ARGs in Education

I found out about an ARG that had been created by some educators in Queensland and covered their research in the forthcoming (I hope it comes out soon) IGDA ARG SIG Whitepaper. Well, just yesterday I flew down to Melbourne to be the external assessor for a class that had the project of creating an ARG (well, “CROSS-MEDIA FICTIONAL WORLDS”, but they could choose ARGs and they did). They were seperated into two 20-person teams and had 5 weeks to conceive and design and implement an ARG. They are 3rd year students for a MultiMedia and Digital Arts design course run by Troy Innocent at Monash University. I was so delighted to see what they had done. It was really interesting to see the difficulties they had with managing the magic-circle (the game-play space) because they designed it so the general public could find out about their ARGs. So, they had people ‘play’ the game without knowing it was real. The designers had real problems then, managing posts from people who were genuinely involved. This is a problem for games that recruit participators through public spaces and not through ARG gateways such as ARGN. I had a similiar problem with the mini ARG I created for an industry residential. SMS and other emails were so real the participators didn’t realise it wasn’t. Now, this is fun when you want to be immersed, when you opt-in, but for those people who are unaware of the fictional status and who are not aware of ‘alternate reality’ techniques, it can be quite disconcerting (until they find out it is not real, and then they love it). There is a big difference between employing alternate reality aesthetics and having a constructed world operate as if it is real.

It was so exciting to see alternate reality games being created as class projects, hopefully this is a sign of many more to come.