Gaming in the Real World: Alternate Reality Games in Libraries


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  • Don’t forget to announce Tech Lounge and promote it before beginning the presentation!!! Or Andy will hunt me down
  • “An interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants” – WikipediaUsing real world objects to participate in a fictional narrative in the real world (phones, email, handhelds, computers, etc)Interactive fictionCollaborative storytelling through gameplayThey are about promotion and marketing, which we will discuss more in a few minutesHowever, I hope to also show today that they can also be much more.History of ARG: A mixture of older gaming and narrative traditions presented in new clothes
  • Evolution of previous traditions ARGs are a mix of previous fiction and gaming traditions with various influential elementsChoose your own adventure The idea of the reader/participant being able to have the ability to effect the movement and/outcome of a storyReader is a character (2nd person)RPG and/or MMORPGCollaborative gameplay to pool resources and collective knowledge to achieve common goalsLARP – Character and story role play in the real worldThe idea of the literary/narrative hoaxBlair Witch Project – Where the film itself was cleverly promoted as an actual documentary about the Blair Witch and was even filmed in that mode, when the film itself was entirely fictionalWar of the Worlds – Where the radio broadcast was performed and read as if it was actually occurring, and despite hourly announcements that it was a radio play, many were convinced that it was in fact taking placeBoth blur lines between fiction and reality
  • Some ingredients are considered staples of the dish, some are added based on the individual cooking. Many ways to bake an apple pie (good example)Story driven interactive fiction – Players as story participantsCross Medium Interactivity - Interaction with/promotion of game via web, multimedia (audio, video, etc), handheld devices and social networks Interaction affects the storyLive events within the narrative contextGaming elements focusing on solving problems, puzzles, codes, etc..Promotion of a product, brand or service (whether obvious or embedded)Player collaboration to solve puzzle and plot elements (not required though)To get a better sense of how an ARG operates when it is running, it may be useful to look at the following diagram
  • Enter game via rabbit hole(s)Engage in gameplay that drives the narrativeEndgame - end of story and game (if the game has a prize this is when it would be awarded)TerminologyPuppet master(s)– those individuals creating and running the gameRabbit hole – entry points into the gameTrail – describes the puzzle trail that moves the narrative from point to pointGuide – provides a recap of the game history once the game has begun. This is useful for players who enter the game after it has begun, or after one or more puzzles have been solved alreadyTINAG – “This Is Not A Game” (the concept that the game should not reveal itself as a game, but as reality) – this was once considered a pre-requisite of ARGs but is no longer the case. However, a hybrid of this concept can still be useful for games that may be played by those not exposed to this type of gaming before (the immersion factor)Transmedia storytelling – ARGs are a type ; telling a narrative with incorporating various types of electronic media (39 clues, Skeleton Creek, Vooks)And I am interested in this why???
  • 1. ARGs are great marketing and promotional toolsThe provide a fun context in which to fit your institutional agenda or goal(s)They can change the perspective by which you can market or promote your new product or service (databases, technology)They can change the perspective by which you market existing services (books, reference, etc)Great use of existing or potential partnerships (traffic and education)A way to get hard to reachpatron groups in the doorIn promoting the game, you are also promoting the library (buzz)
  • 2. ARGs can also be information literacy tools (21st CENTURY LITERACY SKILLS)Social discovery (the use of social tools to find relevant content)Collaborative researchNew media information literacy and analysisCritical thinking skill buildingContextual information gatheringTeamwork development and collective intelligenceCreative (and group)problem solving
  • 3. ARGs can foster meaningful and valuable experiencesThey can engage and connect us to users and vice versa (but also users with each other)They create positive experiences; they create compelling and fun experiences Value of unique and meaningful experiences in gameplay (Jane McGonical) – a high end user experienceAccomplishment, Satisfaction, Self AffirmationShe believes that gaming allows us to express our best selvesPower of ARG (Player as agent of change and decision in real world context)The Epic Win (To audience : think of situation where solved challenge and how you felt – compare to ARG experience)Idea of Alternate Reality Game versus Alternate Reality ExperienceMcGonical believes that people should not only play games to solve real world problems, but that we need to dedicate more time to gaming in order to accomplish this (YOU HAVE TO WATCH HER TED TALK)Having this value-added experience associated with a library sponsored event (subliminal connections)GIVE JP A SHOUT OUTPlayers become invested, and you can “profit” from that investmentConcept of immersionPositive outcomes from gaming in the real world : The Conspiracy for Good (Kring) – 5 libraries built in Africa and 10,000 book donatedWe are in the storytelling business – this is in our wheel house (gaming with an easy sell)The question isn’t why.. It is why haven’t we already
