The rift between ARGs and interactive storytelling

56172457_cb498c60ea_mAs the Watchmen ARG (and for the purposes of this article I will assume it’s still an ARG) neared the movie’s release date, it became clear to the players that this was not necessarily an alternate reality game with something for them to do. It was more of a story, promoting the movie by giving the players a look into the world of the Watchmen before the premiere. After all, this was to be expected when an ARG deals with a story that is concrete and already clearly defined.

An interactive story seems clearly to be an acceptable way of generating marketing buzz around a product. But when the crowd of seasoned ARG players takes notice, there seems to be a desire from the player perspective for something more. When a player commits their time it should be for more something more than merely the act of lurking a site or subscribing to a YouTube profile.

From examples such as the Watchmen or the Jack-in-the-Box injury story it seems that the interactive story is certainly here to stay. For many, if the story itself is well done and the finds are rewards enough, these campaigns don’t need interaction, nor is it necessary for the player mass to shape the story themselves. One common denominator for this style of marketing seems to be time — the release of Watchmen documents on The New Frontiersman web site will probably conclude, now that the movie is in theaters, and as of today Jack is up from his coma and has sent his first text message implying that his journey coming to an end.

So perhaps, when the ability to create an experience that allows the players to interact and shape the story is not there, the project can be told in a specific time span and within specific boundaries that allow for player expectations to be set well in advance. After all, any marketing projects should promote and advance the product, not breed contempt and disappointment when it fails to walk in the footsteps of its predecessors.

Image courtesy of firemind.

1 Comment

  1. J.L. Reid

    The rift? I don’t see a rift here. Maybe mismanagement of expectations, but whether that’s on the campaign designers’ parts or if blame should be placed on the player community I’m not sure.

    Probably a little bit of both.

    But, just because a story unfolds via new media technologies–heck, via old media technologies that are used in an exciting way even–doesn’t mean it’s an ARG. And jumping to the automatic conclusion that it is could be a disservice to all involved.