Funfear Attractions: The Playful Affects of Carefully Managed Terror in Immersive 28 Days Later Live Experiences

Helen W. Kennedy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


This chapter examines the audience experience of the highly acclaimed Zombie street game 2.8 hrs which launched in 2010 and successfully ran for 5 years in cities across the UK and the 2016 Secret Cinema 28 days later offering which ran in April and May, 2016 in London, UK. These two examples are chosen for the extent to which they provide an insight into a novel form of experience design which takes familiar tropes and recognizable storyworlds as the basis for the development of playful, interactive yet also highly controlled and tightly structured entertainment. These novel forms have developed new economic models and new modes of participations and audience expectations. I will be focusing on the intersection between the narrative content (the familiar narrative of Zombie apocalypse in general and the highly popular film 28 days later in particular) the space of interaction and the audience experience and behaviours. 2.8 hrs later launched at 9pm concluding at just before midnight (roughly 2.8 hours later) enabling the designers to maximise the use of the dark urban sprawl, deep shadows and dingy alleyways. Players received limited instructions (and a GPS coordinate) and were told that if they have seen any zombie film or TV show they know what to do - RUN! The street game repurposed the city as a play space through which players were guided by trained ‘zombie’ pursuers and tightly scripted and performed interactive theatrical vignettes which revealed clues about the next destination. The Secret Cinema experience makes use of different kind of space (a decommissioned printing press) to construct their own fast paced and minutely controlled, rule bound versioning of the 28 days later film narrative. The experience is however very closely aligned to game like and playful structures – in this case a combination of the house of horror and the ghost train. I situate these experiences within the wider critical fields of pervasive games (Montola, 2009, Adams, Ericsson & Lantz, 2009), the experience economy (Pine & Gilmore, 1999) and the emergent field of live cinema (Atkinson & Kennedy, 2015). I draw on player interviews for the 2.8 hrs experience and participant interviews for Secret Cinema’s 28 days later. I examine the complex interaction of story and rules on the one hand and playful affective behaviours on the other to tease out the tensions always ‘in play’ in the efforts to predict and control the inevitably unruly bodies of the human participants.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLive Cinema Cultures, Economies, Aesthetics
EditorsSarah Atkinson, Helen W. Kennedy
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781501324857
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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