  • Examples of Alternate Reality Games“The Beast” (2001)One of the earliest ARGs (created by Microsoft for “AI Artificial Intelligence)Multiple rabbit holes including hidden credits and embedded codes in posters and trailersGame involved investigating a character who was a robotherapist (ficitonal occupation in the film)Websites created for characters in the story (trail led through 30 different websites)Phone numbers players called to listen to messagesAlso features live event rallies in several major citiesI Love Bees ARG created to promote the game Halo 2.Well known due to the large numbers of participants as well as the close-knit nature of the player factions that developed from it (the beekeepers) The game involved the ficitious crash landing of an alien craft, where the alien presence was able to invade the Internet and take over a site called “ILoveBees”. Players were provided clues through game trailers as well as actual jars of honey with the site on it being sent to players of previous ARG’s. The game was played largely online as well as through recorded phone messages to move pretty complicated sci-fi storyline The culminating event for players of this game was the chance to visit two theaters to play the new Halo 2 game in advance of its releaseHelp Vince (2010)ARG revolved around a fictitious mystery involving a real football player, Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots. The premise was that his SuperBowl ring was stolen by an uber-Jets fan and they needed NE Pats fans help to get the ring back.The gaming element involved the creation of a long sequence of numbers created by the Jets fan that when collected and deciphered would lead to the location of the ring.Numbers could be found by following clues on their Twitter account as well as using the mobile social gaming application SCVNGR on their handheld devices.This mobile app was allow players to collect points which could be used to enter into a sweepstake as well as daily prizes. Flynn Lives (2010) ARG that was developed to promote the movie “Tron Legacy”. One of the more elaborate ARGs that have been done where the game was initiated when movie bloggers received flash drives with codes as well as coins to Flynn’s arcade. The codes led to various websites setup for the game, one of which led to the discovery of an entirely live rendered arcade at 2010 Comic-Con. Additional aspects of the game had participants in 16 cities finding evidence and being led to various locations that once all were unlocked, let players participating online help in solving the mystery. The culmination of the game was that players who were able to finish were given details to attend a free screening of the film on a first come first served basis.Go Forth (2009) ARG developed by Levis which entailed following the travels of fictional character Grayson Ozias IV and attempting to find where his “fortune” was hidden.Players were given clues via their website and were able to follow them to real world locations where they found artifacts from his travels and met various challenges.The culmination of the game was the discovery was the first player to decipher the final clue was given the opportunity to go to the location of the fortune and dig up the buried treasure, which in the case was $100,000 (real money).Serial Huntress (2010)This online ARG for the television show Dexter followed the investigation of a fictitious FBI agent on the hunt for a serial killer “The Infinity Killer”. Players were given a website where the FBI agent, the Serial Huntress, would post video, audio, images and clues from the investigation.Players were invited to help her capture the killer. Players accomplished this by viewing and listening to the clues, and then sharing their thoughts and answers on a message board on the site. There was a good level of interactivity, where videos were created each week by the Huntress to recap that weeks events, and respond various players comments, ideas, and thoughtsThe culminating event in this game was the players being given the ability to decide the fate of the killer and the FBI agent.. Who was to be whose victim. Based on voting a final confrontation video was posted to the site, where the FBI agent is successful in getting her killer.EVOKE (2010) Created by well-known ARG game designer Jane McGonical who has focused on creating games that challenge players to work together take on real world problems and think about ways to solve these issues. EVOKE tasked players to take one mission and one quest per week where topics included world hunger, and the energy crisis. Players taking on a mission, or quest were given the story, content to investigate the story, and then charged with providing their own content to complete the questThe game used leveling elements familiar to those who play RPG’s or MMORPGs for such attributes as creativity and resourcefulness. EVOKE encouraged social interaction among players to develop resourceful and innovative solutions to real word problems in a gaming environment.World Without Oil (2007) – An earlier McGonical ARG, or collaberative simulationIdea was a group of people find out an oil shock is coming and prepare a website to collect peoples stories during the eventThe players were provided with fictional content (video, news reports, audio) detailing the situation of the first 32 weeks of an “oil shock” via the siteThe players were then charged with, once consuming the content, to submit their story (email, blog, phone, comics, video) about what it would be like for them in a world without oilPlayers could read each others writings, and then update their own information as the oil shock grew closerThe idea was a form of collaborative idea sharing and getting people to think about this type of possible crisis as well as solutionsPlayers were encouraged to take their solutions habits outside into the “real world”1800 players in 12 countries
