III. Alternate Reality Games & Gamification Sunday November 9, 2014

An alternate reality game (ARG for short) combines the best elements of viral marketing, role playing games and being an insane person who can't tell fantasy from reality. ~ "The 5 Most Insane Alternate Reality Games" on Cracked.

In the third session, we'll explore alternate reality games, also known as ARGs. Many transmedia formats incorporate game elements - gamification - to encourage interactivity.

Argology's definition of an ARG: Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) tell stories through narrative elements that are distributed across various platforms. These game variables are carefully concealed from players until appropriate moments determined by the game designer(s). Game play involves players working collaboratively through email, phone/sms contact, real-time interactions and extensive online engagement.

Players generally react to narrative cues that are projected across numerous forms of media. These include media technologies that are not traditionally associated with games that, unlike ARGs, rely on a single platform for communication (eg console games). In doing so, ARGs make players step outside the restrictions of mono-genre game boundaries.

Instead of requiring the player to enter a fictional game world, ARG designers attempt to enmesh the game within the fabric of the player's real world by harnessing as many media technologies and interfaces as possible. By doing so, ARGs expand the frame for the game beyond the computer monitor or television screen, effectively making the entire world the "game board."

See: The I Love Bees Phenomenon:

ARGS & Gamification Resources
Formats, Blogs, Books


  • Cr0n - Together we can stop the Ministry of Provenance.

  • The Black Watchmen - a permanent ARG, as an MMO.

  • Cloud Chamber - Players collaborate with each other to explore, investigate and discuss the fragments of information they collect on their journey through the dataworld, writing the story themselves of a young scientist, Kathleen, who risks her sanity and betrays her father. Her decision will not only determine the Petersen Institute's future, it will impact all of humanity itself.

  • Zombies Run - Get fit.

  • Ingress - a locative mobile game spawned out of NianticLabs@Google, an internal skunkworks team based at the search giant's San Francisco office. In Ingress, players compete to capture and connect virtual portals situated at real world locations to control the globe for their team.

  • ZED.TO - 8-month narrative told in real-time through an integrated combination of interactive theatrical events and online content. It told the story of the beginning of the end of the world, from a viral pandemic created by ByoLogyc, a fictional Toronto-based biotech company.

  • Year Zero ARG live performance - Nine Inch Nails

  • The Optimist - Disney game.

  • Conspiracy for Good - Tim Kring's amazing cross-border ARG that also did good.

Blogs & Resources



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