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ARGs and Virtual Worlds
Dan Hon CEO
Six To Start
Foe Romeo Head of Digital Media
National Maritime Museum
Kim Plowright Production Mgr
Roo Reynolds Portfolio Executive, Social Media
ARGs and Virtual Worlds
ARGs (Alternate Reality Games) have become a hot
topic in recent months. It's hard not to think of an
ARG as a virtual world in which the interfaces
(including websites, email, text message, even
telephones) are those we know from everyday life. Is
there even more to them than that? Recent franchise
tie-ins raise startling questions about business
models, while war-stories about user engagement
will be of interest to any virtual world designer.
Do virtual worlds have anything to learn from ARGs?
• CEO, Six to Start
• alternate reality game and cross-platform
entertainment production company
• Since 2001, the Beast (MSFT promotion for AI)
• COO at Mind Candy for Perplex City
• We Tell Stories for Penguin
• The Shadow War - Puffin
• Spooks: Code 9, Liberty News - BBC (Kudos)
What is an ARG?
• intersection between story and game play
• story + narrative + game design
• platform agnostic (online is the glue)
• immersive entertainment experience that
uses any platform it can get its hands on
• 10 years in television, web, games, drama
• production manager at Oil Productions
• an interactive entertainment studio
• studio rather than agency
• large educational ARG for UK broadcaster
• previously: moo.com, BBC
Why do people play ARGs?
What’s the appeal?
• combination of challenge and delight
• surprising yourself and letting yourself
• unexpected and transporting experiences
• cerebral pleasure
• [Head of Digital Media, National Maritime
• produced Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom
• produced Science of Spying at Science
ARGs are in their
• not many people have played ARGs
• breadth of interactivity
• new ability: interact with fictional
character as if it was a human being
• natural interfaces
• the internet is the glue
Having people in
• designing an experience using technology
• experience which uses people (staff or
players) is flexible
User Generated Content
• a game gives a reason to participate
• book-writing example from Perplex City
• story and gameplay as a driver for UGC
• adding purpose
do you need a prize?
• reward is helpful as a PR hit
• all about the experience
• in players’ interest to recruit other players
ARGs vs VWs
• depends on the virtual world experience
• ARG is on-rails (e.g. a game, an MMO)
• social VWs reward habitation
• ARGs construct a narrative thread
• flexibility of an ARG to reach people
where they already (and will) hang out
ARGs vs TV
• ARG as scripted TV show
• narrative closure
• using the right interaction method for the
• example: ‘we’d love to use QR codes’
• use the platform in most natural way
ARG (can) have a finite nature
• finite investment; time-bound
• for both investors and players
• something very sad about the slow death of
• easier to manage if there’s a narrative
• most experiences are ‘live’ and over when
• how can we make them re-playable?
• how can we jump to the best bits?
• always interest in metrics, especially from
• we can show engagement
• the Department for Culture, Media and
Sport moving to system of peer-review
• moving from quantitate to qualitative
• something powerful about fleeting
moments, narrative epiphanies
• moving moments used to ‘fix’ the message
• example: Superstruct (superstructgame.org)
• ARG players are playing as themselves, not
• carrying the experience with you
Re-Telling of ARG
has anyone done a re-telling of an ARG?
• model: epistolary novel
• there is fan fiction
• live nature means no retelling
• re-play, yes. re-telling, not yet
could there be ARG assets with RL value?
• Perplex City ARG from Mind Candy
• collectible card game with rarity model
• value in the IP: franchise, characters
• artifacts in instantiations
• intangible assets: sell your leveled-up char?
• could you sell your experiences?