I am sure that we have all pondered how the world of Alternate Reality Gaming will shape up in years to come. Will our genre be overshadowed by rabid publishing houses, clawing at each other for the largest market share, or will the dedicated PM with 63 dollars and three cents reign supreme?
There tends to be a peaceful coexistence between Grassroots and Corporate games. There is no visible attempt to pull players away from one ARG and draw them to another. The consensus of most, if not all, ARG Puppetmasters is to see their fellow game maker succeed in their foray behind the curtain. It is disheartening, to say the least, to see people talking about our world being “Grassroots vs. Corporate.”
The only real disadvantage of a grassroots game it that many have launched, attracted followers, and then collapsed prematurely the next weekend! It is mainly this fear that stops us normally eager ARG’ers from diving headfirst into a newly launched grassroots experience. Investing our time and effort in it only to see it meltdown becomes depressing after the nth time.
However, what I can say is that we do not look down our noses at a game because of who made it, or for that matter talk with an air of snobbery any time the “g” word is mentioned! Of course, corporate games sometimes find themselves in the ARG graveyard earlier than was planned (Majestic), but the disintegration of corporate games is a rarity, and at least when I throw my social life to the wind to plough time into one of them I know that there is a much lower chance of me coming out of it disappointed.
If we want to continue expanding our player base, corporate projects are a must. They provide great exposure and publicity for ARG’s and no doubt after the tremendous success of I Love Bees, similar ventures will pop up on the horizon (such as Audi’s “Heist”). This, all in all, is great for the genre.
But in doing so, do we risk alienating and thus pushing the Grassroots PM’s out of the market? Is it not feasible to suggest that in ten years’ time it will be considered “de rigueur” to pay to play an ARG, much as we would do for a video game? Will it be such that you can pick up an ARG at your local game shop, whereupon purchase and activation gives you an experience that is created that is uniquely tailored to the individual? This raises a new question: Where will this leave the “team” and “community” elements that we know and love?
The changes taking place in our world at the moment are exciting for all involved, and as every day goes on, more users are becoming hooked on the ARG phenomena. Mainstream gaming magazines are starting to take notice, and it is only a matter of time before a major publishing house attempts to succeed where EA had failed. I hope that in years to come, we remember our humble beginnings, and allow for quality grassroots games to stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate machine.