Rebellion Rising is a team-based Massive Live-Action Game (or MLAG) based on stories of espionage and childhood game of tag. This paper discusses the process of making the parts of this game, and bringing the story into fruition.


This game was built as part of the thesis assignment for Interactive Media III, a class offered at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, MD during their 2009 Fall Semester. To design the game a number of precedence were researched and analyzed to gain an understanding of how these types of games and others similar to Rebellion Rising compared. These comparisons ranged greatly between other MLAGs, Childhood Games, Tabletop games and even TV game shows.

This paper then explains the process of making Rebellion rising as it moved through iterations which built a stronger more cohesive game for participants to enjoy.

It is difficult enough to create a tabletop based board game. One must account for an assortment of factors associated with gaming, including basic rules, who will be playing, what will the board look like, and will it be readable. With live-action games, there are different factors that must be considered, as they are played within what might be considered a living breathing changing thing itself, a community, a designer must anticipate where interactions will take place how these interactions will effect moments and the entire game and how a large group of people will react to certain events such as wins losses and disputes. In the end, Rebellion Rising came to be the game previously described.

Rebellion Rising Version 1.0 was a game played within the boarders of MICA’s Campus. The 28 participants of the game integrate the play into their lives for 7 days. The game mechanics were designed heavily around the espionage story elements of a world in which a seemingly oppressive government was fighting a large terrorist network of rebels. Game play was designed for varied levels of participation, from passive to extremely involved.

3.1 Precedence: Humans Vs. Zombies.

Humans Vs. Zombies (HvZ) is a live-action game based on the popular story of a zombie apocalypse in which mindless human creatures walk the earth feasting on the flesh of other humans. The game was invented as a collaborative effort by Chris Weed, Brad Sappington, Joe Sklover, Justin Quick, Trevor Moorman, and Max Temkin and has been played on over 300 campuses in the United States alone. The game has become a popular form of social interaction among college students where games are organized, and has at some times creates a new social group infatuated with this type of game play.

The structure of the game is based off of the simple team-tag game mechanic. Those on the human side must protect themselves and kill as many zombies as they can, while those on the zombie side must convert as many humans into zombies as possible. The “field of play” for this game can take up an entire college campus and depending on the iteration of the game can last for a few hours or up to a week of continuous game play.

Analysis: What makes this type of game work is its simplicity. The Humans Vs Zombies is based on a game many in the US have, if not played, heard of, which is team-tag. It is from there that the basic story can develop, which is a zombie apocalypse, as well as the added mechanics, which are Nerf guns. Nerf gun type toys are a huge draw for many participants as it allows them to live out their childhood once more. During planning, participants and colleges can then make changes to the rules and additions to the story as need be. This game provides a lot of room for creativity, development, and personalization. While there is some strategy involved in playing Humans Vs. Zombies, it is still fairly simple and straightforward, which can be a big advantage when trying to teach a lot of participants in a short amount of time how to play the game.

3.2 Precedence: Assassin.

The game of assassin takes elements of an alternate reality game, to create an experience that can envelope the participant in their own world of mystery and suspense. This game is based on the last man standing game mechanic. Each player is given a brief identity of their target and asked to find them and “kill them.” That target is another person playing the game. Depending on the variation of the game “killing” the target can be done in a number of ways, the most popular of which involves touching an opponent with the scoop side of a spoon, and getting them wet with water pistols and balloons. Once you have “killed” your current target, you must take their target on as your next assignment. The game ends when there is one person left standing.

Analysis: Looking at the broad scope of this game, its adaptations become a little more complicated than most, However, rarely, if ever will individuals see the entire game structure. The game of Assassins allows participants to focus in two directions, the person they must assassinate, and the person who is out to assassinate them. The suspense comes from “stalking” your opponent, all the while looking out for the person, with whom you have most likely never met in your life, who was assigned to kill you. As many who have played the game describe it, Assassins creates a healthy level of paranoia for participants. The mechanics are strongest for those who enjoy a lot of strategy when playing a game. A down side of the game is that if there is no participation past death, and you are the unlucky person to be killed first, you’re out of the game without having had enough time to do much.

