Sundance and Surface Team Up to Stop a Viral Outbreak

by Reads (3,116)

While the Sundance Film Festival is known largely for showcasing some of the day’s hottest new indie flicks, it’s also used to launch media projects of all kinds. This year, a transmedia project partnered NFC-equipped cell phones, Microsoft’s Surface, and Sundance attendees with users all over the Internet to stop a viral outbreak.

Centered around the Hope is missing website, the ARG (or alternate reality game, a project which crosses the boundaries of video, print, online and interactive experiences and combines the strengths of each to form a more engaging experience than any singular one).

Obviously, a project like this takes a lot of planning to pull off; unlike traditional movies and games which are finished beforehand, then delivered to end users, projects like Pandemic 1.0 require lots of events to go off in sequence. The project’s developers talked about the technology involved in the game:

“For instance, Pandemic 1.0 which unfolds within New Frontier and US narrative shorts sections of the festival, is told with:


  • 1 short film which tells the story of a sister and brother dealing with an infected parent.
  • 1 magazine that contains a “rabbit hole” that leads to elements in the experience.
  • 5 secret locations, which are scattered throughout Park City.
  • 6 totems with cameras, gps trackers and thumb drives embedded inside them.
  • 10 scares can be requested by those following the experience online.
  • 20 actors carry flipcams and perform scenes as the “Pandemic” unfolds.
  • 50 story artifacts are placed throughout Park City with barcodes, #hashtags and RFID.
  • 5,000 bottles of water that, when found, can help to slow the spread of the Pandemic.
  • 40,000+ festival-goers who’s social interactions inform the spread of the Pandemic.
  • 50,000+ photographs harvested from the internet and filtered in real-time.
  • 1,000,000+ points of data visualized within a special Mission Control space.
These items are not random, but in fact, each has a distinct role within the story.”
Paid actors filmed new story arcs as the game progressed and uploaded these to the website. All of this was coordinated by players with a Microsoft Surface table to analyze and organize the information.
The game had players scrambling around the city to find totems, bottles of water with viral cures and clues on how to stop the outbreak. In the end, over 400,000 virtual citizens died from the outbreak worldwide, which only affected adults. The game’s creators say that information gleaned about human behavior and outbreak scenarios will be given to researchers and analyzed for insight into future real-world disease outbreaks.




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