  • Library Alternate Reality GamesFind the Future (2011) This ARG, another product from Jane McGonical, is a game created for the 100th anniversary of the New York Public Library. The premise is that a select group of players will have the opportunity to be “locked in” at the main library in Manhatten where they will explore objects following clues using laptops and smartphones and write essays inspired by their quest after finding various objects. Additionally, players online will have the opportunity to follow clues, discover objects and write their own essays. Players who complete enough writing challenges will have the opportunity to have those writings appear with writings of others in a book they can purchase, and that the library will keep a copy of in its collection.Blood on the Stacks (2006)ARG developed by the Trinity University Coates library as an orientation tool to help incoming students become more familiar with the resources of the library. The story arc was that an Egyptian canoptic jar was stolen from the library’s collection and students could participate in helping to recover the jar. Students are invited to come to the library at designated times and compete in research skills challenges for prizes. Students could compete for a grand prize by identifying possible suspects and solving additional research questions. The thief also had his own Myspace page where students could follow his actions and receive additional clues.Mystery Guest (2009)This ARG done by the Finksburg Public Library, and run almost entirely by their teen group. The story behind their ARG is that a fictional character has “escaped” from his book, and the library would like patrons help to identify him get him back in. The game consisted of a blog with videos created by teens demonstrating their very creative attempts to get him back in the book and acting as game characters and liaisons for participants. The game was challenge based where participants earned Library Bucks for challenge completions that could be redeemed for prizes. Should Brandon and Nicole Get Engaged 2 week ARG developed and administered by staff at the Univ of North Carolina Libraries. The game kicked off with a live event of a fictitious wedding proposal in an area highly populated by students. Custom made fortune cookies were given to those in the area with a URL to the game website. The site was a blog maintained by the male character Brandon, telling the story of the relationship using blog posts, audio, and video. Puzzles were left at various places on the campus, with some puzzles drawing on campus history. The goals of the ARG were to provide a way to teach about social issues in a non-classroom setting as well as incorporate information literacy and history into the game itself.The Vanished (2011)Funded by the National Science Foundation, the game allows students 11-14 to develop their critical thinking skills to solve a mystery.The 8 week game engages students to try and figure out the cause of an environmental disaster using games, puzzles, online challenges, museum visits, and scientific deduction. Players are encouraged to visit Smithsonian museums to find information to help them complete the game. Smithsonian scientists will even interact with players to help them along the game.And of course What Happened to Wellington! : A One Book NJ Mystery
  • Announce books are missing (our story) on social networks and we are looking for help from the publicUsed social networks and website as rabbit holesInvite public to be active participants (in limited scope) – have they seen anything suspicious at the library, did they notice anyone lurking aboutAlso created “fake” content - patron provides description of possible suspect
  • Use posts on website to create content for the storyAlso create website dedicated to solving the mystery of the missing books (another rabbit hole)Puppet master(s) create content for fictional character of “The Mystery Thief” who responds to the library attempts to ask public for help in finding the books
  • Mystery thief responds moving storyLess ARG – story moved by usContent created to enhance story included letters, envelopesWe also had corresponding book display – drove circ where there was none beforeBook display also peaked curiosity and served as another rabbit hole opportunityUsed a hybrid TINAG approachStory was used as lead to live event at Cranbury DayAdditional promotionFlyers sent to school with book thief letters indicating live event on Cranbury DayFlyers hung around town with QR Codes and upside down dog symbolArticle written in local newspaper that stayed “in-story”
  • Live Event at Cranbury Day (local street fair/ celebration)Clues released one per hour (minimal game instructions provided as if coming from the Mystery Thief)Those who found books were then told they could keep them (prizes)Mostly tweens and teens participated, and mostly boysOnly 5 of 10 missing books hidden that day – other five were recoverable next week via clues on website or handouts Clues were simple riddles, that referred to location in town with local historical significancePlayers worked together in groups, as well as asking others for helpTell story about family searching for book at night (great anecdote) and the boys who loved the bookInterested yet?? OK, so lets look at one possible template we can use to create an alternate reality game
  • These ten steps were developed by Jane McGonical, creator of numerous ARGs including the one currently running for the New York Public Library.1. Start a Puppet Master TeamThis is the creative team that is going to develop the story, develop puzzles/challenges
  • 2. Brainstorm Your Theme or StoryTeam begins thinking about narrative elements of the game : setting, characters, struggles and tension, significant events, etc. Framework or groundwork is **Develop and think about the goals of your ARG (if any)Goal driven ARG may make it worth the work/time/effortIt’s an opportunity to market
  • 3. Pick the game “verbs”Interactive elements that will help to both drive the story and physically engage the players. It is this step where we are :Considering what puzzles we may useWhat will the players actually DO to play their part in the story?
