Advertising Through Arg (Alternate Reality Games)

Topics: Alternate reality game, Marketing, Game Pages: 9 (3249 words) Published: March 12, 2008
Advertising through Alternate Reality Games

Imagine a world of mystery and excitement, adventure and fantasy, waiting for you to explore. A world that reacts to your every move, with characters and companies that talk to you, send you messages, and even give you items to help you in your quest. A world so immersive that you can no longer tell where the reality ends and the fiction begins. Welcome to the world of Alternate Reality Gaming.


According to the definition of Wikipedia, an Alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions. In other words, it is the fact that participants are interacting with the fictional world using things that you use every day to interact with the real world. That is to say, one may visit websites, send or receive emails, give or receive phone calls, as well as using newspapers as support or places in cities. The most common supports of real life used in the games are the following: Emails

Phone calls
Press articles
Postings in newspapers
Chat or Instant messages
Objects of the real world linked to the game in play
Events of the real world involving actors, interacting with player that are assisting the representation

Among the terms essential to understand ARGs are:

Puppetmaster: the individual involved in designing and/or running an ARG (but here in our case of advertising, it refers more to the company that is promoting its product). Puppetmasters are simultaneously allies and adversaries to the player base, creating obstacles and providing resources for overcoming them in the course of telling the game's story. Puppetmasters generally remain behind the curtain while a game is running.The real identity of puppet masters may or may not be known ahead of time. The Curtain: it is generally a metaphor for the separation between the puppetmasters and the players. This can take the traditional form of absolute secrecy regarding the puppetmasters' identities and involvement with the production, or refer merely to the convention that puppetmasters do not communicate directly with players through the game, interacting instead through the characters and the game's design. This Is Not A Game (TINAG): Setting the ARG form apart from other games is the This Is Not A Game aesthetic, which dictates that the game not behave like a game: phone numbers mentioned in the ARG, for example, should actually work, and the game should not provide an overtly-designated playspace or ruleset to the players. Rabbithole: Also known as a Trailhead. A Rabbithole is the first website, contact, or puzzle that starts off the ARG.

More concretely, ARGs are a kind of mix between an online game and treasure hunting. However one thing very important is that users and publishers never mention the term "Game" and they do not consider that it is a game…


We can consider that ARGs are coming from traditional role games like the famous Dungeons and Dragons of 1974. Then Wizards of the Coast developed one of these first kinds of game (before the term ARG was actually invented) to promote trading cards in 1996. During the same year we had Dreadnot, a web-based product from the San Francisco Chronicle in 1996. This play included working voice mail phone numbers for characters, clues in the source code of the website, character email addresses, off-site websites, real locations in San Francisco and real people.

We can also quote, in 1997, the movie The Game where a wealthy businessman receives a strange gift for his birthday: a role-play game where he is part of it. Finally concerning the history of ARGs, the first big success of ARG has been the game developed for the promotion of the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence of Steven Spielberg, in 2001, by a team of...
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