ARG Examination: Perplex City

One of the most interesting ARGs that I’ve come across in my research is one called Perplex City. I think this one intrigued me so much because it inspired my current research on casual gaming and alternate reality gaming coming together in the new genre casual transmedia games. Anyways, as inspirational as it was for me, it turns out that it wasn’t that great of a success financially for the company that created it, Mind Candy. I think one of the major reasons why this game “failed” (I’m sure it was loads of fun, but if it flops financially, unfortunately, the game is usually branded a failure) is because it attempted to self-sustain itself. Instead of promoting an outside brand or product, the game was in a sense promoting itself. Players bought decks of playing cards much like Pokemon or baseball cards. These cards had puzzles on them. Some of these puzzles were self-contained, but others lead players to other clues, either on other cards or in the real world. The game was supposed to sustain itself therefore by the sale of these cards. It would have been amazing if this had worked. I think it would have revolutionized the gaming industry. However, the sale of these cards simply wasn’t enough to sustain the game.

“Season One” of Perplex City ran from April 2005 through February 2007. That is an enormously long time for an ARG to run. I think that might have been another reason the game didn’t do as well as it could have. It’s very hard to keep a game like that going. Why So Serious? ran for 18 months, but I think that’s an exception rather than a rule. Anyways, Mind Candy promised a second season of Perplex City, but as it says on the Perplex City website, the financial undertaking of creating a second installment would simply be too much.

It really is a bummer. I think with some game design modifications and a financial backer with a product to promote, a game like Perplex City could be a huge success.

Anyways, a few years ago, one of my first introductions to the world of alternate reality games at all was the video below that one of my professors showed us in class. The idea of it really captivated me, and well, here I am going to grad school to study them. Check on the video to find out a little bit more about Perplex City.


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