Happy Valentine’s Day! Since today is all about love and things you enjoy, I decided to write up an introduction article on one of my interests – alternate reality games.
What is an alternate reality game?
An alternate reality game (or ARG) is a type of transmedia storytelling. Pieces of the story are revealed slowly through challenging puzzles across various types of media and often the characters of the story believe that they themselves are real. ARGs have also been described as a type of playable fiction.
Characters can send a Facebook friend request, become a follower on your Twitter account or even send packages in the mail. In return, participants can often email characters, find the website of the company the character works for or perhaps even ring the company if they have set up a phone number. The online space where an alternate reality game is played can be undefined, with no boundaries, so the limits between reality and fiction aren’t always easy to find.
The game is created by an unknown person/s called a puppetmaster, who crafts the story in a place simply referred to as “behind the curtain”. An ARG begins when a participant first finds a rabbit hole (or trailhead), which is the participant’s first contact with the game and sets up the protagonist’s backstory and the world in which the game takes place in. A participant can find a rabbit hole by chance such as discovering a mysterious website that needs further investigation but often when a game launches the puppetmaster attracts notice to a rabbithole by sending out emails or creates a mysterious Twitter follower.
There are two main types of ARGs: corporate and grassroots campaigns. Corporate campaigns are run by companies with large advertising budgets to promote a specific product, service or movie. While grassroots campaigns are designed by individuals or smaller teams of people.
How do I start playing an alternate reality game?
I recommend visiting the Unfiction forums (www.unfiction.com) as they have a collection of forum topics where people post rabbit holes they have found. Choose a rabbit hole and just start participating in the forum conversation – you’ll soon find yourself in the middle of an alternate reality game. Or catchup on ARG related news over at (http://www.argn.com/).
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