Have you ever wanted to take part in an online mystery? If the answer is yes, you might be interested in alternate reality games (ARGs).
Alternate reality games are online mysteries that involve clues spread out over various media, such as Twitter or Tumblr messages, websites, videos, and emails.
Solving the puzzles can be difficult and require the help of other players, but the result is a sense of empowerment.
Each game has its own unique elements and puzzles that can be solved on your own or with a team.
What is the Point?
Why play an alternate reality game? Alternate reality games can be fun and allow you to exercise your curiosity, but they also offer a sense of community.
Much like live action roleplaying, you will feel a sense of accomplishment by playing through hard quests with friends.
Args are unique in that they blend puzzles with other media, which makes them all the more interesting and engaging.
How to Find an Alternate Reality Game
A trailhead is a webpage or initial clue that leads to an alternate reality game. The game master could leave a mysterious QR code on posters all over town next to a strange graphic.
Other not so subtle game masters post a cryptic message to forums like reddit asking about this weird webpage or strange video they just happened to come across.
You are unlikely to discover an unknown trailhead on your own.
Some Examples of Famous ARGs
There have been some popular ARGs that made their way into pop culture in the recent past.
One example is The Beast , a marketing project by Microsoft that was created to promote the movie A.I.
The Beast is considered one of the first alternate reality games and brought the genre into mainstream culture.
Another popular ARG was I Love Bees , which promoted the video game Halo 2. This campaign started as an unknown trailhead on a cryptic webpage with a login prompt. Players solved the puzzles and found that they were logging into a simulation of Halo 2’s AI, Cortana. I Love Bees was so popular that it inspired later campaigns like The LOST Experience.
Tools to Use While Playing ARGs
You may come across some puzzles that require breaking a code or cypher or finding hidden data in images.
Here are a couple of websites that have useful puzzle solving tools:
StegOnline – Steganography tools
ARGSS Toolbox – Huge list of links to puzzle solvers, decoders, etc.
Game Detectives ARG Toolbox – Another large list of tools useful for online games
Safety While Playing ARGs
You will want to keep your personal info safe while playing a game. Don’t give out your phone number, home address, or real email to anyone you don’t trust.
It would be useful to get a burner email account that you don’t use for social media or your online banking to play ARGs with, in cases where you need an email address to advance.
Be wary of links in emails and messages that will bring you to malware infected sites. You can avoid this by opening a new browser window and typing the site’s URL yourself or scanning it with an antivirus program before clicking on it.
Some extreme privacy-conscious players use a VPN while playing to block their home IP from being discovered on websites they visit.
So what are you waiting for? Find an alternate reality game to join so that you can solve its mysteries with other online players.
Be wary of who you meet in this new world and keep your personal info safe.