It is getting harder and harder to define what a “gamer” is in a world that has embraced social and casual gaming. Most everyone I encounter routinely and actively plays games of one sort or another, and the extent of knowledge that people have about games is slowly rising. The community that I grew up in is changing, and the main thrust of that change has been focused around engagement and value in the games that people are playing. No longer is gaming the bastion of the obsessive and compulsive among the geek community. It is heartening to come across a game that not only hits a sweet spot for the “casual phone gamer” but also inspired in me the need to play the snot out of the game.

Coderunner is that sort of game. It draws you in from the moment you boot it up. And because of the visual style (that of a 1980s DOS interface) you actually feel like you are booting up a program. You can almost hear the tape drives chugging away in some ancient data center secreted away in a mountain protected by Richard Dean Anderson. The cold war-esque ambiance continues through the training videos, narrated by an appropriately British accent. But the real hook isn’t the graphics or the ambiance afforded by keen design. No, what really draws a player into this world of intrigue and danger is the story. A story which centers around you and the world you inhabit. The buildings and people you see every day take on a darker cast as the cloak and dagger routine begins, inviting you to view the world through different eyes:  the eyes of a spy.

The Department of Privacy has recruited you, as an appropriately curious person, to investigate s some events surrounding a high profile public figure from the government. Throughout the story it is hard to really know what side you are on, and at the end of the adventure you are offered a choice of how you wish to proceed. Do you side with the Orwellian institution and help to keep people safe? Or do you ally yourself with the shady underground, attempting to throw off the shackles of oppression?

The game uses Google Maps data to “see” the world around you and integrate what it knows about your location into the story. It was because of this that I found myself 3 blocks away from my apartment with one shoe on and one show in my hand. For the next 3 hours I visited bus stops, ATMs, and a school in order to get or give information about the people in the story. As Deep5, my handler, was talking into my ear I became not just a player, but a participant. I was so drawn into the story that I found myself looking at people passing me not he sidewalk wondering if they were enemy agents. I put my hood up to hide my face so I wouldn’t be recognized. I avoided places where I saw cameras, and modified my body language so that I would not be noticeable to the passerby.

I felt that I was a spy, not that I was playing one. And that is a tall order for a game to fulfill. By nature there is always an interface between game and game player. Be it a controller or a touch screen, we have to interact with an object in order to play. In Codrunner, the world is your interface and the phone becomes a secondary device. It is used in the game, but it isn’t the game itself. The game is played in your mind, by your imagination. The same imagination that would terrorize the backyard games of childhood and inspire you when confronted by a cardboard box find fertile ground in the universe of Coderunner.

We had a chance to speak with Jeff MacPherson , one of the team who created Coderunner on the podcast, and I highly encourage you to go back and listen to the conversation we had. He had some great things to say not only about what Coderunner is, but what the future holds for this incredible universe.

(iTunes Link)
(Coderunner Website Link)

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