Written by Professor Thomas M Connolly
Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) or “immersive gaming” is a blend of online narrative and puzzle solving (similar to an online scavenger hunt). The narrative is gradually revealed through a series of media such as websites, Instant Messenger conversations, text messages, emails and in some cases, TV and newspaper adverts and telephone calls. Central to the development and running of an ARG is the puppetmaster, who is simultaneously an ally and adversary to the player base, creating obstacles and providing resources for overcoming them in the course of telling the game’s story. Fundamental to the solving of the game is collaboration – players must work together to solve the puzzles and ultimately the game. One further technological area that has been identified as having strong impact on learning is the emergence of social networking. Interestingly, not only are ARGs a form of computer game they are also heavily built around social networking.
The form is typified by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants' responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game's designers. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyse the story and coordinate real-life and online activities. ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.
ARGs are growing in popularity, with new games appearing regularly and an increasing amount of experimentation with new models and sub-genres.
The use of ARGs in education is a new and growing phenomenon. We believe that this project is the first instance of one being used to promote multilingualism.
Alternate reality game – Wikipedia
Alternate Reality Gaming Network
Alternate Reality Games SIG/Educators and ARGs