Games and Learning/Topics/Play/ARGs

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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 defined 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.


Colvert, A. (2009), Peer Puppeteers: Alternate Reality Gaming in Primary School Settings, in 'Proceedings of DiGRA 2009'

Whilst there has been considerable research into the potential uses of digital games in the classroom, there has been less investigation into the educational value of Alternate Reality Games ARGs. Unlike console or computer games, in ARGs the game-world is constructed through a combination of on- and off-screen media, and is created and shaped through dynamic dialogue between the designers and players. To create and play an ARG, children are not required to develop programming skills or negotiate gaming software. Instead the players and designers of ARGs create the game elements through the creative and inventive use of ubiquitous communication technologies and artifacts. In this paper I will be reporting on a crosscurricular multi-media literacy project undertaken in a large South London Primary School over two years, which represents one element of my ongoing research into the potential of Alternate Reality Gaming in Primary Education. In this, the children collaborated with the teacher to design and play an ARG with and for their peers. This research demonstrates that ARGs represent an innovative means for children to explore and develop their understanding and experiences of learning and literacy practices across media. In this project, the students made good use of their existing knowledge of games and the affordances of various media and narrative conventions. Through the active production of ARGs, they explored the relationships between these forms, in new ways.