  • 4. Make a Media PlanThis step is about deciding on the different media that will be used for contentIs there going to be a website(s) or blog(s) where players go to get information and participate?Video and audio elements?Incorporation of phones and handhelds?What technologies will help us to administer the ARG?Will we be using social networks and if so, in what ways?
  • 5. Design your communityDesigning place for players to collaborate (traditionally)Can be online forum or blog comments areas, but it does not have to be (free blogs or wiki, even pen and paper)Creating opportunity and place for player interactionSuccess of ARG has high dependence on collaborative problem solving – these opportunities should existARGs by much of their nature are collaborative games
  • 6. Decide on a Launch DateThis launch date is going to help give you an idea of how much time you will have to develop the gameTime to promote it within your community (or outside the community if you are going to open it to a wider audience).
  • 7. Identify team’s strengths and weaknesses and pick design rolesThis is where roles for the puppet masters are designatedAccomplish the more detailed tasks of video creation, puzzle design, web design, story writing and development (plot and character development)This is where we decide ,in essence, who will do what based on what they bring to the team.
  • 8. Make a Game Time Line (Game Outline)The game timeline will help provide the pacing of the game and keep your team on track in regards to when events will happenmapping the sequencing of steps in the ARG. Are there elements that must occur on the player end before the next part of the game begins? Timeline becomes important as a tool to let you know which game element has to occur before and/or after the nextGive example from Wellington or Dexter
  • 9. Create the ContentThis is the actual design phase of working on content creationTeam members should be in constant contact, as various aspects of the game are inextricably tied to each other as a cohesive story and gameChanges to one element could significantly effect othersMeet often to share content with each other, and make sure it fits within the story framework (a delicate process)Steps 8 and 9 may occur simultaneously as content creation my affect timeline and vice versa
  • 10. Decide Who to Invite How will you promote the rabbit holesFormal invitation to certain group, or open to allInformal invitation – Discover method?What are your normal avenues of program promotion and how can they be used to promote this particular program?NewspapersFlyersSocial NetworksLibrary websiteGame website“drop”Live event
  • Don’t be afraid to be simple.. Don’t be afraid to be ambitiousDraw on your talented staff and patronsLet the story drive the gameRemember your goalsDon’t be a stat hound (this is not about metrics.. it is about engagement.. Assessment will be story driven) Though some stats may be possible depending on game designImmersion is a fine line – use good judgmentYes – a prize/reward system is a good idea (but it does not have to be expensive)Try it before you buy it – PLAY A GAME!!!!!!!
  • Lack of interactivityFailing to reward good gameplayMaking it too difficultLack of legitimacy (too scripted)1. Participants need to know that participation will effect possible or perceive outcomes. 2. Lack of a reward3. No instant gratification
  • Gaming in the Real World: Alternate Reality Games in Libraries

    1. 1. Gaming in the Real World Using Alternate Reality Games to Promote Your Brand, Services, and Collections<br />Doug Baldwin<br />Cranbury Public Library<br />NJLA Annual Conference 2011<br />
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    3. 3. What is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) <br /><br />
    4. 4. Older traditions… newer models<br /><br />
    5. 5. The Ingredients<br /><br />
    6. 6. ARG Anatomy 101<br />
    7. 7.<br />
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    14. 14.
    15. 15.
    16. 16. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    17. 17. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    18. 18. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    19. 19. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    20. 20. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    21. 21. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    22. 22. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    23. 23. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    24. 24. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    25. 25. Ten Steps to Creating an ARG<br /><br />
    26. 26. Notes from the frontlines<br /><br />
    27. 27.<br />at all costs…<br />
    28. 28. Questions?<br />Doug Baldwin<br />Cranbury Public Library<br />Email:<br />Twitter: @baldwind1976<br />Facebook:<br />Blog @<br />Links and Resources<br /><br />… I am here to help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!<br />