Alternate Reality Games

By Kyle Perkins

I first started my delve into the world of ARGs(click for the definition) way back in 2009, once I came upon a thread on 4chan about a girl being kept captive. At the time, none of us knew it was a game at all. We thought there was a real girl being held against her will, and possibly in danger. Naturally, all of us wanted to know more, even if just for curiosity’s sake. That led us all down one giant rabbit hole, starting here.

The creepy video in question was this one.

On the forum, we kept getting clues about the girl’s whereabouts. Which went into a world of defense contractors, Russian spies, and so much more. Eventually, an app was made by the founders after revealing it all to be a game. For a while, it was all very creepy.  I believe you can still play to this day, and the game was a lot of fun, so I won’t spoil anything for you, should you choose to start. You can also find some compiled clues here.

For a while, you could go to Facebook, to any major corporation and post to their wall, and this would happen.

Anyway, why am I rambling on about ARGs? Well, a new one has started and I think it is a really great idea for the book world. Two people that have never met, begin writing letters to each other, and these letters eventually form a coherent story. Any of you can join in on this. Neither participant knows the other’s idea for a plot, or where the story is going. That’s the beauty of it. Two people, with two very different ideas, making a story together, all through letters back and forth.

Have you ever played a video game or watched a movie and wished you could be a part of it, or live in that world? That’s what ARGs are. The entire concept of Slenderman evolved into an ARG, and there are a ton out there. The most famous of course being Marble Hornets. These aren’t just videos you watch, or games you play. You’re a part of them, and shape how they progress and ultimately end. Your participation is noted in the story, and sometimes the story will never progress until someone cracks it.

Which brings me to cicada3301, which is ongoing. Apparently, the purpose behind it is to find highly intelligent individuals from around the world, though no one can really confirm its true purpose. There have been multiple stories on it, as well as individuals claiming to have solved the puzzles, though there is no confirmation on it at all.

A couple of new games to come out that cost money are MysteriousPackage and The Black Watchmen. MysteriousPackage seems pretty cool, but a bit too expensive for me, though I did sign up in case I ever get bored in the future. They sent me this, after asking if they could “trust me.”

Another really fun one is Ingress, which can be download on your smart phone. Here is a bit about it.

“In November 2012, Google introduced its Ingress scanner app to the Google Play store. And for almost two years, the central point of interaction for Google’s deeply immersive alternate reality game has been an Android exclusive. That changes today: with the release of Ingress‘s scanner app to the iTunes Store, the world of Ingress has officially rolled out on iOS devices.

The Ingress scanner app asks players to join the green Enlightened or blue Resistance faction in a battle for control over portals tied to real world landmarks. The game has a sizeable player base within the Android community. Over 12,000 players have gathered for the game’s frequent live events in cities across the globe so far in 2014, and the game boasts over 4 million downloads. With the expansion into iOS devices, an influx of new players is likely.

To help ease new players into the game, Ingress is introducing new elements to ease the transition into a deep narrative running beneath the game’s surface, and a community that continues to blossom as they take on increasingly extravagant challenges. The primary conduit for introducing new players to the world of Ingress is a new web series featuring two sisters who signed up to play the game for opposite factions, Ingress Obsessed, complementing the existing Ingress Reportvideos.”

…and another one that seems to have a small following is Stress Log.

Which follows a guy that is being stalked by some unknown entity, with him growing more and more paranoid. It seems that people from all over the world are working on it.

If you’re looking to join a game, or get into the underground world of ARGs, you should definitely start here. Though, unfiction is a lot more thoroughly documented.

If you have time after all of that, you may want to check out possibly the biggest ARG to have ever happened. It took place in San Francisco and may be your starting off point into the world of ARGs. It’s called “The Institute,” and I won’t spoil any of it. Just watch this movie. You’ll see why ARGs are pretty fucking cool.

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