How alternate reality games work

I just attended Elan Lee's presentation "Designing Magnets: Connecting with Audiences in the Wired Age," a talk on Alternate Reality Game design at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference in San Diego. Lee helped invent the genre of ARGs -- working on AI, I Love Bees, Tombstone Poker, and the other defining moments in its history.

Lee discussed the incredible, intense engagement that ARG players have with the medium (he uses the number of invitations to players' weddings as an index to judge the success of a game) and described some of the framework for building future games with comparable engagement.

ARG: Nine Inch Nails Year Zero (Charge)

* Trent Reznor wrote an album wanted it to be the soundtrack for an experience

* Hid songs on flash drives hidden in concerts, clues in spectographic analysis of songs

* Secret underground concert -- fans were brought to a secret location where NIN played, halfway through the wall fell down and they were invaded by a SWAT team

* The album and game was a dystopian commentary on the increased trend to authority

Link to my notes, Link to talk precis
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