Acts of daring are no stranger in the land of advertising, but Microsoft’s latest ad campaign for Rise of the Tomb Raider might have just pushed the limits of being strange. On the streets of London late last night, eight contestants were strapped to the front of a billboard advertising the new Tomb Raider game and were bombarded by blasts of wind, rain, and ice for several hours, which were controlled by viewers watching the event from home on Twitch.tv.
Microsoft titled the publicity stunt “Survival of the Grittiest.” Each of the eight contestants were hand-picked by Microsoft out of thousands of applicants who agreed to risk their health in the aforementioned artificial winter, which was designed to reflect the conditions Lara will be facing in her latest Siberian adventure. The contestants were challenged to last 24 hours on the billboard, but most quit within the first few hours due to hypothermia.
I wanted to stay up on the #SurvivalBillboard I was pumped! But medics pulled me off because I had hypothermia the cold took it’s toll…
— Jade Jolie (@JadeJoliex) November 12, 2015
One contestant, however, lasted for a staggering 20 hours. Earlier this morning, Microsoft announced 28 year-old Adam Carr as the grittiest survivor. Upon leaving the billboard, an exhausted Carr channeled his inner Russell Crowe and purportedly proclaimed, “Are you not entertained?”
His reward? A “trip inspired by Tomb Raider,” according to the challenge’s official website. Exactly where that trip will take place is unknown, though it apparently spans a swathe of climes, from lofty mountains to dense jungles.
Meanwhile, audiences from home were able to watch the ordeal on livestreaming service Twitch.tv. They were able to vote on the excruciating weather conditions that the contestants would have to endure. This audience-performer dynamic resembles a mod built for Klei Entertainment’s Don’t Starve Together called Twitch Plays Together, in which Twitch audiences can choose which disasters will befall the streamers playing the game. Moreover, Twitch integration raises vital questions on how entertainment businesses can deepen the degrees to which audiences become involved in the creation of advertising narratives, and in the consumption of media in general.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the latest installment in the Tomb Raider series, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. Like other games in the series, Rise is a third-person action-shooter that follows Lara Croft’s adventures through harsh environments and ancient ruins. In this adventure, Lara travels to Siberia to discover more about her past and future, fighting humans, wild animals, and the weather alike as she makes her way to a legendary city that may hold knowledge on immortality. The game’s weather is of special emphasis here, as the Survival of the Grittiest stunt demonstrated. Lara will have to craft weapons and materials and scavenge for supplies to help her survive in the harsh Siberian winter. In addition, the beings that inhabit Rise’s world react to day/night cycles and to weather patterns. To craft a coat that will help her withstand stinging winds, for example, Lara will have to hunt a wolf that only emerges during certain times of day, and in certain weather.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is available on Xbox 360 and on Xbox One. A Microsoft Windows port is planned to release in Q1 2016, with a PS4 version coming in Q4 2016.