Red Cloud Rising – An Alternate Reality Game Built on Twilio

Gyda ArberYou walk into the Wall Street offices of Bydder Financial, which are beautifully appointed but otherwise nondescript. A friendly blond lady meets you at the front desk and eventually takes you and your fellow recruits into a conference room, where she explains that you are now Bydder for life. All, she tells you, will become clear in time. Expect phone calls and text messages to guide the way. She sees you out.

Soon, your phone rings. It’s a recorded message from Bydder with some instructions. When you’ve followed them and solved the puzzle they present, you send back a text message. Minutes later, your phone rings again. This time, the number and the voice are different. Bydder Financial, the new voice warns, is not what it seems.

A Twilio-Powered Alternate Reality Game

This is not your job hunting scenario from hell. No, this is Red Cloud Rising, a Twilio-powered alternate reality game from Gyda Arber. Alternate reality games (ARGs) are games that add a fantasy/gaming layer to the real world. You don’t play them in front of a screen. You go out into the real world, go to real places and engage with real people to solve puzzles.

The last time Arber, actress, director and theaterperson extraordinaire, staged an ARG, she used Zunes to deliver instructions and messages to the gamers. That one was called “Suspicious Package” and spawned two sequels. This time, she used Twilio. In fact, she says, she doesn’t think Red Cloud Rising would have been possible without it.

When Arber conceived of Red Cloud Rising, she knew she wanted gamers to interact with two entities: Bydder Financial and the underground group, Red Cloud. She needed each to have different phone numbers, different phone voices and different communications styles. She wanted to use a combination of voice calls and SMS.

Long a denizen of the theater world, Arber knew how to handle getting actors, writing scripts and setting up real-world puzzles. She had no idea how to manage the automated voice calls and SMS messages. Then one day, she happened upon Twilio. She doesn’t remember how she found Twilio, just that the moment she saw it she thought: “This is perfect!”

Her fiancé happened to be technical enough to learn himself some basic PHP. He coded the whole Red Cloud Rising back-end on Twilio in two days.

Arber has been running Red Cloud Rising in downtown Manhattan every weekend for the last three months. 500 people have played the hour game. This weekend was the last show.

Go to the Brick Theater’s website to learn more.