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 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.

Tags: alternate, gaming, reality

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We ran our first ARG last semester. Our librarian had to inter-library loan every game design and ARG related book in the state for us. The book we actually found most useful was The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design by Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten. What we loved the most was figuring out the plot twists and the clues!
I'll have to check that one out, thanks Kae. I'm 2 weeks away from the launch now and I'm quite excited. Everything has come together well enough for me to get it started. Should be interesting as I don't really have the endgame planned yet!
Kae, what was the goal of your ARG? Was there specific content to be learned or was it just a way to get kids thinking and using various web tools?

Also, what was your "honey pot?" Meaning, how did you start the game?
It was at the community college level. So we had ages 18 to a retired teacher in their 50s. The goal was to have students in an intro to accounting and intro to criminal justice apply the concepts they had learned so far to the scenario. The secondary objective was to have the students use Web 2.0 tools and critically analyze the information they found. I was the embedded instructional designer and we had an embedded librarian.

We really didn't have a trailhead or rabbithole in 42 Entertainment style. The students didn't know me so I walked into the class as an associate of Detective agency. Gave them an overview and let them know that they would not dealing directly with the client and all further correspondence with me would be thru Web 2.0 apps. We planted clues on the Net, voicemails, twitter, Ning sites and had them do additional research. We loved building false leads.

But we are considering a webcam broadcast for the intro this semester - makes it seem more remote.
Sounds very similar to what I'm trying with my 7th graders. I will be launching either next week or the week after and I'm really excited to see how it plays out.

My set up is very similar where I am just going to directly give them the opening clue and then explain that all further contacts will be done via various means and not with me directly. I'm thinking I may post that initial clue here so others can play along too but I may run this one as a test first to see how badly I fall on my face and keep it to myself :P
I understand - the first time we try anything we loudly proclaim it is a "pilot". We didn't think we could just drop a flash drive and hope students would pick it up. Even NIN had problems with people realizing it was a clue.
Hi All

Educause does a great monthly publication called "seven things you should know about..."
This months publication is all about ARG.
Perfect timing - here is the link


Thank you so much! I was shown some of these "7 Things" docs at a conference last year and lost them so I lost the site entirely. I've been searching for it since. Now I've got it and more ARG info. Hurray.



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