenheit 451" would say they really shouldn't. They're better off staying in their comfort zone, passively watching something familiar, then falling asleep until their alarm clock gets them up for another day of work. Exposing themselves to new approaches to storytelling is just going to confuse them and make them think differently: that won't end well.

Traditionally, games have been shunned as having no literacy/literary merit, but attitudes are changing. In your opinion, what literacy/literary value do games have – especially for young reluctant readers?

Games are the new cultural boogeyman, blamed for society's ills just like rock music and comics were before them. If you look far enough back you can see that even novels were demonized when they were new media - the stories they presented were so immersive that young women were warned away from them.

Interaction is the key difference between games and other media, and many bright minds prefer to learn by doing rather than learn via traditional teaching methods. Even beyond educationally-focused games, games present incredible opportunities for learning persistence, puzzle solving, and collaboration.