Andres Taraciuk
Jon Wasserman
Steve Cordova
Todd Bryant


Conspiragram is a pervasive, adventure/tag game that raises awareness about privacy and surveillance, where players seek out and photograph recent Instagram users in real locations and then tag them on Instagram.

Big Games,Flying Robots,Political Uses of Social Media

The NYPD, Homeland Security, FBI and Private Companies are employing the Domain Awareness System to watch, track, reference and indicate data about citizens in public. Brands are spending more and pushing harder to infiltrate your Internet experience, curating the content you see by tracking the way you use your portal. Facebook admits to tracking the web behavior of netizens, even if they don’t hold a Facebook account but click through a site with a Facebook “Like Button”. Information about FourSquare’s plan to sell Check-In data to advertisers was leaked this week. And Privacy settings can be subverted if you post an identifying detail that is searchable. And yet people still post where they are, what they’re doing and who they’re with. We hope to bring light to the repercussions of brazenly sharing what is ultimately personal information about yourself.

Conspiragram is an adventure/tag-style pervasive game where voluntary Players opt in to seek out Targets who have posted their location to Instagram. Players in an open environment (e.g. Washington Square Park) would use the Target’s username, avatar and posted photo to try to identify what that person looks like and where they were when they took the photo. The Player can also scroll through the Target's photostream when available, looking for “Selfies”. Once they have a good sense of the Target’s appearance, they begin to search the environment for that person and then take a photo of them.

Players post photos to one of the Conspiragram Team accounts, and the Target’s username will be tagged, alerting them that they are referenced in a picture of themselves. This mechanic will engineer conversation in both the Players and the Targets (separately) about how that image was taken and what it means to have this vulnerability in public space.

This experience is a metaphor for having your behavior become consumer to be aggregated, sold and marketed to. It is also a metaphor for having your face identified in a crowd by the NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit and cross-checked against social media for your known associates, presence history and public expression.

We’ve conducted a thorough survey of social media platforms and social media aggregators. We’ve playtested with 20 users and 100+ NPC’s (Non-Player Characters).

We are interested in how games can be used to raise awareness of a particular subject and felt like there is a gap between our expectation of privacy, cavalier use of social media for self expression and the reality of our vulnerability.

Social Media users who transmit freely without knowledge or consideration of privacy and the appropriation of their information.

User Scenario
The Player shows up to our staging space and reads the description about the game. Then she gets assigned to a team and logs in to that team’s Instagram account. Once the Player identifies recent Targets, she begins seeking them based on their available context clues. At that point, the Player may search for the Target at her own pace. When she sees a Target, she takes an identifiable picture of the Target or the space or objects that were in the Target’s post. When she posts them to Instagram on her team’s account she tags the Target’s username and hashtags #conspiragram, thus sending a notification to the Target that they were mentioned and also allowing the post to be scraped for our data collection/leaderboard. Last, she can check the Leaderboard to see how her team’s score is ranking.

The command center of this game (used by us, the Game Masters) exists on one laptop, utilizing Social Media streams, aggregators, Google and Google Docs. The Players use their own mobile devices. The Leaderboard interface will exist on a monitor at our staging space, and at a monitor with a description of our game in the front lobby, between the elevators.

Players are uncomfortable when their own identity is available (i.e. post from personal accounts and talk to people in real life). But they are totally comfortable with seeking out targets and surreptitiously taking photos of them. The gameplay is very simple, a derivation of Puzzle games and Adventure games. It is designed in this way so that the hunt is not overly clouded by the messaging. However, once the game is over, both Players and NPC’s have a lingering sense of where ethical lines can be drawn and a newfound sense of who is officially, if secretly, tracking their behavior.