For my blog post, I will analyze netprovs and their place within both ARGs and LARPs. I will be referring to Rob Wittig’s transcribed article, titled Past and Futures of Netprov. In this article, Wittig explains the history and methodology of netprovs, laying the foundation for other creates to explore this unique experience. Networked improv narrative, or netprov for short, is the use of transmedia to create fake characters and enact them into the real world. They bridge reality and fiction through these interactive mechanisms. Since our course revolves around alternate reality games, it would seem rather useful to break the different aspects that make up netprovs and see where they fall within the spectrum of other role-playing games such as ARGs and LARPs. In order to analyze netprovs, I will refer to some of Wittig’s ten qualities that define them. I ultimately conclude that most of the elements that make up netprovs are found in both ARGs and LARPs.
The first is that they are networked narratives, that foster collaboration and improvisation in real time. I immediately envisioned my LARPing experience, Ask Again Later, when reading this quality. Just as within the LARP, the players follow no scripts, no predetermined paths. Instead, they are collaborating with their fellow LARPers to form novel and dynamic relationships/narratives in real time. In reference to ARGs, they too have a level of improvisation in real time, as events do not always go as planned. This forces game designers to be constantly on their toes, and ready to collaborate with the players to create a unique and personalized experience.
The second quality is that netprovs use several media platforms to bring forth their fake characters into the real world. This is directly correlated with ARGs which also heavily utilize transmedia as the source for game play. This fosters accessibility and collaboration amongst players.
The third quality is that netprovs use both featured and casual players. This quality is notable within ARGs as well. In ARGs not all players solve every puzzle or attend every event. There is a dynamic of very invested super players along with the players who are following and reading along. Both ARGs and netprovs share this trait.
The fourth quality of netprovs is quite an interesting idea. Wittig states that, “netprovs are experienced as performance as it is published … later read as a literary archive.” He allows such a literary archive in the world as a single work performance or for the potential for it to be repeated. In my opinion, ARGs differ here, because the experiences are so unique to the specific group that participated in them, that there could absolutely be no way to repeat the experience.
The fifth quality is that netprovs incorporate breaking news. This reminded me of my LARP experience, Ask Again Later. In this LARP, the game makers would occasionally gather us all around and explain some breaking news that essentially brought forth new information into the alternate world we were in. Netprovs utilize this ‘breaking news’ aesthetic as well.
The sixth quality is that netprovs use actors to take part in live performances. This is a quality found in both ARGs rather than LARP. In ARGs, players are constantly conversing with with bots and other characters created by the game makers and participate in live performances where they ultimately get to meet these actors.
The seventh quality of netprovs is that actors create their own charaters in real time. This was an aspect closely resembling LARPs instead of ARGs. One of the must fun and exciting aspects of my LARP experience was that my character had a clean slate as far as motivations and personality. Throughout the LARP, my character continued to evolve in real time as I played through the improv. Netprovs too utilize this quality of active creation of characters.
The eighth quality is that they are usually parodic and satirical. This is where I would say they differ from ARGs because ARGs tend to focus less on satire and more on other aspects of alternate reality that make their games unique and serious. This is why several of the ARGs we have discussed throughout our course have been about environmental activism and saving the world from corruption.
The ninth quality of netprovs is that they utilize the physical world as they make players and actors travel to specific locations to seek information and watch live performances. Here, Wittig directly makes a correlation between netprovs and ARGs because ARGs heavily utilize this quality as well.
The tenth quality is that netprovs are designed to be incomplete narratives, allowing new players to join without feeling left out or out of the loop. This quality is greatly incorporated into ARGs as well as players who are not physically solving puzzles and going on site to locations and solving puzzles, all come together on transmedia forums and chat rooms to be able to collaborate and still actively participate.
Rob Wittig, Past and Futures of Netprov