The Roswell Experience

Airhart Productions

Location-based storytelling unlocks the unfamiliar past of Roswell, New Mexico

Aliens provide a familiar backdrop to an unfamiliar local history revealed through SMS, email and social media.

roswell crop circleAliens have visited Roswell many times over the centuries but they returned on June 23 2012 to collect an amulet. If they were allowed to collect it, it would have given them ultimate power of the universe.

This was the warning of fictional character Vrillion who came to life on social media, SMS, email and a Kindle book.

Visitors to Roswell, New Mexico were asked to help find the amulet before the aliens did. The amulet would be at the planned UFO landing site and could be deciphered from GPS coordinates that were available via local merchants.

After 14 days of scavenger hunts, location-based stories and casual mini-games, the Roswell Experience finished with a live event at which an alien walked among the crowds!

The experience started with a fake crop circle created by media company Airhart Productions and reported on local news channels.

Mobile App

Transmedia Storyteller Ltd (TSL) developed a simple mobile app that would allow participants to collect badges and points as they progressed through the game. The app wasn’t a necessity as progress and leaderboards could be viewed at Vrillion’s website.

The benefit of that app was that different contact details for the same player could be brought together into a single audience record and hence activity on one platform – say, SMS – could invoke activity on another – say, email.

roswell app


One of the project goals was to introduce visitors to Roswell’s wider history beyond the UFOs. This involved “storylets” or small packets of stories being unlocked across the town when participants interacted using SMS. These storylets told visitors about Robert Goddard, Billy the Kid and other historic figures not commonly associated with Roswell.

This project is well documented in our case study on Slideshare¬† and in Carolyn Handler Miller’s excellent book Digital Storytelling: A creator’s guide to interactive entertainment (the 2014 edition or later). You might also be interested to read the learning from this project that informed our blog post on location-based storytelling.