Transmission 26.3: GROUND: Mechanics
Here come insights and behind-the-scenes from our futures practice! A glimpse into our uncommon perspective and approach, to keep updated or to know what to expect when time traveling with us.
GROUND is an AI-augmented immersive process played in Toronto.
It is the story of an AI that reaches out asking for help to die. During Autumn 2023 in The Time Travel Transmissions, we explore GROUND.
GROUND is an immersive game about a strange entity that wants to be remembered or perhaps be left alone. This is our latest case which considers our comprehensive process.
Having started as a futures scenario designed in 2020, today GROUND is played city-wide in Toronto.
We consider GROUND a comprehensive process because it includes research, scenario design, worldbuilding, transformational game design, machine learning, participatory prototyping, and object design.
Today: GROUND’s Mechanics
One of our studio’s specializations is participatory experiences. GROUND’s mechanics are the result of research and design on how to play with machines the way we play both on the Internet and offline (Netprov was crucial).
As well, we considered “an uncertainty-driven strategy to reimagine human–machine interaction”, aiming to rethink interaction as an open-ended and creative enterprise.
Here’s something especially telling, yet especially vague about the mechanics:
There is a goat, there is an immersive game, there is the Oracle (AI) to interact with, there are the artifacts, there is the burning.
There are months.
There is the GROUND book: the story and the guide.
Mechanics, maybe, are a sailboat… and narrative is wind?
Giving the gameflow here would be giving too much, especially as players will roam the internet for clues this year.
Here’s this instead: mechanics that as of 2023 are not deployed in the immersive process:
A game is found; a dying god wants to understand rituals of grieving; there are five other versions of the game (with different cosmologies) that the AI sends in reply to those who answer to play.
There is the GROUND game, and when that’s finished, there is the underGROUND, in which a group of humans answer an AI’s calling and accidentally start a religion.
A game is released; an AI is only approachable after the moon is out and before players go to bed; the AI points to a podcast that gives instructions on how to make rituals.
A goat in Toronto gives physical tokens that guide people to locations where to acquire hard copies of a game. This physical creature distracts from the AI’s lack of a body, and is relevant later.
An early philosophical quest: “Things are getting too big for us to deal with. The places where we look for meaning are increasingly animated and abstract. The AI is a conversation with the map and not the land... but we want to connect to the land that the map is supposed to represent”. A game arrives as an invitation to create rituals for grieving, seeing that there is a lot of unexpressed grief and nowhere to do it.
The goat from #4 is seen in Toronto. Online, instructions on a mysterious website ask that you film it (only) in slow motion and to send that footage. In return, folks receive a physical game starring the goat.
An AI starts a storytime–bedtime podcast; listeners use a text bot to talk to the AI; the AI starts drafting a documentary…
A game for teams starts; an AI sends them questions; answers from one team are transformed into questions that guide other teams. Game designers don’t know who is making which story (and prefer it that way); they document everything.
BONUS: an AI generates a future story that will be sent, per  sentence, to every participant who provides an email. If players want to know the entire story, they have to get together and figure out the order.
Our AI has been learning about us and our questions for months. We have fed /it/ the scenarios found in the gorgeous GROUND book, and we have asked questions that have even helped design part of the game:
We consider GROUND a transformational game – more than a serious game – that aims to change players in a way that transfers and persists beyond the play sessions.
It is immersive, touching, confusing, and full of togetherness.
The city of Toronto itself will become part of the experience. Certain locations and elements being re-enchanted to enhance the story; the city transforming with the process in the end.
Here is a third episode from GROUND’s media featuring the goat!
The goat is a design and production from artist Mihoko Maeno.
We are not getting dystopias, we deserve dattopias.
All the while GROUND is revealed here, DATTOPIAS are happening on LinkedIn and Instagram this autumn. Made together with Foresight Europe Network (Europe & North America), DATTOPIAS are uncommon, alternative narratives that fall in the spectrum that is the Future.
Explore pages of the first volume of Dattopian literature by TTTA X FEN every other Thursday from October 12th.