Monday, October 11, 2010

SIEGE ARG Post-game debrief

Back from Atlanta, I barely had time to catch my breath before jumping into the next project, but wanted to share out some of our lessons learned from the latest alternate reality game (ARG) that we ran at SIEGE!

First, a HUGE thanks to Silly MonkeyGetting Girls in the Game, and Design Marbles for inviting us along for the ride. Not only was the ARG fun to put together, but it was a pleasure to work with such talented folks and I can't wait until our next adventure!

A few notes on ARG design coming out of the conference:

  • The augmented reality (AR) features in this game were new, and really got people involved in game play in a different way. We had QR codes that served as many of the clues and it was great to see how people were interacting with them. One important note for AR though--make sure your audience members have the technical capabilities to access the clues! I was surprised at the limited number of smart phones on site, but it was awesome to see people working together (and finding people with smart phones!) to access the clues. 
  • Just because they're gamers doesn't mean they'll play your game! Think about it...gamers don't want to waste their time on a game unless its fun and engaging--just like anyone else. Its absolutely essential that you design your game for engagement, understanding your audience, and providing ample information to get people involved in the game early. Subversive game play, even for gamers, seems like work when you're in the middle of a conference. Keeping game elements obvious and instructions simple goes a long way.
  • Get some celebrity endorsements. We were fortunate to be able to post our clues on the keynote podium, and Nolan Bushnell even wore a clue on his back one night! It always helps to get some prominent players involved to peak interest and get people playing.
  • Design as you go. I can't emphasize enough the importance of the puppetmaster in ARGs. As you see how people are engaging in your game, its critical that you are thinking of how to make dynamic adjustments to tweak and improve the game play experience. ARGs are not a static experience, and their execution should be as fluid and intentional as the nature of playing them. 
For more information about the SIEGE ARG, there was a really nice write up by Nettrice Gaskins for the National Alliance for Media Art +Culture (NAMAC).

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