In David Fincher’s psychological thriller The Game
, the line between novel play and true life is blurred to conspiratorial extremes. While real world ARGs (alternate reality games) may lack that level of Hollywood drama, they do embed stories in everyday places and experiences, often elevating the ordinary into the extraordinary. In the wake of the conclusion of Games of Nonchalance
, a number of new ARGs have been staged recently.
How can our educational system keep children engaged in science beyond paper mache volcano experiments? Vanished
may be one approach. The ARG, developed by MIT’s Education Arcade
and the Smithsonian Institute
, challenged 11- to 14-year-old kids to solve a scientific mystery
. Each of the game’s eight weeks focused on a unique chapter of the puzzle, the pieces of which could be unlocked through both online (video conferences with Smithsonian scientists, learning games) and offline (neighborhood field work, museum visits) activity. Though the game was intended as an extracurricular activity, materials were made available for teachers who wanted to expand their curricula beyond the walls of the classroom.
Find the Future:
Tapping a game designer to create a site-specific ARG may seem counterintuitive for an institution that exists to promote the joy of reading, but that’s exactly what the New York Public Library did last month when Jane McGonigal
’s Find the Future
invited 500 people to an interactive slumber party of sorts
. For one night only, players were given 100 (the event marked the NYPL’s centennial anniversary) “quests” which required them to retrieve artifacts from the library’s collections. Proof of discovery came in the form of scanned QR codes, after which they were asked to pen a document inspired by what they found.
Most ARGs rely on structured plotlines that read like an action film. However, Irish ARG Black Helix
used its players to decide the outcome and crowdsource their narratives into an unwritten story
. Working from a basic premise that involved the kidnapping of a 27-year-old PhD student, gamers had four weeks to find her through both online and offline play, all while navigating the subplots that arose during the search. All decisions players made within the game, as well as their aliases and other relevant information, were documented, and the novel essentially wrote itself as the game developed. The result will be published as an ebook this summer.