Alternate Reality Gaming – Is LARPing Cool Now?

LARPing (Live Action Roleplaying) has always been on the far, far geek end of the spectrum, even in the normally geeky realms of fandom, exceeded only by cosplayers or, God forbid, furries.  

However, I’ve been hearing more and more about what’s being billed as “Alternate Reality Games” or, more daringly, “Alternate Reality Design”.  I heard about it first at last year’s Web 2.0 Expo in California, and now I just saw another keynote presentation on it at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) in Austin by Jane McGonigal.  Here’s an artist’s rendition of her keynote address.  Examples of ARGs include the “I Love Bees,” the game/viral marketing campaign for Halo 2, and “World Without Oil,” which won an award at SXSW.  It’s involved with positive psychology and “happiness science.”  The slides from her keynote are up on Slideshare.

Entertainingly, ARGs have a core conceit of “this is not a game,” which brings up the specter of all those people who got too scarily into Amber and seemed to be unable to differentiate it from real life.

It doesn’t appear that any previous RPG/LARP designers are involved with the ARG scene, which is probably for the best…

If you want to try it out, she’s started a new ARG commissioned for the upcoming 2008 Olympics called “The Lost Ring.”

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