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New tech festival brings zombie war to Adelaide

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The creator of ABC TV’s Good Game is bringing a new technology convention to Adelaide - featuring a real-world zombie nerf war for a cast of hundreds, driven by a smartphone app.

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Janet Gaeta’s love of gaming began during a time of personal tragedy.

Her mother was dying of cancer, and the pair spent hours together, taking turns, playing a simple game on an early, hand-held Nintendo console.

“I would come home from university and look after her,” she recalls.

“Her and I just used to play this game, that’s what we did … we used to lay in her bed, and she had a go and I had a go.

“So, for me, gaming has always been wrapped up in this time of deep love.

“My love affair with gaming began at that point and never really stopped.”

Having moved from the UK to Australia, working as a television producer at the ABC, Gaeta was asked to come up with a new program for the network’s then-new digital channel ABC2.

At the time, she was deeply involved in the gaming community, and pitched Good Game – which grew to become Australia’s longest-running video game TV show. (It came to an end, having run for a decade, early this year.)

Gaeta has now been recruited by Adelaide Film Festival CEO Amanda Duthie to be creative director for a technology-focused sister-festival, Hybrid World.

The festival – for industry and the public – will run over four days in October.

It will feature an immersive zombie survival game, Zedtown, for several hundred players, with a narrative orchestrated using a smartphone app.

“Most people start as humans,” Gaeta says of the game.

“Then the game opens and you’re introduced to the narrative.

“The players are divided into two factions and then there’s an evil professor who has been modifying human beings, turning them into zombies.

“You’re told what’s going to happen and then you have to run and hide.

“If the zombie touches you, you are zombified, but if you manage to hit the zombie with your nerf gun it has to stop.

“When you get tagged … that gets registered in the app, so you can constantly see the percentage of humans to the percentage of zombies.”

If a player gets “zombified” they go into the makeup tent to transform in a zombie.

“People try to sort of lure out other players by running their own sub-narratives in it,” Gaeta says.

“There is quite a lot of running, but you don’t have to be a marathon runner.

“A handful of players survive and get picked up at a rescue point and escape Zed Town.”

Zedtown was created in 2012 and has since gathered a large following in Sydney and Melbourne.

About 2000 players attended a Zedtown event at Sydney’s Homebush Showgrounds earlier this year.

Players must be over 18 and have their own dart blaster – but extra NERF guns will be available for purchase on the day.

‘Zedtown: The Divided City’ will be played on October 7 at the University of Adelaide’s North Terrace campus.

Hybrid World will be based at the Tonsley Innovation Precinct (the former Mitsubishi plant).

Gaeta says the festival will offer something for anyone who wants to try, discuss, explore, create and enjoy digital technology.

“I want people to be able to come away from Hybrid World having … had their horizons expanded by getting their hands on the technology,” she says.

“We’ve got a smorgasbord of technology-related activities for everyone – it’s not just for the gamers, it’s not just for the nerds – for absolutely everyone there will be something.

“We’ve got some exciting things going on in there over four days.”

She adds that: “my huge passion is getting young people enthused (and) … about what the future is going to bring, so they actually have the tools to use technology to further their careers, or the way they learn, or the way they create.”

“When I first started in television, cameras were tens of thousands of dollars, an edit machine was hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“[Now] you could make a feature film today using our smart phones if we wanted to, and edit them on our smart phones, and upload them. How incredible is that?”

Hybrid World will run 4-8 October 2017.

Events South Australia is the festival’s founding and principle partner.

You can register your interest at hybridworldadelaide.org

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