Enter the maze

Chased in cyberspace

A game that mashes cyberspace into the real world is bound to be pretty intense already, but imagine one so real that you could end up hunting like an animal and almost getting run over by a truck. That’s how real Can You See Me Now felt, and it was all in the name of art.

a player runs down a street

The basic idea is simple: hide from a group of runners tracking you down. Except the 20 hunters, from a group of artists called Blast Theory, are on a real street in the real world, with their locations tracked by Global Positioning System satellites. The players are all around the world, navigating the same streets online and listening to the hunters as they conspire with each other over walkie-talkies.

It was first tried out on the streets of Sheffield. Even though the players and hunters weren’t in the same space as each other, the technology kept them so close they evolved some pretty freaky connections.

Predador versus prey

The players and the hunters started to form relationships with one another that weren’t so much from the world of humans as they were from the wild. More like predators and prey, but with a technological twist. Early in the competition, the runners found the game pretty easy – after all, they’re just navigating in cyberspace whereas the hunters had to run around a real city with all the crowds, traffic and sweaty panting that goes with it.

Then the hunters found a trick. They realised that if they waited at the top of a hill (there are lots in Sheffield!) they could swoop down on their 'prey' fast enough to catch them unawares.

They also realised they could do even better than that. In a city there are ‘GPS shadows’ formed when the satellites drop behind skyscrapers. That is one reason why satnavs sometimes seems flaky in a city. The hunters realised that at those times and places the GPS system lost track of them. They could hide their and be completely invisible to the runners. Then as one came unsuspectingly past, a quick jump out of the electronic shadows and snap! They were done for.

The hunters had found a way of using the supposed weaknesses in the satellite system to give them an advantage.

"A heart-stopping moment"

With the strange blending of the real world and a fake one, being hunted and hearing your pursuers, the players said things could get pretty emotional. When one player heard a hunter spot her and say "let’s run up and get her", the hairs stood up on the back of her neck. The players and the hunters sometimes felt concern for one another though, too. A player from Seattle wrote that she had "a heart-stopping moment" when she was trying to run away and heard what sounded like the person hunting her being run over by a reversing truck.

Technology may sometimes seem cold, but it can sure get under our skin – whether it’s making us think like hunting animals or gasp with concern about someone else. The hunter didn’t get run over, by the way. At least, we’re pretty sure about that.

Image credit: Can You See Me Now, 2001. Copyright Blast Theory