How to create a collective experience in ARG

Since this week there are no readings, I decided to expore a problem I encountered during the ARG game design process (which was what we are finishing up in this week).

When we started to design the outline of the game and the puzzles, a problem arose: how to allow the experience of puzzle solving to be collective, in which every person is able to have their personal experience. One danger we are faced with is the possibility that a few more competitive participant would speed on in solving the puzzles, and would allow the experience of solving the puzzles to detract for the other players. Since the puzzle is solved, the next part of the story is revealled, and on the forum where everyone would talk about the progress of the game, there would be mentions of the progress. This would lead to the people that were lagging behind in puzzle solving to ask about the new story arc, and thus essentially skipping the experience of the puzzle (as they would just skip the puzzle entirely). Also, there would be posts on the forum on how to solve the puzzles, where some players would just use the solution, and not really think about the puzzles themselves.

One way we thought about is to create multiple paths for the players leading to the same goal. The different paths would contain different puzzles. Therefore, we essentially split the players up into smaller groups, where the progress of each group would be more consistent. Another thing we thought up is to vary the kinds of puzzles created, thus a single person would not be able to solve all of the types of the puzzles (unless the person is really talented). SInce the puzzles include knowledge of different areas, adding on to the fact that there are split storylines for the players to choose, an individual would most likely choose a storyline where the puzzles are more to the individual’s type, and thus it would be easier to solve the puzzles.

Another thing that was considered and applied is that we created some of the puzzles to be mandatorily collaborative, thus a single person would not be able to solve the puzzle on their own. I have said that the design of the separate storilines would converge at a given point, and at that given point, we decided that each separate path of the storiline eventualizes in a clue that combined together is the puzzle to adance forward. This eliminates the possibility that a group of people in a particular storyline wound speed past other groups in their storilines and find the ending of the story before everyone else. We also designed other collaborative puzzles, the intent is to which slow down the faster puzzle solvers to allow the slower participants to catch up. One puzzle we designed was an escape room puzzle which allowed the participants to work together to solve puzzle, this puzzle is intended to illustrate the effectiveness of collaboration and how it would benefit for people to work together.

But still, I think there are always instances where the pace of the game would be effected by individual players who are just faster than others, and there always are ways to decrease the effect created by this out-of-pace, such as creating additional puzzles, level up the difficulties of the puzzles, adding shills to maintain the balance of pace, etc. And one part of the ARG is teh unexpectedness of how things would go, and how the game designers would improvise to maintain this balance.

One thought on “How to create a collective experience in ARG

  1. We ran into the same issue in the game design of our ARG, but solved it in a different way. Rather than creating a constant process of splitting up and reconversion, we set up our ARG to begin with an explicit chat unification of the playerbase through live events. After the rabbit holes, we envisioned the ARG as a collective experience in which the players might succeed and fail together as one group, rather than a variety of groups picking through the story line themselves. We intended the challenges to be difficult, while not requiring technical knowledge, but with multiple possibilities of failure. This meant that players who weren’t in communication could easily fall onto a wrong path. Additionally, the geographic element would require multiple people’s involvement. Unless, one individual had time to trek across the city once a week, the game requires different people to go to locations to collect an object for the entire group. Ideally, group social dynamics would prevent one individual from throwing a wrench in the entire process, but in the end no individual could advance past everyone else because everyone advanced together.

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