Does “What Would You Do?” Have ARG elements?

Similar to the Derren Brown clip about testing the limits of social compliance by building up to the persuasion attempt of getting one person to push someone else off of a roof, I was reminded of the show “What Would You Do?” and the scenario it sets up which allows an individual to speak out about an injustice or stay socially compliant to the atmosphere of the location. Could the scenarios set up in this TV show be thought of as a game? Like a game, onlookers have the choice of whether or not they want to be involved. Similar to an ARG, however, it isn’t declared as a game; for the non-actors experiencing the scene and its affects first-hand, there’s the possibility of strong emotions and reactions being evoked as a response to this at-the-time very real situation. To reference to McGonigal’s reading, immersive games don’t advertise themselves as games, unlike pervasive games. One of the consequences of having players navigate through a “this is not a game” narrative is that in the players’ minds, all of their actions are dealing with real aspects in the real world; this can have prolonged effects on how the players continue to perceive the world in a game-like manner even after the game has ended. Using this idea of a prolonged shift in world outlook after an immersive experience, I wonder whether it could be applied to the show “What Would You Do?” and whether it has the potential of creating active citizens who are more aware of their surroundings.

The Beast was described as having an effective virtual immersion by using real environments to enable a virtual engagement with reality (McGonigal reading). The impactful affectiveness of this virtual engagement is contributed to the ARG’s ability to take place anywhere and with almost any aspect of a person’s life, making it seem “real” compared to the more traditional games with obvious user interfaces. Especially since our “real environments” could potentially include “real online environments” (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), the space for ARG interaction has only grown. ARGs depend on the collective, a force that is made up of people with various skills, experiences, and networks which would allow them to solve challenging puzzles. McGonigal makes an interesting analysis on how the collective resists turning into something similar to a mob, and this characteristic comes about from the diversity of mindset/political views/religious views, etc of the players. Following McGonigal’s train of thought on the real-world usages of ARGs and the sense of community created with them, I would have thought that political activism could be one application. This, however, would mean that most, if not all, of the members in the group would have to share the same goal and mindset, which might be different from a collective. Perhaps there could be a change in the structure of current political activism that could adopt an ARG-like structure to motivate people to become more active members of their society and combat injustices instead of living passively according to social compliance?

One thought on “Does “What Would You Do?” Have ARG elements?

  1. I think that the idea of making current political activism more ARG-like in order to motivate people to become more active members of society is really interesting and potentially very powerful. As we have learned about ARGs through the readings and case studies for this class, one of the aspects of ARGs that I find most engaging is the extent to which they depend on the willingness and compliance of their players, and the amount of responsibility that they imbue within their players. These things lead to successful ARGs typically having very engaged and motivated player bases. As it seems that engagement and motivation are often lacking in many current members of society with respect to political activism, I believe that using ARG-like qualities to develop these values and feelings in current members of society could have significant results.


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