“Secret City” is an alternative reality game I co-designed in collaboration with UCLA’s Community Scholars Program. Set in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park, “Secret City” is meant to heighten players’ sensitivities to site-specific issues including psychogeography, gentrification, cinema histories, and spatial justice.
Click through for photos, links, and to read more about the game.
Premise: Every city has its secrets. Whether it’s art, histories, monuments—there are so many elements that can simply fade into the background of fast-paced city life. In this game, the city has been taken hostage and her abductor has hidden clues to her whereabouts in one of Los Angeles’s oldest and most dynamic districts: MacArthur Park. Secret City draws participants into a real-life mystery with a noir twist. To advance the story, participants must be ready to explore MacArthur Park and interact with its many landmarks and public artworks. We hope that this will encourage participants to learn more about this historic neighborhood, and to gain an awareness of the layers of “secrets” hidden amidst the bustling cityscape.
The key characters in the Secret City experience are A) the game players who have taken on the role of the intrepid detectives searching for the kidnapped city of Los Angeles and B) the unnamed villain who has taken The Lady of Angels hostage and who has set up all the clues and puzzles leading players through the game. Characterizations for our detective(s) are kept deliberately loose, allowing game players to bring their own personalities to the game. Our villain’s personality is transmitted via the clues, puzzles, and messages, making each clue unique.
This version of Secret City is set in MacArthur Park. Players are encouraged to explore the park in the process of solving each puzzle and finding new clues. We have posted clues all around the park—some in less traveled areas—but players are instructed to stay within the bounds of the park (and are provided with a map at the beginning of the game).
In Secret City, players will have to negotiate a series of clues hidden throughout MacArthur Park. Players will receive their first clue in the form of a ransom note from the CicLAvia booth at MacArthur Park in July. The clue on the ransom note will lead players to their next location, where they will have to find and solve the next clue in the mystery. Each clue is set up to lead players through the park to the next clue.