3.3 Precedence: Capture the Flag.

Capture the Flag can be considered a classic somewhat free style game, which can be played in almost any environment. Usually two teams set up a base with a flag or marker at opposite sides of a “field of play,” which can amount to a standard soccer field, a range of forest, or even an urban setting. The object of the game is to get the flag of the opposing team from their based back to your own friendly base. The conflict is usually constructed of the tag core mechanic where if player on the opposite side finds you, they then have the option to tag you out. If tagged out, you must then follow the consequences established as part of the games iteration. One example of a consequence is standing in a holding area or “prison” on the opposite team’s side, out of play, waiting to be released.

One notable variation of the game has even aligned this core mechanic to the story of the American Revolution. Of course the sides were split up between the British and Americans, where the British had to capture the 13 American flags, and the Americans had to capture the 5 British flags. The score was added up by percentage. This is a simple testament to the flexibility of the game.

Analysis: Capture the flag has become a popular game among younger individuals, especially as a summer camp activity. As a concept the game is a very simple. The name of the game even describes what someone has to do. Capture the flag, however, still has enough structure to provide for a direction of the game. The very simplicity of capture the flag has allowed variation after variation to be completed.

3.4 Precedence: Manhunt.

Manhunt has many different variations. The most common version is where all the participants, who play the hunters, are pitted against one or a small number of individuals, who are the hunted. The object of the hunted is to evade capture for as long as possible or until the game ends. The object of the hunters is to search locate and capture the hunted as soon as possible before the game ends. Manhunt is best played in environments that contain many hiding places and obstructions to give some fair-play advantages to those who are acting as the hunted.

Analysis: In a way this game brings us back to the time when we were hunter gathers on the plains and in the forests. It plays to this design to hunt and the adrenaline that is produced from being the hunted. What also makes this game interesting is that there is no one strategy that prevails. Participants playing as the hunted can and have chosen to run from hunters, conceal themselves in camouflage, or even blend in with hunters chasing them.

3.5 Precedence: Tag.

Tag is a game played world wide, mostly by children. The premise is that there is one or a number of individuals who are “it” while the rest of those who are playing are “not-it.” The object is for the person who is “it” to tag someone who is “not-it” with, what is usually, the touch of the hand. The “not-it” person who is tagged then becomes “it”. There are most often no teams. No scores, and no specialized equipment. Games can go on indefinitely, and usually the person who “loses” is the person who is it when the game ends. Variants of tag include, freeze tag, chain tag, and team tag.

Analysis: A huge percentage of live-action games are based off of or have elements of tag within the workings of their core mechanics. Out of every example in this paper, Tag is the most simple, straightforward game imaginable, and almost anyone can come to understand how to play it.

3.6 Precedence: Oklahoma D-Day, Paintball Game.

Oklahoma D-Day is noted as one of, if not the largest paintball gathering, attracting the participations of over 6,000 paintballing individuals. Participants re-enact the landings at Normandy, as well as scenarios out of the Market Garden push through Europe. At the 3-day event, participants and audience members can shop for paintball merchandise from both private and corporate vendors, partake in the festivities or simply sit back and enjoy the show. There is even a contest for the best paintball-shooting tank look-a-like.

Analysis: The draw for this game is the story behind it. While one could simply go to their local paintball facility and play with the regulars, they choose to come to this grandiose event, simply to, re-live what is considered by many, a very prestigious time for America. This shows how adding a popular theme to a game can create this sort of support. Scenarios, such as paintball festival, allow the player to become fully immersed in an alternate reality.

3.7 Precedence: Improv Everywhere.

“Improv Everywhere causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere has executed over 85 missions involving thousands of undercover agents.” As the short mission statement suggests Improv Everywhere is a group by Charlie Todd that creates moments of interaction, puzzlement, and awe within the city of New York and select locations around the world. Improv Everywhere’s most famous “prank” is when over 200 undercover “agents” froze themselves in the middle of rush hour pedestrian traffic at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

Analysis: While the pranks of Improv Everywhere fill us with surprise and amusement, they are an excellent model on which to learn from in creating publicly located and oriented projects. These pranks give insight into the reactions of bystanders, and how these projects affect the public at large. They are also an interesting commentary on how we as a society react in general to events that strike us as odd.

