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Alternate Reality Games Catching On

from the need-more-excitement-in-your-life? dept

In 2001, EA launched the game Majestic to much fanfare. It had been talked about for months. It was, to some extent, an attempt at creating an online version of the movie The Game, where the player gets immersed in some sort of "alternate reality" game, designed to make their lives seem more exciting. It would involve emails, phone calls, instant messages at random times and dates, all designed to seem somehow realistic, getting the player involved in some sort of mystery. Despite all the hype and various attempts to make the game more interesting, it took less than a year to fail completely before being shut down. However, about the same time that Majestic was launching and failing, many more people became obsessed with an alternate reality game that received no direct publicity at all -- despite being loosely related to Steven Spielberg's AI movie. The game, which was discovered almost by accident, hooked many people who went all over the web hunting down clues. There have been a few other similar successes where these alternate reality "games" have hooked a growing number of users, often without much official fanfare at all. Last year, for example, it was the I Love Bees game. Even though people realized it was part of a promotion to (again, loosely) pitch a video game, it really got people hooked. With those successes, it appears the alternate reality gaming space is really beginning to get noticed, as new ones start to appear. Still, what seems most interesting is the contrast between these newer ones and the greatly hyped Majestic. Even though many of these are part of big multi-million ad campaigns, it seems that the very quiet way in which they're introduced to the world is working much better than the big bang effort of a traditional gaming offering. Of course, the other major difference is that people don't have to pay to take part in these alternate reality games. That is, they're acting as a promotion, rather than the end product itself.
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  • identicon
    Jason Scott, 28 Feb 2005 @ 3:52pm

    No Subject Given

    For the record, the AI alternate reality game wasn't discovered "almost by accident". Modified AI movie posters were mailed to about a half-dozen sites. If they hadn't taken the bait, I'm sure another set would have gone out after them. It may have felt like it was random, but it was just more of the game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 28 Feb 2005 @ 4:06pm

      Re: No Subject Given

      Yes, but the point was that it seemed by accident, rather than a big official marketing campaign, a la Majestic... I'm not denying that this was carefully planned and marketed. Just that it was done in a very different way, to make people feel like they were in on something.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Jason Scott, 1 Mar 2005 @ 7:28pm

        Re: No Subject Given

        Oh, I agree that was the point, that it felt like some little trickery that then expanded into a breathtaking vista... but you state it as if it had a chance of not being "discovered", and I maintain no way, they would have ensured its discovery. The Hive mentioned in their post-game discussions how they had multiple threads going to ensure different things happened at different times.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    daniel harvey, 1 Mar 2005 @ 4:05pm

    Majestic

    Part of this reason Majestic failed is timing. The game launched two or so months before 9/11. The terror, uncertainity, and paranoia found in the game was just unwelcome in that environment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2005 @ 7:34pm

    This Is Not A Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality G

    Imagine a world of mystery and excitement, adventure and fantasy, waiting for you to explore. A world that reacts to your every move, with characters and companies that talk to you, send you messages, and even give you items to help you in your quest. A world so immersive that you can no longer tell where the reality ends and the fiction begins. Welcome to the world of Alternate Reality Gaming.

    Alternate Reality Gaming, sometimes also called Immersive Gaming, Viral Marketing, or Interactive Fiction, is a rapidly emerging genre of online gaming and is one of the first true art and entertainment forms that was developed from and exclusively for the Internet. Alternate Reality Games have been wildly successful when used for multimillion dollar marketing campaigns, such as the 2004 game I Love Bees, used by Microsoft to help launch the hugely anticipated X-Box video game Halo 2, and the the game that started it all, the Beast, used to promote Steven Spielberg’s science fiction epic A.I.: Artificial Intelligence in 2001.

    This Is Not A Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming by Dave Szulborski is the perfect introduction to the unique and exciting world of Alternate Reality Games. Written by the creator of five successful and critically acclaimed ARGs, This Is Not A Game features detailed sections on the theory and history of Alternate Reality Gaming, as well as a “How To Guide” for aspiring game creators. The book also includes Dave’s personal reflections on creating some of the most popular ARGs ever developed, and essays on gaming and cooperative writing by award winning authors Ben Mack and Joseph Matheny.

    http://www.immersivegaming.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    martin, 7 May 2006 @ 4:51pm

    ARG

    The failure of majestic maybe because part of the charm of Alt reality games is that it feels like you stumbled onto something (even if there are millions playing with you around the world).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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