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The Rise of ARGs 24

Gamasutra has a feature up discussing the advent of the Alternate Reality Game genre and discussing some of the early examples of the game style. They discuss the fact that most ARGs to date have been promotions of one kind or another, and the possible repercussions of this limitation. From the article: "While they have demonstrated their use as a cost-effective and entertaining way to promote a product many times, ARGs deserve serious consideration - especially from independent developers - as a way to grow and distribute unique intellectual property."
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The Rise of ARGs

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  • Perhaps the machines have already begun to take over the earth... their first step is to create an alternate reality that we prefer over the "real" one.

    In Soviet Russia, games are the new Alternate Reality genre!
  • by moonpxi ( 725909 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2005 @11:51AM (#12489111) Homepage
    Whaaat!? You mean there is *another* reality outside the browser???
  • by MrAndrews ( 456547 ) <> on Tuesday May 10, 2005 @11:55AM (#12489157) Homepage
    Back in early 2001, my company ran what could loosely be called an ARG for about 9 months. The gist being that you would interact with characters and move through a bit of a vague social structure from being a pure outsider to a hardcore fugitive. The greatest mistake you could make in the game was to let anyone figure out who you really were, which greatly helped the immersion in the world we were creating.

    The best part of the experience for me, from the inside, was constantly pushing the boundaries of the game so that those who were just plowing through would always have something exciting to do. When things got too comfy for players in a certain group, we flipped things upside down and watched them react. Sometimes we had players defect from one team to another for no reason we could see, and it made everyone nervous that someone was about to rat them out. Compared to "I can see your avatar" kind of games, I found ARGs to be a lot more interesting because you didn't have any strong point of reference to tell what was really going on.

    The game itself was a bit of a companion to the show we were also making at the time. Since we had a strong storyline and events to push along, at certain points in the game, world politics would create a sudden "in-game event" that shook things up. But likewise, the events the players were creating started oozing into the scripts, so now a lot of the "history" we have comes from the ARG (including one now-important character who was previously a footnote, but got elevated due to some characters' interest in the mystery surrounding her). We laid so much groundwork out there in print and on the web that I think easily half of the content is still undiscovered (but most is still live and findable). Back in those days we stayed up all day and night writing new puzzles to keep things humming. The best 9 months of my life (work-wise).

    Near the end we started looking at ways to create two easier-to-manage games: more of an RPG and a flight simulator... but I think the real urgency we had with the ARG was lost trying to envision that kind of world, because it didn't leave nearly as many "in"s to muddle the player's worlds as we were used to.

    Some day I should pick of the bits of that game and give it another go. I just have to find enough coffee to help me stay awake that long (gettin' old).
    • The game itself was a bit of a companion to the show we were also making at the time

      Let me guess.. You could tell me what show it was, but then you would have to kill me?

      • Nah, it was Dustrunners. The show is ever-moving, but the game is dead, dead, dead. I reckon the longer I leave those fake sites out there and functioning, the less obvious they'll be if/when I ever bring back the game. I actually take one day a week to write fake press releases for fake companies with fully-articulated websites that no one ever looks at. I think I need therapy, cause my hobby is very odd.
  • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2005 @12:11PM (#12489312) Homepage Journal
    >> The Rise of ARGs

    I think there's a distinct correlation here with the advent of Talk Like a Pirate Day [].
  • ITYM Alternative (Score:2, Informative)

    by mykdavies ( 1369 )
    alternate ( P ) Pronunciation Key (ôltr-nt, l-)
    v. alternated, alternating, alternates
    v. intr.

