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March 22, 2007

unhistory + alternate reality games as a model for participatory culture

Sebastian Mary of the Institute for the Future of the Book has written a nice entry about Sean Stewart and Elan Lee, and the emerging field/domain/genre(?) of alternate reality games. The idea of trust is currently central. Here is a snip:

Stewart and Lee describe the process of unfolding an ARG as a dance between players and puppetmasters, in which players are invited to suspend their disbelief for the duration of the story. Within the invitation, they explain, is a promise that you won't be made to feel stupid for playing along. And behind all this is trust on both sides.

This is important, he says, because no-one really knows how this genre works. Printed books bring with them a whole host of familiar protocols around how you read. People are familiar with the physical conventions of a book and the formal conventions of particular genres of book, and hence the experience is codified in a way that allows for a degree of detachment between producer and consumer. In contrast, ARGs as a genre are (in their current form, at least) less than ten years old and have very few established generic or formal codes. So in lieu of a tradition, the genre needs trust between participants.

Posted by SWEAT at March 22, 2007 03:23 PM