Wanted, undead or alive, for the 'O' zone

IT SOUNDS like every gamer's ultimate fantasy: a real-life, video-game style adventure in a medical research lab overrun with zombies.

Come Halloween, October 31, thousands of Melbourne fans will be able to live the dream, shooting actors playing the living dead in a building on the city's outskirts, which will be converted to a giant video game ''set''.

Patient-0 is the creation of three friends with backgrounds in filmmaking and IT, who say they are treating the project like a film shoot. ''We will have a cast, location, set directing, crew, camera technology,'' said David Leadbetter, a freelance television and film producer. Staging an event of this size does not come cheap, and while entry tickets cost $125, there is also the cost of building the set, hiring actors, hair and make-up to consider. Through a crowd-funding platform, Pozible, the group has raised nearly $200,000, an Australian record. Almost 2000 tickets for Patient-0 have been sold, including one gamer coming from Phoenix, Arizona.

The game will run for 10 hours a day, and if it's a success, the group plans to take the event on tour across Australia. ''People have been saying, 'I have waited my whole life for this, thank you','' said Leadbetter. ''We are offering the gaming community and horror genre community something they have been thinking about for a long time.''

Packages offer ''rewards'' in exchange for pledges, including tickets to play the game, or having players' names inscribed on the set.

The crowd-funding website lets artists, musicians, event organisers and others raise money for their ideas, with people showing their support by pledging money in exchange for a reward. While the location is still a secret, set builders, make-up artists and technicians have started creating the game, in which teams of six will use laser guns to shoot staggering corpses who have been unleashed in a medical facility after an accident. ''Sound and lighting techniques will make it look like there are thousands of zombies, you will never know what's around the corner,'' he said.

But he insists there is more to the production than ''running around, shooting and getting scared''.

''There is a whole universe outside of the actual game, and that's what the video game community want,'' he says. ''They like backstories, they like to search, they like to know the reason behind things.''

Leadbetter expected some backlash from anti-violence groups, but said it was ''debatable'' whether Patient-0 encouraged violence.

Steven Conway, a lecturer in games and interactivity at Swinburne University, said there is a growing demand for ''augmented reality games'' such as Patient-0. ''It's a well-established genre of play, and blurs the boundaries between the everyday world and world of the game,'' he said. ''It's a fun idea and adopts a very traditional, classic game structure, where people grab a gun. It adds a new spin to laser tag, which now seems like an antiquated and juvenile pastime.''

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