Steve Peters

Narrative Experience Design

Helping studios, networks, theme parks and agencies develop engaging, immersive experiences.

What is an ARG?

Elan Lee addressed this age-old question in such a great way, I felt the need to share. This from over on Unfiction:

rose wrote: 1. We spend a great deal of effort and energy defining "what is an ARG", that is, what we find acceptable as an ARG. How do you define an ARG? And has that definition changed over time?

To which Elan replied:

-This is a great question that I wish I had a good answer for. I meet people on planes a lot, and when I break out the laptop, the sketch pad, the sticky notes, the voice recorder, and my random assortment of toys, I inevitably get the question, “Um….what do you do for a living?” (To be fair, it’s a fifty-fifty shot as to whether they talk to me or just bury their faces in reading material and concentrate intensely on imagining I’m not there.) Mostly, I just reply that I’m a game designer, but when they push harder, I sometimes have to go into a lengthy description of the movie “The game” or those fortune cookie’s you get that say “Help, I’m a prisoner in the fortune cookie factory!” The truth is that I don’t know what an ARG is. I don’t even know what an ARG isn’t. I’ll try a few short descriptions and we’ll see if any of them make any sense:

1) An experience that uses your life as a game board.

2) A game where strange things happen to you the longer you play

3) An excuse to behave like a lunatic in public.

4) A convincing argument that you have super powers you’ve never known about.

5) A piece of entertainment that hates living in a box.

6) An opportunity to play in the real world.

I’m on a plane at the moment, so maybe I’ll try a few of those on the guy sitting next to me pretending to take a nap. Strangers just love it when I play with them.

I gotta tell ya, it's becoming my pet peeve to read people's (especially people who haven't been around very long) needs to more minutely define what an Alternate Reality Game is, all the while attempting to draw a nice tidy box around it. If anything, ARGs should be being defined more broadly and broadly as time goes by, not more narrowly.

So everyone, please take note of the above attempt at loosely defining things by someone who is by all accounts one of the inventors of the whole thing. And write them all down.

Especially #5.