Alternate Reality Games

 

Electronic Literature takes many forms and one that we have yet to touch on is Alternate Reality Games. These games take many forms, and can manifest themselves in many ways, but always use the real world as a launching platform. Players are provided with set information and characters through the game’s designers, but it is ultimately in the player’s hands to unravel the mystery, and as such they have the power to evolve the story.

My friend Sam and I attempted to create our own ARG a year or two ago (we get very ambitious at times). It honestly doesn’t work though if no one is playing. In addition to this, we got bored with the project after a while, as we always tend to do. But, there are several remnants of this ARG floating around Youtube if you want to check it out:

It’s pretty funny actually, our acting is horrible, and the story literally makes no sense to me, though I think Sam understood it a little better than I. It essentially revolved around a sort of mundane videoblogger who stumbles upon a huge government conspiracy of some kind (never figured out with that was going to be, which probably was very poor planning.) Videos would be revealed each week, as well as emails, text files and sound bites from our main character’s computer. In the end it would have been up to the participant’s to unravel the mystery through the information that was provided. Looking back on it, I wish we had finished it.

 

Essentially what we were trying to recreate though was the experience we had while playing the various Lost ARG that filled the gaps between seasons. In fact, I’m pretty sure we were just ripping off one of those games to begin with, see as many of the names in the video are Lost related. Regardless, these games were a great addition to the Lost universe. The two that I enjoyed the most were Find815 and theLostExperience. Both these games had really deep and rich elements that made the experience seem like a real mystery that had a legitimate endgame. TheLostExperience in particular had many elements that linked it inextricably to the show, which made it very clear that we were playing for the sole purpose of further understanding the deep mythology of the Lost universe. The game began with a commercial that aired during an actual episode of Lost for the Hanso foundation. It was really cool, and I know that I for one immediately went to the website provided in the commercial immediately. The only way that these games work is if everyone takes it completely seriously and the designers never make any reference to it being a game.

 

In the end, none of the games really made much sense within the context of the show, and Damon Lindelof has even denied that the Find815 game is canonical (He had enough plotholes to fill in the actual show, give him a break!). Still, I do not regret going through these games and finishing them because they were actually really fun.

 

  1 comment for “Alternate Reality Games

  1. February 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Ah, the Lost Experience. I got into that one briefly, too. Actually, I recall a lot of the more serious ARG community and developers were kind of pissed about that game, because it was really high-profile and (some felt) poorly designed. Some were afraid it would give people the wrong idea of what an ARG could be.

    Anyway, I rather like ARGs, and I think it’s cool how people often see one and then very quickly get excited enough to run one of their own. As you probably learned, it takes a lot of planning and work.

    If you’re really interested, you should take my ARG class next I teach it!

    (And speaking of ARGs with literary flavors, a former student just directed me to interdimensionalgames.com. Have you seen this? There’s extensive discussion and analysis/play over at unfiction.)

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