My interactive experience with RED CLOUD RISING began the day before the performance was scheduled to start. I received an email from Charlotte, Bydder Financial’s Director of Recruitment, preparing me for my upcoming recruitment session. “Oh God,” I thought, “I’m being recruited? I’m going to be tested?” I cursed myself for leaving The Inside Job off my Netflix queue. Luckily, no one asked me to crunch numbers or define “derivative.” Instead, my teammates and I were sent on an entertaining yet ultimately anti-climactic scavenger hunt through the financial district. Though it explored the relationship between technology and performance in some exciting ways, the creators of RED CLOUD RISING should perhaps also rent The Inside Job: I was underwhelmed by their attempts to thrill us. On the day of the performance, I find myself in an office building near Wall Street, sitting in a cushy swivel chair, chatting awkwardly with Charlotte about “the job” and watching a humorously vague and upbeat video about the joys of working for Bydder Financial. After taking our phone numbers, Charlotte sends us out into the streets, to be ‘tested.’ Our task is to deliver an envelope to another Bydder employee. To find the employee, we are sent on a scavenger hunt, led by text messages and phone calls. Things start to get interesting when an underground group, Red Cloud, contacts us, promising to divulge Bydder’s seedy underbelly. They start getting less interesting when Bydder’s dastardly plan (to privatize all the world’s resources) is revealed. “Hasn’t that already happened?” asked one of my teammates.
Despite the lack of intrigue and suspense, I had a great time running around lower Manhattan, problem solving and cracking jokes with a bunch of strangers I might never have met otherwise. And I see a ton of potential in what The Fifth Wall is trying to do, both in their attempt to imbue the game with real issues, and in their use of technology to extend the game beyond the event. The next day, I received an email from Charlotte, thanking me for my time and informing me that I did not get the job at Bydder. if I had been ‘hired,’ I wonder what would have happened next? The possibilities are many and thrilling. Though I wish The Fifth Wall had found a way to raise the stakes for its players, I applaud their exploration of the intersections between theater, gaming and technology, and hope they continue in this vein.