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Mastering the puppets: Criteria for pulling the strings in an Alternate Reality Game

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Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are a kind of narrative game that use the real world as a platform to allow players and characters to interact via multimedia forms, enabling participants to alter a game’s progression. Boundaries between what is real and what is fictional are disguised, as characters, controlled by game designers react to player input. Working collaboratively as digital detectives, players collate a fragmented narrative by deciphering codes and clues. Research found that the deliberate blurring of many defining game features creates a complex product. Moreover, the number of ARG implosions (failures) is high. An empirical study, involving content analysis, examined players’ views on Unforum, the primary ARG discussion board. This analysis extracted evaluation criteria for judging ARGs, a selection of which are outlined in this article. These criteria should help game creators, or puppetmasters (PMs) create and manage a quality ARG, thus producing greater numbers of successful games.
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Keywords: ARGs; Alternate Reality Games; digital storytelling; game design; interactive games; transmedia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dundalk Institute of Technology

Publication date: 01 March 2013

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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