3.8 Precedence: SyFy Channel’s Cha$e

Chase is a game show that aired for a time on the SyFy Channel. Contestants are pitted against each other in a competition of survival where the longer they stay in play, the more money they get. Unlike the average game show filmed on set with a studio audience, Chase is filmed in a reality TV fashion. Contestants have free range to move around the space of a small park. The challenge of the game is to stay out of reach from individuals in suits called “hunters” who chase down contestants and tag them, similar to manhunt. Along the way contestants are provided with props that will help them evade and fight off the hunters.

Analysis: As a game, this show is pretty cheesy, and probably very faked. The props for the advancements of game play, and the use of phones to keep the contestants networked to the game has some promising aspects. Props can be a major aspect of a game, and allow players to either immerse themselves more fully into the scenario of the game or allow them to seek new paths of creativity. The aspect of cell phone use to keep contestants connected is an interesting concept. The only hurdle would be to allow participants to use their own cell phone, while keeping their phone number anonymous.

3.9 Precedence: 28 Days Later

28 days later is a film set in England. The film begins with the Main Character Jim who wakes up in a hospital unaware that an epidemic of rage has stricken the entire world, turning humans into virtual zombies. Depicted in the film of some forms of survival that humans might follow in small-pocketed numbers, such as traveling during times when activity is low, eating high energy foods, making sure locations are secure before resting, and self preservation when allies are already dead.

Analysis: What 28 Days Later and many movies like it give us, is a story on which we might base our game. The plot oriented towards finding safe haven among a community of uninfected acts as a great motivator in an alternate reality we might create.

3.10 Precedence: Dungeons and Dragons Roll Playing Game

Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) is known for its table top roll playing adventure games. The game of DnD appeals to those drawn to activities heavily involved in fantasy, imagination, and creativity. Much of a DnD campaign, as it’s called, is focuses around telling a story first derived or chosen by the organizer (aka, Dungeon Master), but is developed by the DM and the players together as they move through the story. Players can choose to head in a direction the DM did not expect, changing his story, and characters must yield to chance a lot of the time as they roll dice to use abilities.

Analysis: Because of the nature of DnD campaigns, there are limitless directions a DM can take a campaign into, and limitless directions a payer can move their character towards, especially if one is creative in using the materials the poses.

4.1 Iteration 1: The Survival Game

Analysis: As the first iteration of the game, the mechanics were extremely rough. After further reflection the game was essentially a modified version of Assassins aligned to a story. Even then, the rules and game play were not clear and not fleshed out at all. There was not even a map to accompany the rule set, which was more of a beginning to a short story than a rule set.

4.2 Iteration 2: The Rebel Game

Analysis: This second interation was a long stride in the development of Rebellion Rising, but it still needed some ironing. Instead of a 1-page pitch, the rule set jumped to a 5-page dissertation on how to play the game, which at the time was called the rebel game. Even then, rules were still vague. The Story element predominated the iteration. It was in this iteration that a “missions” game mechanic was added. These missions were in-game activates that developed the story of “the rebel game,” and promoted further interaction.

4.3 Iteration 3: Rebellion Rising

Analysis: Rebellion Rising was the final iteration created before the game was put into play. Research and development for this iteration involved shortening rule set to no more than two pages, as well as fleshing out the missions and keeping them to the length of half a page each. The missions were also tested on with possible participants for any broken rules and mechanics. As far as the actual game is concerned, there were a number of disputes during the game involving rules that had not been clarified enough. There was also one mission that had to be “restarted” because of error in communication among players and the moderator.

5 Plans for the Future

I plan to organize Rebellion Rising for a future date. I also plan to revise the rules and make them more explicate with the understanding that this game involves a lot of strategy. I would like to have more moderators to help me out in areas such as overseeing missions and mediating disputes. Something that has helped many other games in this day and age is more automation involving centralized websites. While this game did have a website it served only as a source of information, and not usable in actually game mechanics. I also wish to revise reward systems, and how one wins the game.

6 Links + References