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How To Make A Good ARG? Make Them Want More

Alternative Reality Games (ARGs) are a growing trend on the internet that is here to stay. The name comes from the fact that these games are mostly online puzzles that the player has to solve in real-time. More and more people want to make their own games as the number of games grows, this is how to make a good ARG.

But it's harder than it looks to make and write an online ARG. Over time, you learn what to do and what not to do, as well as how to make your story better. Alternate reality games, or ARGs as they're often called, are fictional stories that take place in the real world and give players control (or the illusion of control) over what happens.

What Is An Alternative Reality Game?

ARGs - I: What Are Alternate Reality Games? - Extra Credits

Alternate reality games, sometimes known as ARGs, are a subgenre of video games that include aspects of the real world into the gameplay. The majority of these games are predicated on the notion that there is something more significant taking place in the world, but that only the players are aware of it.

In order to participate in an ARG, the player needs to discover cryptic messages that direct them to a website or other destinations that include additional clues, riddles, and puzzles that provide context for the narrative. An ARG can be compared to a difficult treasure hunt full of challenging puzzles in many respects.

Some alternate reality games put more of an emphasis on riddles or tests for the community to complete. Is there static noise within an audio file that has been corrupted? There could be information concealed within the sound.

Puzzles can take on a wide variety of forms, and while there are tools available to assist with solving typical ciphers, you will frequently require a higher level of creativity to solve the types of puzzles employed in alternate reality games (ARGs).

Frequently, the resolution of these conundrums is intended to call for the coordinated efforts of a large number of individuals working together.

The success of alternate reality games is very much a reflection of the current games industry as well as the broader marketing world. At the moment, there are more and more games that focus on community, teamwork, and the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself.

Traditional team-building exercises at work might involve putting together rafts out of straws and bits of cardboard, but in 2018, the best way to get to know your coworkers is to look at spreadsheets with them and try to figure out where the ARG clues will lead you next.

ARGs are the perfect mix of excitement and community involvement, which is why both marketers and PR people and the people who take part in their campaigns like them so much.

Essential Elements Of An ARG

How To Make an ARG | Halloween Special

These are a few of the "must haves" for an Alternate Reality Game to work:

Storytelling Or Narrative

Every ARG should tell a story that is interesting and goes beyond the product. For example, the guerrilla marketing campaign for Halo 3 revealed details about the third game in the series, which fans of the game would find interesting.

Most of the time, these "games" are just warm-ups for the product or event they are trying to sell. Unlike traditional ads, these stories give the product or event more life and make it more interesting.

ARGs are mostly used to market things like video games, movies, music, and TV shows that have a loyal online fan base. However, they can be used to market almost anything as long as you have a story to tell.

We saw this with Audi's "The Art of the Heist" ARG, which was made to market the Audi A3, and Coca-"Zero Cola's will give you life as it should be" campaign for Coke Zero in Europe.

Discovery/deciphering And Documentation Elements

Any well-done ARG will keep its cards close to its chest and give out information slowly, randomly, through different channels, and over a long period of time. The story should be broken up into smaller pieces that are often hidden or coded in some way.

These pieces need to be found and then decoded into something that makes sense. So, the discovery and deciphering parts allow different people or sources to "discover" new information and force them to work together to help the story move forward.

Most people will want to follow the story closely to be the first to figure out the next step (for fame, glory, or just out of curiosity), but others will play along just to record the game, study the marketing strategy, and learn from it.

Cross-medium Interactivity

For an ARG to work, it needs to use more than one medium. It needs to be everywhere and available on as many different platforms as possible. Some of these channels are, but are not limited to:

  • Articles or bits of information seeded online on blogs and news outlets
  • Videos (clips, trailers, commentary)
  • Print ads in magazines and newspapers
  • Billboards
  • Posters in shops
  • People with placards on the streets
  • Phone calls
  • Radio or online audio broadcasts
  • Email and snail mail

The more mediums you use, the more personal it becomes and the closer it gets to reality. Furthermore, with each medium you tap into a potentially unique audience that you may not be able to tap into using other mediums (e.g. online/email versus offline/snail-mail).

The more ways you use to tell a story, the more personal it becomes and the more real it feels. Also, each medium gives you access to a different audience that you might not be able to reach with the others (e.g., online/email vs. offline/snail mail).

Blurring The Lines Between Reality And Fiction

Because ARGs let you and your community (working together) make decisions that have clear and often immediate results, or at least give the impression of interaction, they help blur the line between reality and fiction.

For the Halo 3 campaign, for example, real people went out into the streets and talked incomprehensible gibberish for days. In the same way, the Harvey Dent campaign was made to look like a real political campaign, and it took a grassroots effort to find out what was really going on.

When you walk into a store and see a broken display and "The Joker" playing cards all over the floor, it's like stepping out of a play and into a different reality.

How To Make A Good ARG?

How to Start an ARG

Know Your Story And Audience

As is the case with writing in general, you need to have a clear idea of the audience for your story as well as the path you wish to take it. The web series known as "My Dad's Tapes" is a useful illustration of inappropriate behavior.

The main character, a young man, spends the first part of the novel using basement tapes to investigate the identity of his biological father. However, he suddenly found himself in a battle against a cult of serial killers, which caused a total shift in the trajectory of the plot.

His crowd quickly dispersed as a result of such a jarring about-face. You will need to investigate the kinds of people who fall into your target demographic as well as the kinds of people who might really play your game.

Plan Out Your Posts/Puzzles/etc.

Keep in mind that ARGs take place in the actual world. The events in your game's plot have to take place at the same time as real life. You should also think about the structure that you want to utilize, such as creating your own website or utilizing a website that is associated with social media.

Consider using your tale as a springboard to brainstorm different presentation formats. You can make advantage of websites such as Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr if you want yours to have more of a narrative focus. Creating your own website is typically the best option to choose if you are looking for something with a greater focus on puzzles.

Don’t Make Puzzles Overcomplicated

Should there be a level of difficulty involved? Yes, but you also need to make sure they can be solved. Imagine this task as if you were playing a video game; it should be challenging, but not impossible. The Secret was not an ongoing online series; rather, it was a book that contained challenging problems.

These puzzles were so challenging that just two of the puzzles in the entire book were never completed. People need to be able to figure out the solutions to your riddles if you want your game to be a hit.

Don’t Put Anybody’s Lives In Danger

On the other side of the screen is a living human being, one who possesses their own life and a group of people who care about them in their own right. The very last thing you want to do is be the one to blame if something unfortunate occurs to them as a direct result of the game you are playing.

The storyline of an internet series called Junko Junsui includes the things that you should avoid doing. In the game, the Junsui are a race of synthetic humans; nevertheless, in real life, the Junsui is a terrorist organization.

In addition to providing players with their own personal information, the game also provided genuine phone numbers and addresses of Russian residents who could be contacted by game participants.

It is sickening to contemplate the fact that the developers of the game had no regard for people's right to privacy and placed people's lives in danger by putting them in the game. Always remember that your players are actual people.

Put A Fine Line Between Real Life And The Game

This goes along with point number four, which is that you should establish clear boundaries between the gaming world and the actual world. It is possible to put people at risk by utilizing genuine addresses and phone numbers, as well as by using a name that has already been used for a legitimate organization.

If you don't go so far as to address your players about what is and isn't a part of the game, you can be sure that it will turn out the same way as the Doomsday series. The plot of the Doomsday series centered on a time traveler who came from the future to warn humanity that the end of the world was approaching on April 30, 2015.

Others, however, believed it to be true and either began making preparations for the day or entertained thoughts of ending their lives before the day would end because they thought it was real.

Those who realized it was a game included: Things were made much worse by the fact that the game's creator failed to make it clear that the impending catastrophe was an integral aspect of the simulation.

Have Them Wanting More

Get to the point where your tale is worth telling. Stay away from tired clichés and provide your players with an experience they won't soon forget. Make them anticipate the next challenge with eager anticipation, encourage emotional investment in the game's characters, and inspire a desire in them to share their experience with others.

Your alternative reality game (ARG) may have a better chance of being successful if you retain the results of previous rounds in mind and if you have sufficient hope. However, no guarantees can be made. It is entirely dependent on you.

Things ARGs Should Avoid To Make It Successful

A girl looking at the pile of papers wearing blue jacket
A girl looking at the pile of papers wearing blue jacket

There are some things that every good alternate reality game needs to have in order to keep people interested, but there are also things that can completely turn people off. Here are some things that ARGs should never do.

Lack Of Interactivity, Too Linear

Too many ARGs give the impression that they are interactive. The end result seems to depend on what you do, but the games are actually linear "journeys" from A to B. No one wants to work on a puzzle for hours if they know that their work won't make much of a difference.

Lack Of A Reward

People like ARGs because each puzzle they solve gives them a new piece of information and moves the story along. As we said before, these games are most often used as an introduction. No one wants to join in if the reward isn't good enough or there isn't one at all.

