Alternate reality game - Wikipedia. An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players' ideas or actions. The form is defined by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real time and evolves according to players' responses. Subsequently, it is shaped by characters that are actively controlled by the game's designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot- based challenges and puzzles, and collaborate as a community to analyze the story and coordinate real- life and online activities. ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.
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ARGs are growing in popularity, with new games appearing regularly and an increasing amount of experimentation with new models and subgenres. They tend to be free to play, with costs absorbed either through supporting products (e. However, pay- to- play models exist as well. Definition. Sean Stacey, founder of the website Unfiction, has suggested that the best way to define the genre was not to define it, and instead locate each game on three axes (ruleset, authorship and coherence) in a sphere of .
This prompts the unique collaboration emanating from ARGs as well; Sean Stewart, founder of 4. Entertainment, which has produced various successful ARGs, speaks to how this occurs, noting that . It's a game that's social and comes at you across all the different ways that you connect to the world around you. Puppet- masters are simultaneously allies and adversaries to the player base, creating obstacles and providing resources for overcoming them in the course of telling the game's story. Puppet- masters generally remain behind the curtain while a game is running. Most ARGs employ a number of trailheads in several media to maximize the probability of people discovering the game. Typically, the rabbit- hole is a website, the most easily updated, cost- effective option.
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It is the belief that . While ARGs generally use the internet as a central binding medium, they are not played exclusively on a computer and usually do not require the use of special software or interfaces. Non- player characters in ARGs are controlled in real time by the puppetmasters, not computer AI. Role- playing games (RPGs) and Live action role- playing games (LARPs). The role of the puppetmaster in creating ARG narratives and the puppetmaster's relationship with an ARG's players bears a great deal of similarity to the role of a game master or referee in a role- playing game. However, the role of the players is quite different. Most ARGs do not have any fixed rules—players discover the rules and the boundaries of the game through trial and error—and do not require players to assume fictional identities or roleplay beyond feigning belief in the reality of the characters they interact with (even if games where players play 'themselves' are a long- standing variant on the genre).
As outlined above with computer games and traditional role- playing games, non- player characters in ARGs are controlled by real people in real time, not by computer AI; ARGs do not generally require special software or interfaces to play; the games do not require players to roleplay or create characters or avatars; and ARGs generally use multiple media and real life in addition to the internet to distribute their narratives. Viral marketing/internet hoaxes. While ARGs are often used as a type of viral marketing, they diverge sharply from the philosophy behind . Similarly, they also diverge from sites or narratives that genuinely try to convince visitors that they are what they claim to be.
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Puppetmasters generally leave both subtle and overt clues to the game's fictional nature and boundaries where players can find them (e. The puppetmasters of the genre's seminal example, the Beast,(see below).
In addition, the cross- media nature of the form allows ARGs to incorporate elements of so many other art forms and works that attempting to identify them all would be a nearly impossible task. Possible inspirations from fiction and other art forms. Chesterton's 1. 90.
The combination board and card game, Vlet, that many of the main characters in Delany's science fiction novel Triton (published in 1. ARG. Reader- influenced online fiction such as AOL's Quantum. Link Serial provides a model that incorporates audience influence into the storytelling in a manner similar to that of ARGs, as do promotional online games like Wizards of the Coast's Webrunner games. Other possible antecedents include performance art and other theatrical forms that attempt to directly engage the audience. The One Game, a British television drama serial screened in 1. ARG (referred to as a .
Elan Lee, one of its creative principals, cites the 1. The Game as an inspiration, as well as the Beatles' .
Sean Stewart, another of the three principal designers, notes that designing and running an ARG bears some similarities to running an RPG, and the influence of that particular game form is further suggested by the fact that Jordan Weisman, the game's third main designer, was also the founder of leading RPG company FASA. Stewart also noted that the sort of . Hill's Stephan Raszer tracks his quarry in the current literary thriller Nowhere- Land. Basic design principles. Instead of presenting a chronologically unified, coherent narrative, designers scatter pieces of the story across the Internet and other media, allowing players to reassemble it, supply connective tissue and determine what it means. Platformless narrative. Stories are not bound to a single medium, but exist independently and use whatever media is available to make itself heard.
Designing for a hive mind. While it might be possible to follow games individually, designs are directed at a collective of players that share information and solutions almost instantly, and incorporate individuals possessing almost every conceivable area of expertise. While games might initially attract a small group of participants, as the participants come across new challenges they try to find others with the knowledge needed to overcome an obstacle. A whisper is sometimes louder than a shout. Rather than openly promoting games and trying to attract participation by .
Designers do not communicate about the game with players or press while it is in play. The . ARGs themselves do not acknowledge that they are games. They do not have an acknowledged ruleset for players; as in real- life, they determine the . Narratives present a fully realized world: any phone number or email address mentioned works, and any website acknowledged exists. Games take place in real time and are not replayable. Characters function like real people, not game pieces, respond authentically, and are controlled by real people, not by computer AI. Some events involve meetings or live phone calls between players and actors.
Real life as a medium. Games use players' lives as a platform.
Players are not required to build a character or role- play being someone other than themselves. They might unexpectedly overcome a challenge for the community simply because of the real- life knowledge and background they possessed.
Participants are constantly on the lookout for clues embedded in everyday life. Collaborative storytelling. While the puppetmasters control most of the story, they incorporate player content and respond to players' actions, analysis and speculation by adapting the narrative and intentionally leave .
While the TINAG aesthetic might seem on the surface to be an attempt to make something indistinguishable from real life, there are both subtle and overt metacommunications in place to reveal a game's framework and most of its boundaries. Scholarly views. Across the board, a diverse range of organizations, such as businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and schools . In sustaining cooperative online communities, ARGs build off of .
Notably, in the classroom, ARGs can be effective tools for providing exigence on given topics and yield a collaborative and experiential learning environment. It included most of the aforementioned design principles.
The game included working voice mail phone numbers for characters, clues in the source code, character email addresses, off- site websites, real locations in San Francisco, real people (including then- Mayor Willie Brown), and of course a fictional mystery. Ong's Hat/Incunabula was most likely started sometime around 1. Ong's Hat also incorporated elements of legend tripping into its design, as chronicled in a scholarly work titled . The site combined copious amounts of Monty Python- esque writing (by Michael Bywater) with ARG- type interactivity. The marketing for the 1.
The Blair Witch Project resembled ARGs in many ways (and some of its makers went on to create the 2. Audi promotional ARG The Art of the Heist), expanding the world of the movie online, adding backstory, and treating the fiction as reality through real- world media such as fliers and a fake documentary on the Sci- Fi Channel. However, perhaps in part due to the subject material and the absence of overt metacommunications that this was fiction, it also resembles an internet hoax or attempt to create an urban legend. Pervasive play games like the Go Game and the Nokia Game also incorporated many elements similar to ARGs (although they tended to lack the narrative element central to ARGs) and prefigured the public play components of large- scale corporate ARGs like I Love Bees, The Art of the Heist and Last Call Poker. Electronic Arts' Majestic began development in 1. Beast had concluded, in 2.
Featuring phone calls, emails and other media that involved players in a multiplatform narrative, the game was eventually cancelled due to lack of players.