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October 05, 2005


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I'd add maybe the "How to Host a Murder" party sets, and some participatory dinner theater: 'Tony & Tina's Wedding' kinds of things.

I know this is unrelated, but I can't begin to tell you how much I hated reading The Magus.

Tony Walsh

Bryan, I've played and helped run a NERO-like LARP in the past, and since doing game-design work for the ReGenesis ARG last year, I think LARPs can be really quite ARG-like, regardless of setting. I was able to apply my LARP learning towards ARG design (and other multiuser environments). There are a lot of parallels from both the player and puppetmaster/gamemaster perspectives that I'd be happy to elaborate on if you're interested in hearing more.

I recall Assassin fondly, and played it in junior high-school during the early 1980s.

I find the immersion level and complexity of LARPs to be a lot greater than Assassin. Assassin never had a narrative that I was aware of, nor in-character interactions. But Assassin definitely took place in an ARGlike space.


Not sure if either of these really fall into the category, but here goes:

- Banks, Iain M. The Player of Games. Jernau Morat Gurgeh is sent to the Empire of Azad to play the game of Azad, which structures the Empire's society.
- Brunner, John. The Squares of the City. Besides being a story of psychological manipulation, the plot also echoes an 1892 world championship chess game between William Steinitz and Mikhail Ivanovich Tchigorin. In an appendix Brunner gives a name and method of capture to each piece.


Hmmm. This may seem a little out there, but what about civil war reenactors? Seems like a kind of alternate reality immersion to me. And Tony Horwtiz's Confederates in the Attic, would be a good text.

Andy Havens

The SCA (The Society for Creative Anachronism, see www.sca.org) has been running an alternative reality since 1966. I've not been an active participant, but have had good friends who were as highly ranked as "Princes" in some of the various kingdoms. These are people who learn the languages, the costumes, the armor, weapons, food, customs and minutae of an entirely different world and then go about living it -- to various degrees. To some it is a job, to others a hobby, to many a game or a series of games.

There is a strong gaming element to the SCA; jousting, tournaments and contests are held at many of the events. And the effects of various of these are felt in the "real" world, as they will determine who gets to hold which rank in the Society.

There are currently more than 30,000 paying members of the SCA.

If that ain't an Alternate Reality Game, I don't know what is.

I would also add that there are hundreds of Renaisance and Medieval Festivals that do similar types of stuff on smaller scales all over the country. My brother, an actor, worked that scene for several summers. The actors at his gig were required to learn quite a bit about the period they were simulating, and were not allowed to come out of character while working. Many of the paying guests were simply there as spectators, but a good fraction also got into character to some level or another. The entire campus of the fair was a recreated medieval town, there were crafts, jousts, food, etc. Again... to whatever degree it was authentic or not, it was clearly "alternate."

I would also argue that Disney World is an Alternate Reality Game. Although it is clearly also a theme park and/or amusement park, Walt made it clear from the get-go that this was NOT a mid-way / circus. Disney is a place where everything is different. It is cleaner, safer, more child-like. The colors are brighter, there is music everywhere and characters come alive. There is an order and progression to everything, and it is not the same as that of the real world. State fairs, carnivals, and many amusement/theme-parks are simply a place where thrill-rides and midways are all lumped together. Not so Disney. It is an alternate reality. It is a "world."

Designers of ARGs would do themselves a big favor by studying what the SCA, Renaissance Fairs, and Walt and his descendents have done. Not to copy the details, but to understand the memes that have so attracted millions of people into those venues over the past 50+ years.

Tony Walsh

Arrgh, I was going to suggest Disney Land earlier. I think it's a great example of an alternate reality, but isn't very game=like. The SCA is arguably more game-like than Disney Land, as it has (iirc) some rules with expected outcomes--at least with regards to combat. I'm sure you can elaborate on that far better than I, Andy.

Hey, what about the "Carmen Sandiego" game series as an ARG antecedent? It was based on real locations, required its players to use sleuthing skills, and its namesake reminds me of the sort of character you might have to look for in an ARG.

Glen Engel-Cox

I was thinking of the classic science fiction story, "The Most Dangerous Game." (The ISFdb says that the author was Richard Connell, but I was sure it had been Richard Matheson.) In it, a hunter is invited to an exclusive hunt on an island, but after arriving, discovers that he is the one who will be hunted by his host.


What about the Sokal Hoax?:

"The Sokal Affair was a famous hoax played by physicist Alan Sokal upon the editorial staff and readership of a leading journal in the academic humanities. In 1996, Sokal, a professor of physics at New York University, submitted a pseudoscientific paper for publication in a postmodern cultural studies journal, as an experiment to see if a humanities journal would, in Sokal's words: "publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions."


Good point. Hoaxes in general are ARGery, but this one has a clear textual aim beyond the mark.


Girls had high school - while it is not a "game," the intrigue of the social cliques of middle school and high school might actually count as an alternative reality game...


"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card is about using a realistic combat game to train the military leader of the human forces to fend off an alien invasion. Not a book you can easily forget.

I was a long-time SCA member back in the day. For some members it truly becomes their reality. Their Mon-Fri workaday existence merely fuels the weekend, when they become Lord Whozit.

Most of the time it's a just costume party with friends who share an interest in the things of the past). But sometimes we'd do a "high persona" event where one is expected to do the hard work of maintaining "character."

My persona was an 8th-century Irish monk. At one feast I was seated next to a 16th-century Spaniard. (Ignoring the time and language differences is part of the suspension of disbelief.) He claimed to had never heard of the Irish heroes Chuhullain or Finn MacCumhail, and I made as if I had never heard of El Cid. So we swapped our respective cultures' hero-tales. A very cool hour of alternate-reality role playing.

An another feast, the Baroness (a Russian) wanted to send a note to her English friend at another table. So she found someone who could conceiveably have traveled between Russia and Germany, and asked them to take the note to someone in Germany who had cause to travel to France, who would find a way to get it to England. Fun stuff.


Forgot to add - re girls' alternate reality games, what about teddy-bear tea parties, Barbies and dollhouses, and playing dress-up? I'd say those qualify.


HA haha...I haven't seen anything from Evan online for a year or so, and then she pulls out this zinger about girls' high school cliques as alternate reality games...I love it.

Jay D'Ambrosio

Over the past few years I have been developing an educational alternate reality game called The Hexagon Challenge. This ARG is designed for students enrolled in an ancient history course. Students will attempt to solve an archaeological mystery by infiltrating a secret society, answering initiation questions regarding history, science, mathematics, world languages, and the arts. They will contact and be contacted by various fictitious characters via email, telephone, and instant messenger who will provide clues that enable them to continue their quest to discover the truth about a mysterious artifact known only as the Hexagon. Up to six extra credit points will be awarded along the way as an added incentive. The link is below:


disney store merchandise

i am not sure what to think about this.

Murder Mystery Party Games

I love these murder mystery party games. They're so much fun to play with family and friends. You spend nothing, yet you get hours of entertainment from it! Free is the best price!

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