I read about Alternative Reality Games (ARG) in Wired recently, and I think they are truly fascinating. It is a very complex type of game that has takn off as a new form of advertising. I’ll let Wikipedia do the explainig:
An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.
The form is typified by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants’ responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game’s designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities. ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.
I have not been a part of one, but it seems like something you could easily get sucked in to. Although, it also sounds like something that could take up a lot of your time. It reminds me of the movie Surviving the Game or The Game although not as extreme. The most “famous” ARG was called Year Zero and it was used to promote the new Nine Inch Nails album. It was created be a company that specializes in ARGs called 42 Entertainment.
I guess as a vehicle for advertising, it can be the right fit, but from what I understand, they are not always successful because the audience is the one who keeps these games going. Without an audience, it will not work. Regardless, I think it is true innovation and the possibilities for more of these are pretty much endless. I wish I were involved in making one because it seems like the development of this type of game would be just as fun as playing one.