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Unfiction.com: Alternate Reality Gaming  12/1/04 - Website by

Unfiction.com isn't terribly interesting in itself as a site, but reading it I can feel the earth crumbling under my feet as I slide toward The Rabbit Hole. The site is a portal for Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG) and that seems interesting as hypertext. Besides being, you know, all about fascinating and absorbing games.

There's a good bit of thought about games as hypertexts, and some about online communities and their archives as hypertexts (yes?), and discussion of the difference between digital narratives and "true" or literary hypertext. I'm fascinated by ARGs because they seem to sit in between.

hypertextuality of ARGs

ARGs themselves are digital narratives in the strictest sense, though linked texts are integral to some of them. More integral to the ARG phenomenon, though, are the communities that spring up around them. Those communities treat the games as hypertexts by picking them apart by looking at the games and their constituent puzzles multi-dimensionally, wandering through websites in cycles and following new paths as they open. The communities are also collaborating online and forming their own databases and working htexts for the purpose of solving the puzzles. When the games finish, someone in the community often creates a linear projection or slice of the whole thing, both game and solution effort, to make a "guide" that tells the story of the game experience. Sometimes there's another projection made for people who don't want spoilers.

Though ARGs might slide off of Douglas' strictest definition of hypertext, in a more practical sense they require and result in all of the behaviors I consider to be the pedagogic triumphs of hypertext: they :

  • demand multidimensional consideration of data
  • encourage "turning corners" in your thinking
  • force awareness of the multilinearity of communities and conversations
  • coach readers in the understanding and formation of linear narratives as 'projections' of multilinear experience
  • explicitly demand cyclical reading and linking between narratives both personal and external

So perhaps ARGs are behaviorally hypertextual?

Related Items

Some of these I have to put in the hopper for later; others I can probably get away with just linking here: