Gero has some thoughts on the factor of immersion in games that are set in the real world on his blog. I can totally relate to some of those concerns. I remember being at a role-playing game convention in, blimey, that must have been 1992 or 1993 or so in Saarbrücken (SOX-Con). Someone organized a spontaneous free form LARP in front of the convention building before it opened on the second day… Whilst there was a bus full of pensioners going on some day trip waiting right next to us. I am still feeling a little embarrassed thinking about their stares.
Social norms, will limit the actions even more. If the game included, let’s say, a wild chase of two players, they would be forced to run after each other in front of an audience that’s oblivious of the whole situation being a game. Referring to my other post I wish to bring back more child-like play, but I highly doubt this can be done with brute force. I bet people would feel odd running after another; it might even happen that someone calls the police, completely destroying the game experience
Tom Weghofer, has a story or two to tell about innocent bystanders calling a fucking SWAT team to a LARP site and that played in a more or less closed environment (alas, not closed enough).
However, I strongly believe that the restriction, i.e. having to keep the players’ game hidden whilst being right in the middle of an unsuspecting public can also be used as a feature. Geocachers refer to “normal” or “uninitiated” people as “Muggles”, like the non-wizards in the Harry Potter novels who live their lives blissfully unaware of the wizarding world right in their midsts. It’s going to be a challenge to create a game that will be interesting yet can be played without the players ending in jail or at least as the subject of ridicule, but I think that it is exactly this fact of “we are here in the so-called real world of stupid unsuspecting cattle and we cannot let them know because they would not believe/panic/they might be some of THEM”.
Oh yes, did I mention that there will be “THEM”? 😉