Truth v.s. The ARG

Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved acting but hated lying. Lying created a visceral response in me, a sense of disgust and hesitation that got me sweating and overly aware of my body. Not saying that I couldn’t hide it as easily as I could hide the “lies” involved in acting. But acting felt freeing and fun, there felt as if there was no web I was weaving that would catch up to me and trap me in the end. Acting was a web that I did not weave that we all knew about.

But what about acting in an ARG – i.e. in a setting where a “this is not a game” aesthetic is held true? This is acting where the web is not revealed to all participants, where you could get caught at any moment and, like a lie (or rather, I suppose it’s all “lies” isn’t it), the actor would have to make up an excuse to continue the façade. Even worse, in a post-truth era, lies and alternate reality seems to hold an especially weighty presence over truth when run under a “this is not a game” aesthetic.

I have to admit, when I was reading the McIntyre pieces I had a moral dilemma at the lies we create in an alternate reality game that has a “this is not a game” aesthetic. Even if it’s for a good cause, rather than creating another reality – another lie that precedes truth – shouldn’t we be championing truth and fighting for it like McIntyre encourages?

And then there’s Massumi who says that we have to learn to create our own affective realities and connections in order to fight back against harmful post-truth lies, thus validating (in my eyes) ARG’s with goals such as ours that deal with climate change or other big problems.

Excuse me for being a little all-over-the-place, but I honestly am having trouble. The ARG is a situation where lying and acting become one. Like the proverbial devil and angel on my shoulders, there’s McIntyre who is saying that a lie is a lie and thus is capable of causing damage to both the receiver and the deceiver. But is it possible that Massumi is right and McIntyre simply has not considered the power of the ARG – this web of what aims to be productive lies – to do good? Is it possible that these alternate realities are powerful tools at creating affective connections to counter the harmful (but affective) lies spouted by people like Trump?

In the face of people like Gingrich and their constant denial of facts, I do feel a sense of pessimism that makes me think Massumi is right – or at least playing the alternate reality creation game like the Right has is worth a shot. But hey, what do you guys think? Are all alternate realities ultimately harmful to the value of truth in our society, or can alternate realities be the white knight that affectively steers us toward truth?

2 thoughts on “Truth v.s. The ARG

  1. The untruths told in an ARG do not try to directly undermine reality, which makes them feel less dangerous to me than a post-truth lie. Often, the alternate reality seems to come from finding an underlying structure or hidden aspect to the world, rather than finding out that a commonly held belief is completely wrong. The player can experience this alternative reality as an augmented version of reality, so she is not forced to reject reality by playing the game. On the other hand, lies that directly contradict facts seem more dangerous and less ethical to me. Because these opposing scenarios cannot simultaneously be true, the receiver of the lie must choose between fact and lie. By believing the lie, the receiver rejects truth in a way that the augmented reality of ARGs did not require.


  2. I think in order to analyze the moral soundness of acting in an alternate reality game, it is necessary to dig deeper into the relationship between lying and acting. In my opinion what makes lying wrong is the fact that it is intentionally done in order to fool or mislead someone for their own benefit. I feel like acting is extremely different. Acting is simply changing your identity to fit a role for the betterment of the audience or other actors. Basically the primary difference between acting and lying seems to be the fact that lying always has corrupt or malicious intentions whereas acting is done to entertain. I think the next step to analyzing how an ARG fits within this moral blueprint would be to compare acting and alternate reality gaming. Both are a form of entertainment. Both require acting in some sense of the word to progress the performance or the game. Therefore, acting and alternate reality games are so similar in fundamental purposes that acting in an alternate reality game should not be viewed as morally questionable.


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