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Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) for beginners. For FAQs about the prototype have a look at The Forking Paths Tarot FAQ.
What is an ARG game?An Alternate Reality Game, or ARG for short, is an interactive story that is driven by player choice. ARG game is a bit redundant since the G in the acronym already stands for game. Unlike internet puzzles and conspiracy theories, at least a part of the story unfolds in real life, abbreviated as IRL in discussion forums. A major element of the ARG is a collaborative suspension of disbelief referred to by the phrase, This is not a game or TINAG. Players know it’s a game but because the real world is part of the storytelling canvas, they often don’t know where the game ends and the real world begins. This is a great article about one of the best ARGs of all time, Year Zero.
What is a Rabbit Hole in ARGs?A “rabbit hole” refers to an entry point or starting point that leads players into the game’s fictional world or story. On this website we often call them trailheads. It can be a website, a video, an image, or any other media that captures the players’ attention and prompts them to investigate further. The term “rabbit hole” is derived from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” in which Alice falls into a rabbit hole and enters a fantastical world. Similarly, in ARGs, a rabbit hole is the first step that players take to enter an immersive game world. We have a blog post here about how Alice in Wonderland was the first ARG and the origin of this term. The rabbit hole often contains clues, puzzles, or hidden messages that players must decode to progress further into the game. It may also involve collaboration with other players or require players to use their skills in various fields, such as cryptography, programming, or research. Overall, the rabbit hole is an essential element of ARGs, as it not only engages players but also creates a sense of mystery and adventure that draws them into the game’s world.
How do you “play” an ARG? Five StepsPlaying an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) involves engaging with a fictional narrative that unfolds over time, using the real world as a platform to tell a story that gives players control or the illusion of control over the events that unfold. Here are some general steps to get started with playing an ARG: Find a rabbit hole: Look for clues that lead you to an entry point or starting point to enter the game’s world. This may involve searching online, investigating physical locations, or interacting with other players. Follow the clues: Once you have found a rabbit hole, follow the clues to progress through the game’s story. Clues can come in many forms, such as videos, images, websites, or even phone calls or text messages. Collaborate with other players: Many ARGs involve collaboration with other players to solve puzzles, decode messages, or uncover hidden information. Join online communities, forums, or social media groups to connect with other players. Use various skills: ARGs often require players to use their skills in various fields, such as cryptography, programming, or research. Be prepared to learn new skills or use your existing ones in novel ways. Stay engaged: ARGs can last for days, weeks, or even months. Keep track of clues, stay engaged with the game’s community, and be ready to adapt to new challenges as they arise. Overall, playing an ARG can be a challenging but rewarding experience that combines elements of storytelling, puzzle-solving, and community engagement.
Where can I find an ARG to play right now? 9 Places to Find Ongoing ARGs for BeginnersYou can find ongoing Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) to play right now by searching online. Here are some websites and resources that you can use to find ARGs: ARGNet: ARGNet is a website that provides news, reviews, and information about current and upcoming ARGs. You can visit their website at to find ARGs to play. Unfiction: Unfiction is a community website that provides information about ARGs and other immersive gaming experiences. They have forums where you can connect with other players and find ongoing games. You can visit their website at Unfiction to find ARGs to play. The Black Watchmen: The Black Watchmen is an ongoing ARG that you can play right now. It is a spy-themed game that involves solving puzzles and uncovering secrets. You can find more information about the game and how to play at The Black Watchmen. Cafe and Diner: Cafe and Diner is an ARG that you can play on your phone. It is a mystery game that involves solving puzzles and interacting with characters. You can download the game on the App Store or Google Play. Infinite Rabbit Holes: Infinite Rabbit Holes is a website that collects ARGs and other immersive experiences. You can visit their website at Infinite Rabbit Holes to find ARGs to play. Reddit: The ARG Reddit community has been active since 2008. New suggestions are posted every day. You will hardly find an ordered list, but members ask and/or give suggestions all the time. Some are veterans with long years of experience and willing to help noobies. Hence, ARG Reddit is definitely a good place to start. Discord: As the unavoidable new standard for online communities, Discord has scores of ARG-related servers. New ones are opened frequently by people who find promising trailheads and get together on Discord to work the clues and solve the puzzles collectively. A list of ARG Discord servers is maintained by Disboard here. Try some interesting ones rich in channels devoted to several ARGs, puzzles, and investigations, such as Kermits Detective Agency or Vehemence. Night Mind: This very popular YouTube ARG channel that has been running since 2015 also has a full website with an Index section featuring Horror, Mystery, Psych, Humor, Puzzle, Drama, and Other. You will find comprehensive video reviews by “Nick Nocturne”, a self-styled demon and veteran of the sector. Very educational to understand the ARG YouTube world, and what is an ARG in a wider sense. Game Detectives: This cool site also has a lot of ARGs tools and even ARG courses, and a List of Investigations, where entries are orderly classified. You can also join their Discord and their SubReddit. Overall, finding an ARG to play right now requires searching online and using websites like ARGNet, Unfiction, or Infinite Rabbit Holes. You can also look for specific games like The Black Watchmen or Cafe and Diner to start playing immediately.
What is the difference between an alternate reality game and an augmented reality game?While alternate reality games (ARGs) and augmented reality games (AR games) share some similarities, they are actually different types of games. Here are some differences between ARGs and AR games: Definition: An ARG is a type of game that involves a fictional narrative that unfolds over time, using the real world as a platform to tell a story that gives players control (or the illusion of control) over the events that unfold. In contrast, AR games use technology to superimpose digital objects and information onto the real world, enhancing or altering the player’s perception of the environment around them . Platform: ARGs usually take place across various media and platforms, including websites, social media, emails, and even real-world locations, and they often require collaboration and interaction among players . AR games, on the other hand, are typically played on mobile devices that use GPS and camera technology to overlay digital information onto the real world . Objectives: The objectives of ARGs and AR games are also different. In an ARG, the primary objective is to solve puzzles and uncover clues that advance the game’s narrative]. In contrast, the objectives of AR games can vary widely, from capturing virtual creatures or objects to completing challenges in the real world. In summary, while both ARGs and AR games use technology to enhance the player’s experience of the real world, they are different types of games with different objectives, platforms, and definitions.
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If you want to build an ARG or have someone build an ARG for you, we'd love to hear from you.
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