This weekend while engaged in quite a bit of driving, I listened to the July 16 episode of The Maccast featuring J. C. Hutchins. The topic of conversation focused on Alternate Reality Games, a massive media genre that encompasses a broad assortment of communication methods to engage people in the topic of the ARG. The entire infrastructure is built around the web, so it becomes geographically dispersed as the game takes on a life of its own.
Wikipedia provides a more in-depth definition:
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.
The form is defined by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants’ responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game’s designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities. ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.
ARGs are growing in popularity, with new games appearing regularly and an increasing amount of experimentation with new models and subgenres. They tend to be free to play, with costs absorbed either through supporting products (e.g. collectible puzzle cards fund Perplex City) or through promotional relationships with existing products (for example, I Love Bees was a promotion for Halo 2, and the Lost Experience and FIND815 promoted the television show Lost). However, pay-to-play models are not unheard of.
Imagine how something like this could be used in an educational setting. It would be a project of great undertaking, but it would certainly engage today’s younger learners.
To read more about ARGs, explore the following resources: