Online Augmentation to
'Emerging Participatory Culture Practices:
Player-Created Tiers in Alternate Reality Games'
by Christy Dena

Main Page > Tiering: Levels > Tiering: Types > Resources: Sources > RESOURCES: TYPES > Resources: Fictional > Summary > Bibliography

2. ARG GamePlay Resources cont.

2.2 Resource Types

There are many types of gameplay resources in ARGs. This section will attempt an overview the most pertinent, recognised at the time of writing the journal essay. Although, in the essay I clustered them differently than I will here. The resources and definitions are still the same, I've just divided them into two top-level categories: Ludic and (Story)World Management resources. I consider all these gameplay resources, despite the term 'story' because I regard 'game' as a general term to denote the entire work. This flies in the face of much discourse on the notion of game, which I will not entertain here because it is not within the scope of these essays to do so (and I have much to say on the matter). Instead, for now, 'ludic' resources are those which are necessary to understand and where appropriate execute the game 'rules'; and '(Story)World Management' resources are those that are necessary to understand and experience the plot, setting and characters.

2.2.1 Ludic Resources Orientation

Orientation or tutorial resources help newcomers to the genre learn how to ‘play’ them. The first was created by Cloudmakers (The Beast players) Dan Fabulich and Andrea Phillips (2001) for The Beast (Microsoft Game Studio, 2001), it was called ‘The Journey’ and was a resource ‘designed to give you gentle clues with which to solve the game’s puzzles’. Other examples are Steve Peter's (aka vpisteve) 'Jawbreakers Quickstart Instructions' for Lockjaw (various, 2002) and Brooke Thompson's (2004) 'Quick Start Guide' for playing I Love Bees (42 Entertainment, 2004). In 2005, fellow Cloudmakers (The Beast players) Dan and Adrian Hon became PMs on Perplex City (Mind Candy Design, 2005-2007). Their experience as players obviously informs their ARG design because they created a diegetic (ingame) ‘walkthrough’ (Mind Candy Design, n.d.) for solving cryptograms. It is narrated by fictional characters Von, Violet and Kurt (see figure 10).

Figure 10. Screenshot of Perplex City ‘Walkthrough' (Mind Candy Design, n.d.)

There are also some orientation resources that have been created to help people understand ARGs in general. ARG designer Dave Szulborski has created a sample ARG for beginners: 'Errant Memories'. The mini game is delivered via an annotated walkthrough in Szulborski's (2005a, pp. 343-377; 2005b, pp. 105-132) books . An educator, John W. Gosney (2005, pp: 105-180), also created a sample ARG, 'Route 66', in his book on ARGs . Players TJ Jackson and Andrés Martínez Quijano have created sample ARGs, they are ‘Troy’ and 'Sample ARG' respectively. Tools

The tools needed to solve puzzles are a form of gameplay resource. They are sourced from ARG community sites (which usually gather them from third-party sources) or created by individual players. Examples include unfiction’s (n.d.) ‘Online Tools’ for use in any ARG. It is a sidebar accessory for your browser with links to sites that assist with whois lookups, cryptography, morse code, payphone locations and so on. I Love Bees (42 Entertainment, 2004) player Kevin Sapough's (aka sapagoo) (2004) created the ‘Quickphone’ sidebar accessory for determining the I Love Bees payphone coordinates. Interaction

Interaction resources are those that facilitate communities conversing with each other to discuss puzzles, plot conjecture and general discussion about the mechanics of the game. Online chat facilities such as IRC are usually employed by ‘the most active and devoted players’ (Thompson, 2006, pp. 44). Listservs also facilitate discussion with many players about game puzzles and solves. Forums are the most utilised technology for community interaction. This is why they have been created by players and PMs alike. An ARG cannot exist without a forum. Aggregation (Trails)

Aggregation resources are those which collect the plethora of information produced in an ARG. Typically, they are represented in what has been termed ‘The Trail’. The Trail was initially created by Cabel Sasser for The Beast but was developed by Daniel Hon (2001). Cloudmakers Dan Fabulich and Andrea Phillips (2001) described The Trail as ‘an encyclopedia, detailing every last bit of information we have learned in a comprehensive format. Fundamentally, it is a listing of all the puzzles and sites in a game. They can be authored by a single person or collaboratively developed. Among other functions, the Trail works as a pivot-point of all the components found in an ARG. An example is Sean Stacey's (aka SpaceBass) Lockjaw Trail.

Figure 11. Screenshot of the first 'Trail' (Hon, 2001)

2.2.2. (Story)World Management Resources

There are gameplay resources that assist players in gaining a birds-eye-view of an emerging universe. Storyworld management resources are predominantly created by players in the form of timelines, plot summaries, character profiles, histories and relationship diagrams. They are created for a few reasons. One being the narrative is unfolding in real time, with components distributed through tiering practices to different players and across time and space. Recaps (Story So Far)

Recaps (short for recapitulation) are a device employed in episodic forms such as television to inform audiences of events that have occurred in the storyworld. They assist those that have simply missed an important episode, but function more to update those new to series and those who just casually engaging with it. In ARGs, they are called ‘Story So Far’ or 'CatchUp' and can be created by PMs an players. Although some players created 'Story So Far' webpages -- such as Brian Enigma's (2003) 'Story So Far' for Metacortechs (2003) and most ARG community forums have a 'Story So Far' thread that is created and updated by a player/the players, most recaps are provided by PMs, as Brooke Thompson (2006b, pp.45) explains:

Another form of a guide is a “Story So Far” which may be created by the players but typically exists in the game environment and is maintained by a single character. This is a brief and, often, linear discussion of what has occurred in the game from a character’s perspective. This provides players, both new and familiar, with a quick place to learn the basics of the story in order to dig deeper into the experience.
Writer David Varela (2007) explains the motivation behind creating the 'Story So Far' assets for Perplex City (Mind Candy Design, 2005-2007) and how the player-created resources helped their production management:
One drawback of running a two-year story was that it became harder and harder for new players to join in and catch up. This is an issue that affects any long-running story: try explaining the whole of Lost to someone who missed the first few series. As a result, we started to produce summaries of the story to help people get up to speed quickly. The ‘Story So Far’ website was a searchable archive of every web post, news item and development in Perplex City, updated every few days. We also recorded a Jackanory-style audio podcast every few weeks giving an overview for people who didn’t have time to follow the story so closely. This was a great deal of hard work for us but it was nothing compared to the collaborative efforts of the players who spent thousands of man-hours creating maps and websites about the story. The Perplex City Wiki was truly a labour of love, an encyclopaedic guide to the game that outstripped anything we ever produced in-house. It became the writers’ bible.
Table 7 lists examples of recap resources created by PMs:

Table 7. PM-Created ARG Recaps
Art of the Heist (Campfire, GMD Studios, McKinney-Silver, 2005)
The Beast (Microsoft Game Studio, 2001)
Catching the Wish (Dave Szulborski +, 2006)
Eldritch Errors: Scream in the Mountains (GMD Studios, 2007)
I Love Bees (42 Entertainment, 2004)
The Lost Experience (ABC, Channel 4, Yahoo!7, 2006)
The Lost Experience (ABC, Channel 4, Yahoo!7, 2006)
Perplex City (Mind Candy Design, 2005-2007)
Perplex City (Mind Candy Design, 2005-2007)
ReGenesis Extended Reality Game II (Xenophile Media, 2006)
Art of the H3ist ‘Stolen A3’ blog [no-longer online, see figure 5]

'Story So Far' page on the Salla Family Site [Cloudmakers archive]
Catching the Wish 'Story So Far'
Eldritch Errors 'Story Thus Far'
I Love Bees Dana Awbrey’s blog
The Other Girl's CatchUp page (Channel 4, 2006)
Rachel Blake's Recap page (ABC, 2006)
Perplex City ‘Story So Far’ or 'CatchUp' blog
Perplex City
‘Story So Far’ podcast (also through iTunes)
ReGenesis Extended Reality Game Podcast (no-longer online, was also through iTunes)

Figure 12. Screenshot of 'Stolen A3' blog, 2005 [no-longer online] Anarchrony Audits (Timelines)

Players also create what I term in the journal essay as an ‘anachrony audit’. Narratologist Gerard Genette ([1972] 1980) introduced the term anachrony into narratology to identify when there is a difference in temporal ordering of the story (fabula) order and the discourse (sjuzhet) order. To bring some order to the complexity and facilitate immersive navigation, fans and ARGers create online listings that reorder the anachronic discourse into a chronological order. Examples include Rick Bailey's (aka Hair Thief) (2001a) ‘The Plot’ for The Beast, ChessPieceFace's (2002) Lockjaw Timeline,Geoff May's (aka The Bruce) (2004) ‘Plot Timeline' and Steve Peters' (aka vpisteve) (2004) ‘Ilovebees Halo 2 Audio File Repository’ for I Love Bees and Yanka (n.d)'s 'Perplex City Story Timeline'. Character Charts
Players (and PMs) also attempt to provide an overview (for themselves and other players) of the various characters in an ARG. Examples are Rick Bailey's (aka Hair Thief) (2001b) ‘The Characters’ for The Beast, Yanka's (n.d.) 'Characters' for Last Call Poker and Yanka's (n.d.) 'Characters' for Perplex City. More recently, the PMs of Eldritch Errors have provided their own character chart:

Figure 13. 'Whiteboard' of 'major players' sourced from GMD Studios' (2007) Geographic Maps
Another resource that assists in gaining a conceptual overview of the fictional universe in an ARG is a map. The following is a map provided by the PMs for Chasing the Wish:

Figure 14. Figure 3. Scan of map of Aglaura, NJ from Chasing the Wish Book One, Vol 1, Issue 1, New Fiction Publishing, April 2006

The PMs of Perplex City (Mind Candy Design, 2005-2007) provided a map of the city on the back of the game cards. Player 'Daffy' scanned in the back of playing cards and created an annotated Google Map:

Figure 15. Screenshot of Daffy's Annotated Perplex City Google Map Guides
On 19 April 2001, Adrian Hon (2001b) posted an announcement to the Cloudmakers listserv that ‘The Guide’ is online. Not soon after, Adrian Hon (2001c) reflected on the reasons why he created the document: ‘So that’s how The Guide was born, both to help me understand exactly what was going on in the story and to make it possible for newcomers to the game to get up to speed quickly’. Fabulich and Phillips (2001) described the Guide as ‘a walkthrough: step by step instructions detailing how to learn everything we know about the game.’ Beyond a neutral walkthrough, a Guide is written as a first-person narration of a player’s journey through the game. Guides provide something PM-resources typically do not: the player's experience of an ARG.
Table 8. Examples of Player-Created Guides in ARG chronological order
The Beast (Microsoft Game Studio, 2001)
Chasing the Wish (Dave Szulborski+, 2003)
I Love Bees (42 Entertainment, 2004)
Lockjaw (Andy Aiken, Bruce Cain, Clay Chiment,
Derek Jensen, Brooke Thompson and Krystyn Wells, 2002)
Urban Hunt (Dave Szulborski, 2004)
Adrian Hon
Michelle Senderhauf (varin)
Steve Peters (aka vpisteve)

The Guide X: The Tale of the A.I. Trail
Chasing the Wish Guide
The Haunted Apiary Guide
Jawbreakers Guide

Urban Hunt Guide


Created: 24 Sep, 2007
Last Updated: 9 Feb, 2008
Author: Christy Dena