This Is Not A Game. This seemingly simple mantra, coined by a collective of Microsoft Game Studios employees, has served as a rallying cry for alternate reality gaming fans and developers alike. And yet, it is also one of the most misunderstood aspects of the genre. As alternate reality games have evolved, so too has its nomenclature: puppetmasters have gradually given way to game developers and transmedia producers, and “this is not a game” itself has fallen into disuse. Perhaps it’s time to make the term’s retirement official.
Everything Starts with The Beast
The Beast was not the first alternate reality game: the term was coined months after the game’s conclusion, with the launch of Lockjaw. Similarly, promotional campaigns for The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project introduced many of the storytelling elements that would later be embraced by the genre. What sets The Beast apart were its players, who referred to themselves as Cloudmakers.
Jay Bushman, a former Cloudmaker who now works at Fourth Wall Studios, compares The Beast to the Sex Pistols’ concert at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall on June 4, 1976. There were only around forty people in attendance that night, but something magical happened, and those few attendees went on to form Joy Division, The Smiths, The Fall, and The Buzzcocks, creating a renaissance for the genre. The Beast has sent similar ripples through the community as Cloudmakers and developers alike have gone on to found many of the companies and resources dedicated to the genre. And one of those ripples was the phrase “this is not a game.”
A new book is scheduled to hit the shelves that will really have a big impact on Alternate Reality Gaming. This Is Not A Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming by Dave Szulborski will be available in e-book and print-on-demand format in mid-January 2005 and in a traditional print version in February 2005. An MP3 book “on tape” will also be available. For a limited time, the first 2 chapters of this book are available to download for free!
Dave is the creator of several successful and critically acclaimed Alternate Reality Games including Chasing The Wish and Urban Hunt. From the book’s website:
Some of the founders and leading lights of the newest and hottest trend in entertainment announced today that they have joined forces to produce the first ever how-to book on the subject. Titled This is Not a Game, the new book promises to be a how-to resource for the casual game developer and media strategists alike who wish to explore the genre of Alternate Reality Gaming also called immersive gaming….
…While Alternate Reality Gaming has been around for several years, the recent phenomenal success of the online game “I Love Bees“, produced by Microsoft and Bungie to promote the release of the much anticipated video game Halo 2, has brought thousands of new participants into the genre and launched Immersive Gaming into the mainstream consciousness once and for all. ARG/immersive gaming has been featured in media venues such as CNN, Trendcentral, BBC, New York Times and countless other sources as of late.
This is Not a Game provides a concise and easy-to-understand explanation of the alternate reality game and why so many major marketing and entertainment companies are now turning to immersive gaming and marketing efforts to promote their biggest product releases. Tracing the roots of the genre back to the earliest days of online interactive fiction up through the most recent alternate reality games, This is Not a Game allows anyone, regardless of their level of knowledge and experience with the Internet or online gaming, to jump right in and become fully immersed in this exciting and engaging new form of entertainment.
The new book will also contain contributions from author and media theorist Joseph Matheny, ARGN founder Steve Peters, professional stage illusionist Ben Mack with website and cover design by cutting edge gaming artist Denny Unger of Worldworks Games.
Keep an eye on immersivegaming.com for future announcements and details as they become available.