The ARG, or Alternative Reality Game (though ARG! Is a fitting term…they tend to be frustrating.)
The ARG requires a few things, but the most important are easily an interesting story and know your audience. Meaning, you can’t sell a dull story, and you can’t sell Hello Kitty fanny packs at Sturgis. Now there are always slight exceptions to the rule, but in general you have to aim an ARG like any advertisement, and then get your audience hooked, for the ARG, the bait’s been the line “This Is Not A Game”.
This gets me to my point, an ARG, as it exists now, is a new form of advertisement. It’s rather ingenious, getting people to spend time getting involved in a story based on what you’re selling, I’ll use halo’s ilovebees an an example. Millions of computer gamers read, went through puzzles, waited at pay-phones, answered and sent e-mails, and spent countless hours of their free time in this game; and all they got was a dvd, maybe some honey, and a chance to play Halo 2 before anyone else.
Now, imagine kids who don’t like to read, and who play video games instead of doing homework, and then introduce them to ILB. Now they think about it, and where as some will only take part a little bit, maybe try and solve a puzzle here and there but get bored of the puzzles, but still follow along with the story, others get more involved, actually solve puzzles with out help and are engrossed in the story, then you get the hard core set who are the first at everything, and who go through movies frame by frame trying to find something.
Getting that sort of reaction from people, for an advertisement, is impressive. I’m not sure of the costs of an ARG, but from what I’ve read it’s relatively cheap compared to other forms. Of course low production costs don’t limit what an ARG can do, but how much can be done at once.
(Now, I know I’ve been pretty much saying ARG’s are only for profit companies, but there are some non-profit ARG’s out there. But I focus on the profit ones because, 1.) they are more widely known, 2.) they are easier to judge, in terms of success and comparing the success between ARG’s (the LOST ARG vs The Beast).)
In short, a good ARG has a great story, which is very in depth and expands on the Canon or general plot of it’s subject (how ILB became Halo Canon), which should hook people, which should ‘make’ them get involved, changing how they would normally act if they had never bothered with the ARG in the first place.
Just remember…this is not a game.