ARG : story / game / puzzle

In her influential Hamlet on the Holodeck (1997), Janet Murray offers a powerful theoretical approach to ARGs. Every new technology-based medium, she argues, evolves in two early stages. The first sees the porting over of forms from other media, as when early movies relied upon theatrical conventions. During the second stage creators pick up on the intrinsic elements of a new medium, and create new forms. In cinematic history, we can consider Griffith’s innovation of moving the camera while filming, or Dziga Vertov’s use of editing to break up filmic time and space (see also Manovich, 2001). A similar process is visible across the history of digital media. The first decade of Web design, for example, built HTML documents with the trappings of print (pages, bookmarks). As we see the proliferation of newer technologies, some dubbed Web 2.0, new storytelling forms emerge.

I had the pleasure of attending the SL Future Salon session on Alternate Reality Game’s (ARG’s). Jerry Paffendorf hosted a panel with Tony Walsh, Elan Lee and Dan Hon. It was worth the early wakeup call to hear some of the leading thinkers share their thoughts on the past, present and future of ARG’s.

Since first watching David Fincher’s movie The Game back in 1997 I have followed with interest the multitude of ARG sub-genres emerge. After listening to the panel the above passage from the 2006 ARG White Paper by the International Game Developers Association seemed entirely appropriate.

With virtual worlds removing the constraints of time and distance whole new ecosystems for the Theater of the Mind are being created. We are only at the beginning of what promises to be one of the great art forms of the 21st century. Confidence in the genre was endorsed by Perplex City creator Mind Candy’s recent $7M funding round lead by Accel Partners and Index Ventures. Thanks to Jerry, Tony, Elan and Dan for sharing.

UPDATE : Audio of the SL Future Salon session on ARG’s