In McGonigal’s piece “This is Not a Game”, she describes a particular game called the Beast played by a group of online gamers called the Cloudmakers. The Cloudmakers were a group of around 7000. After 9/11 they wanted to help solve the puzzle for who the terrorists were. Cloudmakers thought that their extensive experience in puzzle solving from the Beast would be valuable in a real life tragic event. However, the creators of the Beast quickly put this to a stop a few days later. They believed that this was not a game and should not be treated as such – but why not?
The game makers themselves stated how unbelievable the Cloudmakers were at solving problems. What the game designers thought would take the Cloudmakers months to solve took them a single day. Particularly with the Beast, the game had no game boundaries. The games and clues would be hidden in everyday life on websites, advertisements, faxes, and phone calls. McGonigal says “nothing about this virtual play was simulated” (McGonigal 3). In fact, the game the Beast became such a large part of the Cloudmakers life that once the game ended, the players’ lives were completely altered.
What makes it a game? The fact that there are game designers and clues planted? How is that different from a murder mystery or even a terrorist attack? They each have clues and can be solved. I think that this is one of the most powerful things of ARG’s. If implemented a certain way that can actually solve real world problems or at least bring awareness to the problem.
Another thing that stuck out to me in this reading was the lingering effects of immersion that the game players faced. It almost seemed unethical how invested they were in the game and the effects that the game had on them. A Cloudmaker moderator says “You find yourself at the end of the game, waking up as if from a long sleep. Your marriage or relationship may be in tatters. Your job may be on the brink of the void, or gone completely” (McGonigal 5). The game has taken so much of a player’s life that it has literally changed them even though it is just a game. In this case, it almost seemed for the worse. I think this is a pretty interesting topic of debate because this is the case for video games as well as ARGs. The gaming industry is going to get bigger and bigger as time progresses. Games like Fortnite, FIFA, etc consume most of a lot of students/kids lives. Time spent on gaming means less time spent on personal improvement, relationships, athletics, and maybe hurts education. Should time spent gaming be regulated? Although games can be a positive to society there are also many negative externalities that should be accounted for.