128: Where to From Here?

Where to From Here?

"As the genre grows, it's getting too big for its advertising-based britches. Freelance ARG writer Brooke Thompson says, 'We're close to finding that Holy Grail of the self-sufficient alternate reality game, where instead of being tacked on to an advertising campaign, the game experience will be able to support sponsors.'"

Nova Barlow uncovers the truth about Alternate Reality Games.


I know you guys aren't necessarily looking for feedback, being the pros here and all, but this article was confusing to me. It left a lot unexplained. The beginning, for example, is disorienting - the author poses the question: Do I know what an ARG is? - and then doesn't answer it. I personally had never heard the term before, and for the rest of the article I was trying to figure out what the broad definition of an ARG might be. What are the game mechanics like? What does the player DO in an ARG? We're talking about free web-based computer games here, right?

I will admit that it might just be my own ignorance that needs excusing - I recently returned from the Peace Corps and so for the last 2.5 years I've been almost entirely outside the cultural fold that everyone else who reads this site is a part of.

Alternate (or Augmented, depending on who you talk to) Reality Game.

They are really a form of interactive storytelling with the interesting bit about them is that they usually attempt to blur the wall between game-play and life. One of the most famous (and oldest) ones was based around the Spielberg movie "Artificial Intelligence", which actually had some of the initial clues in the televsion advertisements for the movie, and involved a large amount of web-sleuthing (digging up the "corporations" that owned certain websites, heading to those websites, "hacking" into email systems etc.)

The most spectacular failure of one was probably EA's Majestic. Designed to be fully immersive, it actually went to the lengths of sending you faxes and phone messages if you opted in for that level of play. It died partially because the niche audience who was willing to pay a subscription fee to have their lives become part of a game was too small, and partly because those who did moved too quickly -- solving the puzzles and then waiting for more content to be generated.

Wikipedia actually has a solid entry on the matter if you're interested in learning more. Personally, I've always been vaguely interested, but find my life complex enough without throwing in the idea of having to ask whether something that happens or that I do is related to the game or not.

Another good source is the Alternate Reality Game SIG: http://www.igda.org/arg/, as well as the whitepaper they launched last year:
http://igda.org/arg/whitepaper.html (good for general information, with the disclaimer that I helped contribute to it)

I hope those links help.

Kwil, I definitely sympathize with your position. A lot of my approach has been mostly from an analysis angle, but it is a rather fascinating genre to observe.


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