There’s no denying that I am a bona fide geek. If you want evidence, you need look no farther than my Nymphadora Tonks from Harry Potter costume that I made from scratch and then wore to every movie and book party. Or perhaps the role playing game campaign online I run every week. Or the fact that I like to learn new software for fun in my free time. The list just goes on and on.
So yes, I’m a geek, and I love that I can call myself one. Geeks are some of the coolest people I know. They are uber intelligent, interesting, adaptable, creative, resilient, fun, and talented. In fact, geeks are in high demand in today’s culture. We have certain skills that others don’t. For example, many of us love games, codes, and puzzle solving.
One of my geekiest (and most favorite) activities utilizes all of these skills – participating in the world of Alternate Reality Games or ARGs. So what is an ARG you might ask?
An Alternate Reality Game is a unique storytelling format that uses the whole world as it’s platform (but mainly things like internet sites and blogs, tv, print, email, chat, phone, and live events). Often involving clues, hidden evidence, codes, and puzzles, the story is initially broken up and hidden in these various mediums, and it’s up to the players to collaboratively piece it together to progress the story as it plays out in real time.
So how does it work? It all starts with a trailhead or rabbit hole – the initial piece of information that leads you to the rest of the game. This for example might be an email you receive from one of the characters in the game asking for you help in locating his missing sister. The email might have a cryptic message at the end of it that leads you to his sister’s blog which in turn might talk about a sketchy company she got involved with before she disappeared. This takes you to the company website. Eventually the pieces start to come together and the story begins to unfold. And what the players do matters to how it all turns out.
I got involved with ARGs back in April of 2008 when I started getting more seriously ill with multiple autoimmune diseases. ARGs gave me something fun, creative, and intellectually stimulating to do from home in bed all through the magic of the internet. It also gave me an amazing community of fellow geeks who were just generally really smart, kind, wonderful people in my life.
Under the pseudonym IneffaBelle (or Belle), I played lots of ARGs and made lots of friends, both real and fictional. I also attended ARGFest the last two years in Portland in 2009 and Atlanta in 2010. I hope to attend this year’s ARGFest in Bloomington, Indiana.
Eventually I started working behind the scenes developing ARGs for others to play, and I’ve been working at that rather intensely over the last few years. I have several projects in development now, and I’ve found the development side even more fun and rewarding than the player side.
Sadly, I haven’t had (or made) the time to actually play an ARG in quite some time. But the other day I received this to my ARG email:
My curiosity was peaked by this cute sort of whimsical concept. The email led to http://sotanaht.com/ (how is detailed in this forum post on the ARG community site Unfiction). The first mission opened up today asking us to “mask ourselves” with masks provided on the site. Here’s mine:
How this particular ARG will unfold remains to be seen, but it’s certainly good to be back in the Alternate Reality Game!
Further Reading on ARGs:
Alternate Reality Gaming – A Definition – Brooke Thompson’s excellent and comprehensive definition of an ARG.
Alternate Reality Gaming – A Quickstart Guide – Brooke Thompson’s funny and informative guide to getting started with ARGs.
ARGNet – The best source of ARG news.
Unfiction Forums– Excellent forum for finding and playing ARGs.
IneffaBelle.com – My ARG website and resume.