Together with creative experts, Coleman developed these episodic performances, which were streamed live from two tiny sets in the Media, Arts, Data and Design Center in Crerar Library and Midway Studios. Coleman drew from her background in new work development to build the narrative.
“One of the things about ARGs is that you have to keep designing bigger than a player's imagination,” said Coleman, senior lecturer in theater and performance studies. “When players had an idea, we had to build from it quickly. A player should feel quite like Alice in Wonderland—falling through a tunnel that keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Coleman was pleased to see students finding community through Terrarium. “When we’re uncomfortable or vulnerable, we tend to go back to our usual patterns,” she said. “But there were students, most of whom have never met, who were communicating and problem-solving together around the globe.”
Ethan Dintzner, a member of Team Allobiotical, enjoyed the excitement of following the riddles and online chats throughout the summer. “It taught me to think with an open mind when considering solutions to complex problems,” he said. “That works nicely, considering we were charged to find a solution to an extremely complex problem.”
Envisioning the future together
During the summer, ARG players also formed teams to participate in the capstone event during O-Week called the Futures Design Challenge. After arriving on campus, students met with faculty, staff and peer mentors to develop their ideas, learn presentation skills and hone their visions with their teammates.
More than 40 faculty and staff members were involved in this ARG. Schilt, who leads a research team that investigates the results and outcomes of the ARG, said that making faculty accessible to incoming students was one of the team’s main goals.
“Talking to faculty or going to office hours can be really hard,” said Schilt, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. “As faculty, you notice that students come in with different levels of comfort when talking to you. But students who participated in the Futures Design Challenge will already have a topic to discuss with their professors.”
Schilt sees the ARG as a chance for students to begin O-Week with an established sense of community. “We are really interested to see if those networks are sustained. Part of me thinks that even if it gets students through their first couple of months—having shared a project, and feeling like they’ve successfully made some friends—that's something,” she said. “We’re hoping that the Challenge makes people feel more embedded, and that they have connections across the University with students and with faculty.”
“The Futures Design Challenge offers incoming students an early chance to take part in the courageous inquiry that is central to a UChicago education,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “As students further their studies, they will have many opportunities to work with faculty experts to explore their intellectual curiosities and address the most complex problems of our time.”