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Top 5 Most Interesting Alternate Reality Games List

Updated on June 2, 2013

Alternate Reality Games are games where players use different real-life media such as websites, e-mail, phones, newspapers to create a fictional story. ARGs are role playing games where gamers co-operate to solve puzzles in order to progress in the story. If you would like to learn more about Alternate Reality Games, please read this introduction to ARGs.

This article introduces you to the five most influential games in this genre that in one way or another shaped the ARGs as they are now. I have listed them by the release date from oldest to newest.

The Beast Alternate Reality Game
The Beast Alternate Reality Game

The Beast (2001)

The Beast is the first known ARG to go viral. This was an ARG made to promote the movie A.I. The game time is 16 years after the happenings in the movie - the year 2142. There were few 'rabbit holes' - hidden entrances to the game. The game character Jeanine Salla had a credit as Sentient Machine Therapist in some movie trailers and posters. As it isn't odd enough, one of the trailers had a phone number encoded in the text. Anyone who called were given instructions and if they followed them,t hey would receive an e-mail saying that Jeanine is the key in the murder of Evan Chan. Each rabbit hole lead further and further giving more and more information about her on different web pages. Somehow this fictional character had turned real in the world of internet. Since no similar game was ever made, the designers of the game were creating it real time, developing the story at the same time as it is happening. The climax of this game were real rallies against robots in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The final puzzles were solved by people that attended the gatherings together with other players that stayed home and did research on the internet.

I Love Bees Alternate Reality Game
I Love Bees Alternate Reality Game

I Love Bees (2004)

I Love Bees was an ARG that was designed to promote the computer game Halo 2. At the same day the Halo 2 trailer was premiered, members of some gaming communities received strange jars of honey in the mail. The tags that were attached to the honey lead them to the website . When players visited the website, they saw that it is bee-keeping website named Margaret's Honey which has just suffered a hacker attack. The website was organized by Margaret's nephew Dana but the graphics and data seemed now corrupted, the website was overlayed with weird messages and some mysterious countdowns. A link from this website lead to a private blog of Dana where she was asking her readers to assist her in fighting against the hackers. It turned out that the website was hacked by a rogue AI called Melissa. The adventures lead the players to a series of real payphones in USA which were ringing at certain times and anyone who would pick up was greeted with prerecorded messages that gave weird instruction such as asking players to sing their favorite songs or even make a human pyramid at specified locations. Eventually Melissa gave up the Earth location to alien invaders and so the story of Halo 2 began.

Perplex City Alternate Reality Game
Perplex City Alternate Reality Game

Perplex City (2005)

Perplex City is one of the longest ARGs which lasted almost 2 years.The game was set in Perplex City, an Utopian metropolis where players were looking for the Receda Cube, a special artifact. The artifact hunt happened all over the United Kingdom. The winner of this game was promised 100.000£ real money. In order to find out the location of the cube, players purchased collectable cards that have puzzles on them. Similar as other card games, the cards are sold in packs that contain random cards. There were total 256 cards with different rarity. The rarest cards contained the hardest puzzles. Each card was uniquely marked and you could enter the code on the Perplex City website to earn points. If the player solves the puzzle on the card, they receive extra points. Some cards had hidden information that was written with ultraviolet inks or inks that respond to heat. The backs of the cards contained a piece of the Perplex City map. The roleplaying feel of this ARG was added when a fictional character released his techno music CD and players wrote a book to make one of fictional characters a published author (in order to solve puzzles). There were also some player gatherings where hundreds of people gathered in order to participate in scavenger hunts. The game was won by Andy Darley who found the Cube on 2 February 2007.

The Lost Experience Alternate Reality Game
The Lost Experience Alternate Reality Game

Lost Experience (2006)

Lost Experience is an ARG that was a part of television drama Lost. The game started with a television commercial for Hanso Foundation, a fictional company which was aired during an episode of Lost. There was a phone number mentioned in the commercial. Players that dialed the number were presented with prerecorded messages that lead to Hanso Foundation website which contained a lot of little Easter eggs that when clicked lead to even more websites that turned out to be related to the mythology of Lost. The real publishing company Hyperion Books published novel Bad Twin by fictional author Gary Troup which survived the plane accident that ended with landing on the lost island. The book mentions Hanso Foundation several times and soon after it was released different newspapers were filled with adds claiming that the book is untrue. The events in the game went parallel to the series that were aired creating a unique TV watching experience. Lost Experience was the first ARG based on Lost and the game ended together with the season but on 2008 a new ARG Find 815 paralleling the series was released.

The Dark Knight Alternate Reality Game
The Dark Knight Alternate Reality Game

The Dark Knight ARG (2008)

The Dark Knight is one of the most creative ARGs ever made. It was made as a marketing campaign for the movie with the same name, featuring Batman and the Joker. It all started when people that visited ComiCon in San Diego received Jokerized 1$ bills that lead them to the webpage which apparently was the job board for the Joker himself. People who were crazy enough to become part of his team were asked to come to a local convention center in near future. People that gathered at the special place saw a phone number appear on the sky. There was a recorded message that was played to those that called the number. It was a voice of a kidnapped man who lead to the next part of the game - scavenger hunt. All participants were painted with Joker makeup and sent to solve the puzzles that lead to different webpages and other clues. At the end of the first day players were rewarded with online premiere of the Dark Knight trailer but one lucky winner of the game was kidnapped by mobsters and apparently "killed". The game however lasted for much longer. People could get real Gotham City newspapers filled with clues of only they dressed up as joker and made a photo of themselves with a famous monument in the background. Another task was going to loads of different bakeries in the whole country and pick up cakes that each had a cell phone in them. Players were involved in large scale rallies that appeared in Gotham City news website which together with all other websites involved in this ARG was later hacked and vandalized by Joker himself. This was when the game ended and the movie was finally released.


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    • Buzzbee profile image

      Buzzbee 3 years ago from The County of the Winkies in Oz

      Living in the Land of Oz in the Emerald City (during the summer months anyway) I am very interested in your topic and hope to pursue your writings with a devotional attentiveness!

    • Eranofu profile image

      Eranofu 5 years ago from Europe

      I feel honored and happy that you find it fascinating, Zakmoonbeam. Thank you so much for the kind words.

    • Zakmoonbeam profile image

      Michael Murchie 5 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Wow, I pride myself as a gamer of long standing, in all types of genre but I have never heard of these before, I really need to get out more, or not as the case may be!

      Absolutely fascinating, thanks for a great read.