Highlight: ARG Network

I don’t write about ARGs as often as I should (partially because they tend to be so complex that I just don’t have time to dig in, even though I really want to.) But ARGs are an important phenomenon, and anyone interested in the future of online entertainment can’t completely ignore them. The ARG Network recently posted three stories that highlight how interesting this space is:

  • The Lost Experience (ARG based on the TV show Lost) recently deployed an actor to Comic-Con. She questioned members of a Lost panel during the Q&A session, screamed accusations about a conspiracy, and was escorted out by security (but not before begging audience members to visit hansoexposed.com, a new part of the ARG.) This is a perfect example of the interesting new ways that ARGs are blurring the lines between gameplay and real life.
  • A new ARG that appeals primarily to techies (i.e. the puzzles require some knowledge of programming and web development) has launched. I highlight this not because the ARG is “novel”, but because there’s an excellent forum thread that shows players solving the ARG together, in real-time. The thread is a fascinating read for the insight it offers into player collaboration, as well as the interesting challenges dreamed up by the makers of this game.
  • The third story highlights an increasingly common phenomenon — new ARGs that are failing due to insufficient or spotty content. This ARG managed to build a following (and got a player to run around London with a teddy bear, taking pictures of himself in front of landmarks) but now all the players are mad because there have been no updates in two weeks. Maintaining an ARG is a big (and relentless) job.

If you’ve been following developments in the ARG space, none of this will be new to you. But if you haven’t, these links should prove useful. You might also want to review Wikipedia’s record of the famous I Love Bees ARG (there’s more information about that at ARGN as well.)

I should note that I’m not vouching for the effectiveness of the current generation of ARGs, especially as marketing vehicles. There’s plenty of debate on the subject. (BTW, the previous link also leads to some interesting information on a “successful” ARG created for Audi; very interesting.)

I’m personally more interested in ARGs as self-sustaining entertainment and as truly integrated extensions to existing media franchises (such as the Lost ARG). Of course, the line between an “integrated extension” of a media franchise and “marketing for” a media franchise is blurry… but concentrating on the former probably encourages a richer (and probably more profitable) relationship with fans. Anyway, more on this topic some other time.

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