Reflection on Week 1: ARGs – the Future of Gaming?

For those of you who are neither Heidi nor Patrick, this post is my reflection on Week 1 since I was absent for both days of the first week of class. This is more for make-up work.

When I first think about alternate reality games (ARG), I automatically associate it with virtual reality (VR) or live action role-playing (LARPing). In all three different games, the player is taking on a different character to experience a different realm. Whether it’s being the complete opposite of who they are in real life in terms of physical features or having gamer confidence because of the situation they find themselves in, players are attracted to the chance to be someone who they are not. Kim et. al suggests that ARGs are an example of collective problem solving and a new genre of storytelling. Thanks to new media, easy access to the Web, and owning a smartphone, our networks have spread across the globe. There are people in America communicating and playing with people in Australia and China. There is no limit to how far the influence of games can spread. But what keeps the wheel turning to continue the game instead of having it become game over?

In “Critical Play” and “Contribution to a situationist Definition of Play”, it they talk about different notions of play. “Critical Play” touches upon the term subversion. Subversion is a “powerful means for marginalized groups to have a voice.” When a person becomes a player in a game, they are a completely different person – they are their character. As I mentioned before, they experience the gamer confidence in being someone who they are not. There is no limit to who they can become, and the game becomes a powerful platform for them.

In “Contribution to a situationist Definition of Play”, it talks about the notion of play. “Due to its marginal existence in relation to the oppressive reality of work, play is often regarded as fictitious.” We grew up hearing the phrase, “Let’s play [insert context, i.e. “after school today.”].” Whoever we were “playing” with, we were creating an environment to let our creativity out and experience a world that was different from reality. Something we were also told when we were younger was to not talk to strangers online. Fast forward to present day, internet friends have become a thing. How is that we have become so willing to befriend strangers and play with them? Is it the fact that in an ARG, we’re different people and the same rules don’t apply? What makes complete strangers inclined to collaborate with one another and, essentially, tell a story?

Presently, millenials and Gen Z are the ones who are controlling which direction the world will go next. We have become so dependent upon the digital age that everything is done online. From filling out applications, submitting homework, and communicating with one another, it is all done electronically. ARGs have adapted to this trend and created their stories online to send players on an adventure. Relying on the fact that we are so trusting of people with like interests, ARGs have accomplished something that VR and LARP has not done, which is blurring the lines of reality. One knows they are playing a game when playing VR because of the headsets that you use. LARPing is very isolated within the system of the game so that you’re either in role and participating in the game or you’re simply not and you’re not in the game. With ARGs, they’re combining the elements of the game and the real world so that the game is played as they live their lives. Perhaps it is due to the fact that playing an ARG no longer seems fictitious or the fact that the player becomes the character in real life and has a voice not just in a fictitious world that people readily participate in ARGs. Maybe it is the yearning to make their daily lives a bit more exciting by incorporating a game into their routine. Whatever the reason may be, ARGs could be the future for the ultimate gamer to satisfy all the reasons for playing a game in the first place.

Now that you’ve heard my analysis on the role of ARGs in a player’s life and how it will shape gaming in the future, why would you participate in an ARG?

One thought on “Reflection on Week 1: ARGs – the Future of Gaming?

  1. For your last question, I think the main appeal of playing these ARGs is making real life into a magic circle. I was very impressed with the “Assassin” game that Montola studies. Montola points out how every moemnt then because exciting in a way that ordinary routine cannot.

    I don’t think ARGs can only be beneficial to educating younger populations. I believe ARGs can also help bring excitement to groups that become disillusioned with jobs they don’t enjoy. There are lots of post-graduates I talk to that talk about how hard it is for them to meet people (contrasted to the college experience), and how monotonous routines can become.

    I believe the expansion of the magic circles in ARGs as well as the social component can also become really helpful and almost even therapeutic for a significant portion of people.


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