Class: English 2089



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ARG Essay#3

Class: English 2089

Instructor: Dr. Oberlin

Sijia Li


The alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform and uses transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by participants' ideas or actions. Reviewing from the theories about learning and study about ARG as well as some other researches I have done about the ARG, I find out some of these researches conform my study but others do not. During the study journey, I really learn a lot from doing these studies. This time, I am expecting to share my experiences with you.

The alternative reality game consists with a lot of things. In the macroscopic view, it consists two worlds——the reality and the network. In the microscopic view, a small puzzle can be magically constructed by many elements. When I created my alternate reality game puzzle, I did a lot of work to make my puzzle have more interesting and challenging. For example, in my alternate reality game puzzle, I created several artifacts to confuse players. First of all, players should go back to professor Beane’s office. They have to find a pen which belongs to professor Beane. Actually, it is a voice recorder. To continue playing the alternate reality game, they have to get this. This voice recorder at this moment plays a role that guides players finding the cue. It is also the first try they will want to do. Then, they will have to watch a movie to find the tattooing on the hands. Then they should be able to get information about this tattooing online. Smoothly, the real world (the tattooing) gets connected with the network (internet). This time, the theory I read conforms to the work I did before.

The social network is another important element to alternate reality game. Some people believe that the social networking is the backbone of the ARG since alternate reality game is always a social experience. Since the Alternate reality game has self-organizing structure, which refers to the natural tendency of the players to organize themselves into casual, active, or enthusiastic player roles. Sometimes the social network even becomes the most important way for those players to play games, share information and organize intelligences. The social network is also vital to the creators. A successful ARG requires people to build communities. “These communities lead to the formation of a powerful collective intelligence that can find solutions as the ARG evolves” (McGonigal). Any creator like me need to think about associating the social networking with the alternate reality game. In the other word, I must consider about adding social network to the alternate reality game.

When I created my alternate reality game, I made some artifacts related to the social network. In my ARG puzzle, email and Facebook help me build my puzzle. The players are expected to find out the computer is not power off. “They access Beane’s Gmail successfully and find a draft email says: I find an interesting man called Bilibili Max on Facebook. This email was to send to some of these students, so they believe professor intended to deliver some information via this man. Then they shall search this man on Facebook and find him. Then, in the comment area, they will find this man says:” He is fine.” Once again, I find out that the theories about creating alternate reality games are relevant to the work I did.

If the social network is the backbone of an ARG, the collaborative storytelling is the glue that puts all the elements together. One of the main goals of an ARG is creating an immersive storyline. A compelling plot pushes an ARG move forward and attracts and retains a large number of players. These days, storytelling is becoming more interactive and participatory. This new type of storytelling seems to replace more passive entertainment activities, such as reading newspapers or watching television (Kim, Lee et al.). My peers and I have devoted to making a perfect storyboard in chapter 6.

In the first artifact, I made an investigation statement. It is used to create a new world for the Aught Nine. In that statement, I explained the work the Aught Nine does. The thing Aught Nine does is collecting intelligence from one country and selling it to another country. It does not belong to any country, nor accepts support from any country or organization. Their income comes from selling intelligence. Their members live in different countries, work in various areas, and speak different languages. Everyone has a normal job like police, company manager, nurse and so on. In the other word, the power of this organization is the biggest and most horrible power in the world. The professor Beane has been doing research related to this organization for a long time. Recently, she discovered their secret. Almost at the same time, the Aught Nine also detected her action. They abducted her to keep the secret. This is why professor Beane was disappeared. As far as we know, a man tried to disclose the Aught Nine’s secret was convinced to join this organization. I think a well-written ARG storyline is easy to understand so that the story can be easily explained to new people and allow news of the ARG to spread virally. I create this background to help players have a deeper understanding about the world of this game.

When I did my research related to the alternate reality game, there were some theories different from my opinion. Moseley has also pointed out “ARGs could allow students to select the starting level of problems, thus making problem-based learning more effective” (Moseley 9). When I read the theories about alternate reality games, I did not get any information about creating multiple levels’ challenge. Creating challenges at different levels can be very costly. First of all, money cost is the leading portion of the cost. At the normal level, we may require players to use some highly technical tools to figure the puzzle out; nevertheless, at a lower level, players may not need to use the same tools to solve an easier problem. That means these tools are not useful anymore. We have to pay a high price for a high technology tool like GPS, but we cannot use it multiple times in the game. So the monetary cost will be high.

On the other hand, design an alternate reality game also needs much human resource. As the starting problem is changed, the rest of problems need to be changed. These changes indicate that the creators may have to spend a lot of human resources to maintain the game. For example, at the normal level, we need the players to send email to a specific email address to get confirmation from the game designers; however, at a lower level, we may not need the players to do the same nor similar thing as the players do at normal level. To keep the game works smoothly, we may need to find more people to maintain the game. Thus, the human resource consumption will increase.

During the days creating the alternate reality game, I have learned a lot. One of the things I have learned was reflecting on the connections between ideas within the course and their own academic, personal, and social lives. The alternate reality game is a game that associated with my life. For example, Facebook is a very common used social App nowadays. When I was told the alternate reality game needs to connect the real world with the social network, the first thing came into my mind was that I could use the Facebook as my artifact. Then, when I created my alternate reality game Puzzle, Facebook becomes one of the most helpful tools in that puzzle. It plays two roles in this game: The one is misleading information and the other one is locating the exact place professor Beane stays.

In the first part of this term, the main thing we have done is that we try to create one of the chapters of the ARG. However, as the ARG was not as popular as other games like online games and BRPG, resources about the ARG was very limited. Doing research about ARG on the internet became a big problem for me to solve. How to find the information online and how to find the information I need? That’s very hard for me. After finishing writing the ARG puzzle, the ARG artifacts and the ARG essays, my ability about digging information on the websites was increased quickly. I can use many technologies to search on the internet, and then, approach the results I need. For example, when I use the Chrome browser I use “Find” tool very often. Sometimes, I have to read a great number of documents in a short time. “Find” tool can help me reach the portion I may need to use. I can open the tool and type the information I want to search, then press “Enter”. The Sentences relate to the key words I typed are highlighted. It is very helpful to me; however, this is only one of the things I learned during these days’ work.

The alternate reality game can be combined with a lot of elements. We use text, video, audio, flash, print ads, billboards, phone calls, and email deliver parts of the plot. In the real life, we can do similar things to achieve our goal. If we are going to promote one stuff, for instance, we can use multiple ways to do the promotion. First, we can text our customers we are going to do a promotion. Then we can use the audio and the video to spread our promotion to customers online. After the promotion ends, we can also make phone calls to customers who joined this promotion to get feedback from them. What I mean, in short, is that: A proper combination of media usage can help improve the sale; similarly, we can follow the same method to improve the fun of our ARG. That’s the thing I learn from creating the Alternate Reality Game.

Work Cited

McGonigal, J “Engagement economy: The future of massively scaled collaboration and participation”

A, Moseley. "An Alternative Reality for Higher Education"



J, Kim. "Storytelling in New Media: The Case of Alternate Reality Games"


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