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Get ready for an alternate reality adventure

In a few weeks, we're going to start posting markers around Balboa Park for our parkwide cell phone adventure game called GISKIN ANOMALY.

In the alternate reality of GISKIN ANOMALY, two characters each hold half the solution to hearing thoughts from the past. Pandora inherited the Detector invented by Erhard Giskin, and Drake has the Decoder he started developing for Erhard before Erhard passed away. Pandora and Drake do not trust each other, for good reason, and thus communicate entirely by voicemail.

Players can listen to the voicemail exchange by using a cell phone to dial into numbers posted on markers around Balboa Park. Through its interactive narrative, the game reveals the park's rich and captivating history. Players follow Pandora’s footsteps to key points in the park and listen to voices from the World War II era as Drake decodes them.

Although the lively interaction between Pandora and Drake is an instant draw, it’s the story from the past they unearth that’s the heart of the experience, explains Ken Eklund, the game’s designer.

“World War II was a time of upheaval for San Diego and our historical story reflects that. It unfolds in these brief snippets of thought, and then it’s up to Drake and Pandora to decipher their full meaning – aided by our audience,” says Ken, a creative professional who designs socially relevant games for media, museums, and schools.

Why We Created the Game

The game has multilayered goals. At the simplest level, by introducing visitors to a hidden world within Balboa Park, the game opens a casual and entertaining way for people to experience the Park. At a deeper level, the game gets visitors to explore parts of the Park that might be unfamiliar to them, and to imaginatively enter into the history of the Park and of San Diego. Deeper still, by blending real historic and cultural information and locations into the game play, the game leads visitors to interact with Balboa Park's cultural institutions and inspires them to use their knowledge to complete their game narrative. At all these levels, the game aims to be transformative and expansive, and thus to help visitors reframe their Park experience more broadly. The end goal is for players, and a larger population of play observers, to become more connected to the Park and more cognizant of its value and uniqueness.