In my past six months of intensely researching alternate reality games, several games keep popping up in my research because of their exposure levels or measure of success by players or other game designers. I think it’s obvious to guess that the three that have cropped up the most are The Beast for A.I., Why So Serious for The Dark Knight, and I Love Bees for Halo 2. The Beast was arguably the first ARG and has retained notoriety for that. Why So Serious gained its popularity seemingly from the sheer amount of players it amassed (over 10 million). I Love Bees seems to have become an ARG favorite due to one of its designers, Jane McGonigal, and its quirky way of delivering clues– geolocation and pay phones.
I think my personal favorite ARG that I’ve read and studied about, besides Why So Serious, is Perplex City. Unfortunately, I’ve found very little literature or press about this game, even though I think it is just a really awesome game concept. I’m actually using some of its elements in my own game design. If anyone has any literature or information about the game besides the YouTube video previously embedded, I would love to read about it. The reason I’m partial to Perplex City is because it is already doing something that I really am focusing on in my research– the idea of crossing casual elements such as the game cards with smaller puzzles and larger, story arch puzzle pieces. I think this is brilliant because it allows for both casual and hardcore gamers. I really think that this is a great model because it opens up ARGs to more than just the elite few of gaming. I’ll probably dedicate an entire separate post to this idea because I can already feel myself getting off topic.
Some of the other ARGs that I’ve read about include:
- Last Call Poker
- Year Zero
- Free Fall
- Ghost of a Chance
- The Shadow War
- Traces of Hopes (British Red Cross)
- The Lost Ring
There is so little information about these games out there for public access that this is all of the games I’ve come across in academic research. I believe my next step is to immerse myself into player sites and sort through the current ARGs that are being played in addition to some of the standout games of the past.
I simply pose the question of what do you think some of the top ARGs are in the past decade? Why? What made them work? What didn’t? Because there is so little information out there on followup ARG design, I’m trying to compile as much information as I can so that I can look at ARG design as a whole from an academic and theorist standpoint. It’s eventually my goal to have this great source of knowledge about all kinds of ARGs, both successful and not, so that designers can really look at them and then build on them. That is the goal after all, isn’t it? To build a better ARG?
I’d like to discuss lots of different ARGs in all shapes and forms and so I’d love to hear about any ARGs that anyone thinks are super awesome or super weird.