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What Are Alternate Reality Games?

Updated on June 2, 2013

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are interactive games that use real world as the base platform and incorporate countless forms of media to create a story. The games usually can fit under roleplaying genre but they are much more complex than that. There are usually also elements of puzzle games found among the most popular ARGs. The story often is made by the game developers but the players themselves are encouraged to come up with new different twists in the plot during the gameplay. The story happens real time and changes according to players and their responses to events. The key elements of the story still remain different tasks and puzzles which are hidden and solved by utilizing different types of media such as websites, e-mail, fax, phone, campus billboards, advertisements in newspapers and many, many more. The ways how clues can be passed are limited only to imagination. Very often solving these puzzles require teamwork especially to solve the most complex and difficult tasks.

Alternate Reality Game
Alternate Reality Game

Alternate Reality Games

New ARGs are appearing on regular basis but how did it all start? The very first known ARG was "The Beast" which was made by Microsoft to promote the movie A.I. The game was set in year 2142 and was the first attempt to blur the border between real life and game experience. Players explored the game world by using real world features such as e-mail and phone and each of their discoveries lead to another puzzle that had to be solved.

The game world was designed by a team of game creators who kept their identities secret until the game was finished. Their whois searches on the game URLs were hidden under the name of Gepetto so till this very day Alternate Reality Game masters are called Puppetmasters. The function of puppetmasters is very similar to the one of NPCs in most role-playing games. They are the key elements of the story, they can co-ordinate the story by appearing and disappearing, giving clues or quests and do many, many more things. Actors that fill the puppetmaster or game character function have much bigger charm than any character that is controlled by artificial intelligence.

A poster that leads to the Bioshock 2 computer game.
A poster that leads to the Bioshock 2 computer game.

Alternate Reality Games Online

Alternate Reality Gaming is also known as unfiction, immersive fiction or beasting thanks to "The Beast". Beasting was made possible because of community building and the wide possibilities that the internet atmosphere has to offer. Not only clues were hidden in websites and e-mails, the teams could group together and discuss possible solutions through forums and newsletters.

There are some ARGs that use internet as the only media. Some online MMORPGs use alternate reality gaming as a part of their gameplay, for example, The Secret World and the new MMO ARG by Google Ingress (it is still in Beta phase at the moment).

The Spiral ARG: Find The Hidden Paintings
The Spiral ARG: Find The Hidden Paintings

Current Alternate Reality Games

So you are hooked and would like to try out the ARG experience but don't know where to start? The entrance that leads to an Alternate Reality Game or a vital part of it is called the rabbit hole the same as the rabbit hole that lead Alice to Wonderland. Usually the first rabbit hole is made available to large public. There are ARG enthusiasts that are hunting and listing the games that are are currently in progress or about to start. One of the biggest alternate reality game community is ARGNet which offers the list of current alternate reality games here.

Another option is joining UnFiction forums where new games are often listed. This is also a nice opportunity to meet fellow Alternate Reality Gamers. Many of the games that you find there are miniature versions of the huge ARGs made by the fans of this game genre.

Hope you liked this hub. Happy ARGing!


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    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      5 years ago from Tennesee



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