Editor’s Note: over the past year, Priscilla Haring conducted a series of interviews with players of alternate reality games (“ARGs”) and massively multiplayer online games (“MMORPGs”) to delve into the motivations that drive player involvement. Haring kindly agreed to share a summation of her findings, provided below. For her full thesis and other related papers, visit her site at http://www.priscillaharing.info/Academics.htm.
Several interviews and a blanket survey of gamers I conducted shows that alternate reality gaming environments are very real to its players. Not in the sense that players “confuse” the realm of make-believe with that of reality, but in the sense that is these environments constitute an important environment eliciting real emotions, real interactions and real results. ARG players experienced their game environment and the other players in them as being more real than MMORPG-players did. I found that an ARG creates stronger effects due to high perceived reality, this combined with several transference effects into “real life” makes it a good learning environment: one that would be very suitable as a social learning tool.
There are many similarities between ARGs and MMORPGs. The underlying worlds created for both ARGs and MMORPGs exist without the presence of individual players. So while players are necessary to populate the respective game worlds and drive the story forward, the worlds themselves exist independently. Similarities between ARG and MMORPG can also be found in the importance of the social aspect of gaming. For a MMORPG, the open social interaction is important, while for an ARG this interaction has a direction and a purpose. The social interactions in ARGs are not just any form of human-to-human contact but are specifically collaborative in nature. Naturally, collaboration is also possible in a MMORPG, but it is not a necessary component.