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“My goal was that the game should never get in the way of the narrative; it should complement it.”
Guillaume Perrault, Game Designer, in the New York Times
The remote location and frigid temperatures of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada make it an unlikely choice for people seeking out opportunities for a new life. But as the third largest oil reserve in the world, and the hub of the Canadian oil industry, job opportunities and the dream of getting rich quick have prompted a whole new type of community in the tiny city—and prompted the title of this interactive piece, Fort McMoney.
While an influx of outsiders continually mix with the local contingent, Fort McMurray is also the ground for debates between big business representatives who want to push the oil industry forward, environmentalists who see the ecological dangers of exploiting Canada’s oilsands, and the politicians who are embroiled in key decision-making processes.
The myriad perspectives, arguments, and issues at stake in this single setting prompted project creator David Dufresne to raise the stakes for his project’s design. Rather than explore the issues through looser interactivity, Fort McMoney uses the structure, tropes, and timing of a video game, all moving the user through the experience in a mission-oriented way. Exploring interviews unlocks new information, with a user dashboard where players amass points and credits, track their progress, and interact with other users. The game is played out in phases, which makes the project live at certain times and inactive between phases, driving audiences to moments of shared interactivity and play-through, with each phase featuring new content. While Fort McMoney is not the first “docugame,” its popularity is breaking ground for the genre and showing a wider audience the power of blending nonfiction content and game play.
The Fort McMoney team planned for months to understand how their documentation of a real-life town would fit together as a playable online scenario. They shared a few of their process documents in which they worked out how to integrate film production, video game mechanics and interactive web design into a seamless whole.
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