This weekend I participated in my first ARG at a video game conference here in Los Angeles. For the uninitiated an ARG is a game that happens in the real world but with an imaginary layer on top.
For example, in the one I did this weekend (prototype161 in google for more) we were "selected" as agents for some organization and tasked with finding the double agent within the story. We began with only one clue. Solving that physical puzzle led us to a website. That website led us to another physical clue which led us to a cell phone number that we called to reach a voice mail. This went on for approximately 6 hours (18 if you count the 12 or so hours I spent thinking about it overnight in my hotel room!). Ultimately I teamed up with other players in the game and together we reached the solution.
I was introduced to an educational ARG over the summer on the teachers.net forums but never got much into it because I got stuck on the first clue. Now though having done one I am very interested in setting up my own for my class. Essentially I plan to follow the same "you are an agent model" and add hidden pages to my web site that can be found through successful solving of clues using skills we've learned in class. Using wikis the students will be able to discuss the clues together in a "secret" environment.
I am going to attempt to have this in place by Jan 09 for second semester of this year but more likely it will be in Sept 09 for the next school year. I think, if done properly, this could truly be the organizing hook I need to bring my website and classroom truly together (which in my opinion is what web 2.0 ought to do for education). I would love any info people have on ARGs as I work on this project!
Of note, I spoke to the designer/moderator of the game and he suggested 2 books. These might go along with those in the Education in Gaming thread as well. He recommended A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster and Everything Bad is Good For You. I ordered both so I'll let you know if they add anything to the discussion.