Tag Archives: ARG

ARG’s – Time to Get Into the Game

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Image by fofurasfelinas via Flickr

ARG, or “Alternate Reality Gaming” has been around for a bit now but is still only slowly trickling into the mainstream.  A big reason for this is that it is the nature of an ARG to target “super-fans” willing to invest the sort of time and energy required for full participation.

Now MentalFloss.com is providing a great overview of ARGs and some great links to help you get involved:

For example, in the ARG for The Dark Knight, a few lucky players visited participating bakeries and bought cakes that had been reserved for “Robin Banks.” Written in the icing was a phone number. When the player dialed the number, a cell phone hidden inside the cake began to ring. As the campaign went on, these players received text messages, recorded voice messages, and were instructed to call numbers to gain further access to the game’s many puzzles.

Check out the whole story here.

I think ARGs are going to continue to grow as people become more comfortable moving between the various forms of communication out there and as marketers look for new ways to create true user engagement.

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How To Tell Stories on the Web

Braun HF 1, Germany, 1959

There is a sort of provocative, if not especially deep, post over on AdAge about the state of storytelling on the internet.

The author believes the web has failed as a storytelling platform, although he doesn’t do much to back it up. He does, however have some thoughts on the future:

“So where are we now? We’re at a fascinating point in history where a bold group of content creators, advertisers and digital artists are seeking the Holy Grail of online content: the ability to fund and create large-scale stories that attract and engage large audiences.

Alternate Reality Games: Otherwise known as ARGs, these have become very popular within the past few years. An ARG is a story that draws the audience in through mystery and intrigue and invites them to participate in unearthing clues to solve the puzzle. These ARGs have been sponsored by brands ranging from Audi to McDonald’s, along with major movie studios and TV networks. The results have been impressive, but to date the genre has struggled to reach true mainstream appeal because much of the viewing experience requires investing dozens of hours of time.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games: Often abbreviated as MMORPGs, these include games like “World of Warcraft.” Like ARGs, these games tell stories in a user-driven, first-person manner and are incredibly compelling.

Transmedia Content: This is perhaps the most exciting of all. Transmedia storytelling refers to stories that are told across a broad array of media. A great example is the hit TV show “Heroes,” which in addition to its TV broadcast has created as many as 200 websites, most of which allow heavy fan participation and collectively reveal and advance storylines that may not appear in broadcast. The results have been staggering. The web experiences have delivered viewership figures rivaling or in some cases exceeding those on television.”

That’s a good summary of the some of the ways that creative people are using the unique nature of the web to tell a more involved kind of story.  I think there will be room for these and more traditional episodic stories on the web.

While these interactive concepts are enticing and shiny they will only be attractive to that portion of the population looking for more involved experiences. A lot of times we just want to sit and watch – as long as the story is a good one, there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Take Over the World One Sticker at a Time

This is so cool!  (via PSFK)

Urban Takeover is a mixed reality game that takes place both online and in the “real” world. The goal of the game is to put special stickers with your name/tag on buildings, or any other stationary object and claim it as your own. You then text the Urbantakeover website to get listed on their map of owned locations.”

But that’s just the beginning.  Other people can try to take over your territory.  When they do you are notified via text message.  Will you rise up against your attackers or surrender your territory?

This is just one more step in the growth of ARG’s.  The technology is finally there to support our wildest gaming dreams.

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Lost Misses a Great Opportunity with LostScape

Although I have never been a watcher of ABC’s LOST (I always suspected it didn’t have a real ending…) I was intrigued when I heard that ABC had released an online game component called LostScape.

With all the mystery and intrigue surrounding the plot for LOST and the seemingly obsessive fan-base, this seems like the kind of show that would be ripe for an ARG.

Instead, what we get is a very clunky scroll, point and click experience intermixed with cut scenes from the show.  There is nothing at all innovative or involving about either the style or game play.

What a totally Lost opportunity for ABC.

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The Lost Ring Gathers Steam

The press around the Olympics/McDonalds sponsored ARG, The Lost Ring, continues to grow.  The NYT actually has McDonalds on record admitting to their involvement.

“I think finding out that it was McDonald’s was kind of a big shock for everyone,” said Geoff May, a player in Ontario who founded a Web site (olympics.wikibruce.com) on the game. “Obviously it’s McDonald’s, and not everyone likes them,” he said. “Personally, I don’t mind as long as we don’t get products forced down our throat. If we’re getting McDonald’s meals sold by characters, it’s going to be hard to suspend our disbelief.”

Over on CNet, they poked around and discovered that players are starting to get involved:

“It turns out that up in Kitchener, Ontario, a bunch of players spent some time over the last few days taking part training for the “lost” sport of Olympia, the human labyrinth, McGonigal told me Tuesday morning. Of course, the overarching story line of The Lost Ring is to discover the great lost sport of the Olympics.”

I’m still not ready to go search for the lost ring myself, but I think it is fun to read about and follow.

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Batman Enters the ARG Ring

The LA Times has a pretty good look at the ARG efforts of 42 Entertainment on behalf of the upcoming Batman movie:

“So to stand out, “The Dark Knight’s” alternate reality game (ARG for short) is mashing up advertising, scavenger-hunting and role-playing in a manner that variously recalls “The X-Files” and the play “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” “The Matrix” and the board game Clue — all in the name of galvanizing a community of fans to bond (with the new Batman and each other) over the course of a wild goose chase.

Or to be more precise, a wild Joker chase — one that so far has involved clues spelled out in skywriting, secret meeting points, cellphones embedded inside cakes, Internet red herrings, DIY fan contests and even fake political rallies. Moreover, last week several players were nearly arrested in Chicago while engaging in civil disobedience to promote the movie; others have even been “kidnapped” and “murdered” over the course of the game.”

What I love about this is that it has been going on for over a year and this is the first I’ve heard about it.  Obviously, I am not a big (or even small) Batman fan and none of the marketing has therefore been targeted at me.  In addition, there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to pull me in.

This is for the super-fan and by providing something special just for them it can justify their remaining and super-far.  At the end of the day, it is the super-fans that can push a movie over the top.

Though I’m not sure Batman was going to suffer a huge hit at the box office without a cool ARG, it is totally cool and exciting.

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Real-World Risk Mashup

The NYT continues to flex its tech-news muscles with a really cool story about a new online/offline game called GXC:

“GXC more closely resembles an intramural or interscholastic sport than the typical online video game, where individuals or small groups are pitted against each other. GXC teams, made up of hundreds and sometimes thousands of players, play on behalf of real-world dorms or schools — even presidential candidates — by jostling for hegemony on maps of their campus or locale and conducting their campaigns as much in the real world as online.

“This kind of game is a product of how people live and interact today, with the offline aspect as part of the draw,” said Jonathan Rochelle, a New York product manager at Google who discovered the game as an adviser to the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute. He views it as similar to software like Google Calendar and Google Docs — tools that enhance real-world collaboration.

“Rather than isolating us in an online world, it enhances our interactions in the real world,” Mr. Rochelle said.”

The game is based on the classic boardgame Risk and is part of a real growth in games that combine the collective power of the internet with our desire to assemble together in what some cyberpunks refer to as “meat-space.”

Pretty cool to see how many ways people are finding to come together with technology even while the luddites fear all tech does is alienate.

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