    1. To occur in a successive manner: day alternating with night.
    2. To act or proceed by turns: The students alternated at the computer.
    2. To pass back and forth from one state, action, or place to another: alternated between happiness and depression.
    3. Electricity. To reverse direction at regular intervals in a circuit.
    • Re:ITYM Alternative (Score:3, Informative)

      by SpaceBass` ( 107809 )
      Nope, I meant alternate. ;P

      adj. (-nt)

      1. Happening or following in turns; succeeding each other continuously: alternate seasons of the year. See Usage Note at alternative.
      2. Designating or relating to every other one of a series: alternate lines.
      3. Serving or used in place of another; substitute: an alternate plan.
  • by Shadarr ( 11622 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2005 @01:46PM (#12490368) Homepage
    In my experience, the hype surrounding ARGs vastly overshadows the actual reach and market penetration of the game. Despite all the stories about it being the Next Big Thing(TM), I don't know anyone who's done more than click a couple links or, more likely, read a story like this one. Most likely, the reason for the hype is that they're advertising vehicles, and the hype is the whole reason for the game. It doesn't really matter whether anyone actually plays the game, so long as the media talks about the game and by proxy, whatever product is being pushed.
  • by AzraelKans ( 697974 ) on Tuesday May 10, 2005 @02:26PM (#12490798) Homepage
    Yeah right, look it may be an "advent" for marketting to use ARGs as a really cheap campaign aimed at geeks, but the truth remains, only geeks, real uber geeks even become interested in ARGs and just a small percent of them (unemployed or students) follow them for more than a week. thats definetily not "mainstream" by any means.

    Probably the most succesful ARG ever was "Ilovebees" but then this was because a lot of people thought a surprise demo of halo2 was involved (which it wasnt). and for the international players (which were quite a few) MS cut them off the loop by making phone calls in the US only. The final event took place in sometown close to MS offices I think. (meaning it was a waste of time for 90% of players)

    Until theres some interesting price for beating an ARG and not just the "intellectual achievement" (Im talking about some hard cold cash, a console or better) and also the makers of this sort of games realize WWW means "world wide web" not "Close to Washington, Wyoming, Why not canada", I really dont think ordinary people would ever become interested in one. And even then uber geeks (unemployed ones) will have the upper hand all the time.

    • The final event took place in sometown close to MS offices I think. (meaning it was a waste of time for 90% of players)

      the final event was a 4-city simultaneous event in Texas (Dallas i believe), New York, Chicago, and LA that unfortunately got gate-crashed by a bunch of mouth-breathing Halo fanboys. The LA event was the best and most successfull, due to the fact that the PM's from 4orty2wo productions showed up.

      although, the "real" players were busy solving a final puzzle that involved phoning the other
    • I personally have been playing since "The Beast" in 2001 and have personally seen the rise of the genre from a small cult to the current 6691 members of the unfiction board[May 10, 2005] and that is only one of numerous communities of ARG enthusiasts.

      It is definitly a growing genre especially among gamers and non-gamers alike. The target audiences for these games are the same as they are for adventure and puzzle games.

      Not all have been marketing tools, right now there eight active ARG's of which 2 (op

      • You know your post actually would have made a great answer if it werent for 2 details,

        First I never said the ONLY ARG's were promotional, I said those were the most known, dont even try to argue with me there.

        Second, Im an idiot because my post was unfounded? FYI I do play ARG's go trough my post again (read it) and find anything that you can label as a complete lie, otherwise: "an idiot is a person who calls someone who is not an idiot an idiot." do the math there pal.
        • First of all, it would appear I've misinterpreted "look it may be an "advent" for marketting to use ARGs as a really cheap campaign aimed at geeks". Also in no where do you state the fact that you play ARGs.

          Your argument was extremely unfounded on the last part concerning rewards as I stated in my previous argument. You also mentioned that the only people who play are those that are "Unemployed or students" which is completly obvious considering the primary target audience of most games (including ARGs) ar

  • MMORPARG....massively multiplayer online roleplaying alternate reality game. Try saying that ten times fast.
  • by XO ( 250276 )
    didn't EA do one of these? Majestic? Majestyk? Mirsomething? don't remember.

    Anyway, as someone else on this thread said, the hype created outweighs the actual playing of it. bleah.

Why did the Roman Empire collapse? What is the Latin for office automation?