This was a problem for the Coca-Cola Coke Zero campaign because people eventually found out that it was just for a different flavor of Coke, which isn't "virally appealing" on its own.

No Instant Gratification

As important as it is to have a reward, it's also important to let readers get to it right away. We live in a Web-connected world where getting things right away is important and waiting is like not getting anything at all.

Too Difficult

You don't want to just give away the prize, but you also don't want to make it so hard to get the prize that no one wants to play. One of the hardest parts of any ARG-based marketing effort can be finding the right level of difficulty.

Same Old Game, Different Name

Everyone talks about how successful ARGs were because they tried new things and came up with ideas and ways to get people involved that no one else had thought of before.

If your game still uses the same old marketing techniques to sell a different product, it won't work. Try to think of something new, because people will be interested just because it's different.

Too Scripted, Too Commercial

For an ARG to work, it has to look like it's not planned and isn't trying to sell something. Otherwise, it's just an ad that people have to work hard to see.

You should remember that at the very least, you need a premise that people are interested in or could be interested in.

It will be hard to sell a game about cats that is based on a different reality. It's much easier to take a good idea and make it a huge success through ARG-based viral marketing if you follow the four steps above and avoid the six mistakes listed.

Start Writing Your ARG

Making An ARG: Walker Creek | Documentary

Start Making Story Outline

Now that you have a story idea, a base, and an assessment of your skills, you can start making a blockout of your story's content. Do short summaries of the who, what, where, and why of the media you've chosen. If you want to make a movie, look for locations and come up with ideas based on them.

This will help you put your story together. Take pictures of possible places to shoot, write ideas on those pictures, and write down everything. Figure out how fast you want to release things and make a schedule for the beginning and the rest. Outline can be, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Sheets of Character
  • Scene descriptions (Include any fancy work involved, like sfx, audio, props, etc)
  • Event lists (and order)
  • Puzzles and their tools (as well as implementation)

Flesh Out And Demo Ideas

Now you can start to put together the story! Take your short writings and expand on them. Make scripts out of them. Start keeping track of any clues you give and puzzles. (If you're using ciphers and other similar things, make sure to write down what they are, what keys you can use, etc., and check them with multiple tools to make sure they are what you want them to be.)

Start Making Your ARG

Execute content creation! Now you have everything you need to start making props, filming content (if you want to), making sound effects, audio, etc. Make sure you finish more than one piece of content before putting out the first one. The LAST thing you want is for everyone to be watching your every move.

Stick To Your Plan

Now you need to look at your schedule and try to stick to it as much as possible. You should have a few pieces of content done ahead of the game (if you aren't already done), so keep putting them out as the puzzle or story unfolds.

Long gaps between releases can build tension, but they can also cause a huge drop in attendance. So try to time it in a way that keeps people interested and busy without letting them lose focus.

People Also Ask

What Makes A Game An ARG?

ARGs are interactive, networked stories that use the real world as a setting and use transmedia storytelling to tell a story that can change depending on what the players think or do.

What Is An ARG Simple?

An ARG, which stands for "alternate reality game," is a type of game that combines gameplay with parts of the real world. Most of these games are based on the idea that something bigger is going on in the world, but only the players know about it.

What Is An ARG Example?

Alternate Reality Games are usually "tracked" online, but the actual gameplay takes place in the real world. There are many examples of ARGs that are used for entertainment, like the games I Love Bees, The Lost Experience, and Number3rs Chain Factor. There are also many examples of ARGs that are used to address social issues, like Urgent Evoke and World Without Oil.

Conclusion

This page has a clear plan for how to write a story. In reality, it's far from being in order. You can finish your story before you start writing it. You could start with the characters and then come up with a theme and plot.

No matter what order you choose, writing an interactive story is an iterative process that will go through many stages and drafts before it is logical, playable, and fun. Don't forget that an ARG story should be fun, but it also needs to do something. Now you know how to make a good ARG.

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About The Authors

Keith Peterson

Keith Peterson - I'm an expert IT marketing professional with over 10 years of experience in various Digital Marketing channels such as SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing), SMO (social media optimization), ORM (online reputation management), PPC (Google Adwords, Bing Adwords), Lead Generation, Adwords campaign management, Blogging (Corporate and Personal), and so on. Web development and design are unquestionably another of my passions. In fast-paced, high-pressure environments, I excel as an SEO Executive, SEO Analyst, SR SEO Analyst, team leader, and digital marketing strategist, efficiently managing multiple projects, prioritizing and meeting tight deadlines, analyzing and solving problems.

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