In the summer of 1990, I played my first game of Dungeons & Dragons with a group of kids that lived in my neighborhood. I’ve played it on and off since then, along with other table-top RPGs. When I switched into digital RPGs something was lost. I never knew how to describe it until I began to study game design in college. The multiplayer aspect, the emergent story line and game play, the group dynamics. All of this was gone when I switched over to the world of digital RPGs. Not to say that digital RPGs aren’t fun in their own right, they just don’t have this aspect.
Then in the summer of 2000, 10 years after starting down to becoming a full fledged RPG nerd, one of my old D&D buddies introduced me to EverQuest. Here was a digital RPG with multiplayer aspects and group dynamics. I was addicted. For the next seven months I explored the world. I finally lost interest after I discovered the repetitive nature of the MMO genre. While I never got to end game content, I felt I had explored enough to get a firm grasp on how the game worked. Many MMOs followed in it’s wake: Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes/Villains, EverQuest 2 and the one I’m still currently playing, World of Warcraft. I’ve stayed with WoW longer than any of the other MMOs because I know more people in game than in any of the other MMOs I’ve played. That group dynamic and multiplayer aspect has me hooked.
Six months ago I was introduced to ARGs after being killed by Brenda. Brenda claims that you are “dead to her” if you fail to know something important in the game industry, and I had never heard of an ARG. The mechanics and dynamics behind ARGs intrigue me greatly. The ability for designers to break the “circle” and enter into the real world, instead of just existing inside of the virtual, is one of the keys of ARG mechanics. After a quick read of John W. Gosney’s Beyond Reality: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming, I decided that I wanted to make an ARG for my Studio 2 Project. Many different factors lead to this decision: the amount of time we have to create the projects (10 weeks), the type of content that needs to be created and the “newness” of the ARG genre.
One of the biggest factors in wanting to make an ARG is my interest in MMO design. Unfortunately for me, Raph Koster’s Metaplace (which I mistakenly originally associated him with being a part of Multiverse. Sorry Mr. Koster!) is still in closed Alpha and I don’t have the resources to be able to create my own architecture for an MMO. An ARG will allow me to explore some of the mechanics that MMOs offer over traditional digital RPGs without having to setup all of the server and client framework. The ARG will let me create multiuser experiences without the overhead of creating all the technology.
While I can’t wait for Koster’s Metaplace to go public, so that I can create one of the many MMO ideas that I have, the ARG project that I am lead on grants me the ability to explore some of the mechanics that I lost when I switched into digital RPGs.