Corvus Elrod, incidently, also discusses this idea in relation to games in general in his post on ‘Games as ‘Open’ texts.]]>
Interesting idea: that the truly great ARGs will be ones that get better with re-reading/re-experiencing. Most ARGs, because of the extreme use of collaboration and subsequent ‘reactive’ events, are actually one-play experiences. They cannot be repeated. There are some exceptions, the BBC version of an ARG, Jamie Kane, for example. So, the only re-reading/re-experiencing will be of the documentation of the games. The Guides that are created. The Cloudmakers site, for instance, holds all the documentation of The Beast, and is continually visited. What people read over is The Trail and The Guide. Both of these, become their own works of art: they are the only way the whole mix of different media, the events experienced over months, the experience of the players, can be retold. So the reading of this documentation/fan fiction can provide tha sort of complexity that inspires more to revisit or delve into the genre of ARGs.
But I guess the other way of reading your idea is to see the ARG not as being able to be reread and becoming more complex, but to see each ARG as never ending. It happens to some degree in other entertainment types with the use of adaptations, versions, sequels and so on — that is: the attempt to persist the storyworld. Any continuation of a storyworld makes it more complex.
I’m interested in your idea: are you saying that ARGs would benefit from having a complexity that means no-one can agree on what the ending was?
I should also say that I see ARGs (and cross-media entertainment in general) as working towards having this multi-level experience as part of the work. I’m not talking about the subjective experience (multiple interpretations of a single event), but the actual manifestations of a viewpoint (levels that only some players access in fundamental gaming terms). The majority of ARGs cannot be played single-player because there is way too much information and things to do that no single person can. Therefore, each person accesses different parts of the work. Therefore none of them has the same experience. But the experience of sharing their own views is the same!! I think the best ARGs are the ones that have a group resolution in some way (usually a performance of some kind). Although, I’m still considering how to reward people individually as well. What I’m blabbing about here is the multi-faceted nature of ARGs is already present. I think what you’re saying then, is that ARGs could be more complex, to intice debate about their meaning and nature.?.]]>
I got the DVD (actually a 2-DVD set) when I ordered my copy of Dave Dzulborski’s “Through the Rabbit Hole” (subtitled “a beginner’s guide to playing alternate reality games”).
One of the interesting things about ARG conferences is the dilemma of the puppet masters choosing to speak about their designs “in-game” or “out-of-game.” The temptation is to always and constantly generate further layers of myth and misdirection surrounding their creations… and the reality is also that their professional conversations about design *will* be dissected by communities who are hungry for clues about ongoing ARG experiences.
This isn’t really a new situation for authors in general - it is common for authors to avoid candid discussion of the ‘design’ of their work in order to avoid short-circuiting the critical / exegetical process of reading by providing definitive answers. In some cases, I think this relates to avoiding shortcuts to the natural end of a work - preventing “spoilers” that reveal the conclusion of mysteries and puzzles too soon, and is very much rooted in the mystery / puzzle genres, as ARGs are. On the other hand, the dilemma seems to also be rooted in metafiction and ‘indeterminacy’ - questions to which there can be no ultimate answers.
My guess is that the truly great ARGs will be something akin to Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” - works that resolve more and more clearly over time into perfectly balanced indeterminacies, with a central question that can sustains 50 years of prying and arguing back-and-forth. The question is whether general ARG audiences will be delighted by a game you can’t really win….]]>