Alternate Reality Games are relatively obscure and haven’t really come to the attention of many console gamers despite being an awesome experience as well creating a great way to market a product. They show how the gaming community can work together as well as proving that many developers are willing to think outside the box, even when it comes down to promotion.
10. Frontlines: Fuel of War
The Fuel of War ARG was relatively simple but offered some awesome prizes including copies of the game itself but going right the way up to fighter pilot training. Damn flying a fighter jet would be sweet. The game itself was relatively simple compared to others that have made it onto this list, the basic idea was to find ten passwords which were scattered across the net. These passwords unlocked the truth behind the Exeo Incorporated as well as the prizes for several lucky players.
While the concept was good the game just didn’t have the longevity and complex nature of some of the others on this list which, in some cases, have lasted years.
Some people will wonder why a game that failed pretty badly has made it onto this list, but number of players don’t make a good game. Majestic
Everything Was Against Majestic
had a wonderful concept, full of government conspiracies and shady agencies. One of biggest failures was that Majestic was designed to be self sufficient, relying on a monthly subscription fee in order to access the content and while other companies succeeded
Over time the clues could be solved, but progress was limited to prevent people from finishing the game in a very short period of time. The diversity and personalisation of being able to arrange phone calls with the characters will have helped to immerse the player but, eventually, people lost interest and around the time of September 11th, government conspiracy theories began turning up all over the place until Majestic’s proposed second season was cancelled along with the original game citing too few players as the reason.
8. The Beast
The Beast was one of the earliest, hugely successful titles to make this list. The name comes from the original number of files released to start the game off, it was 666 by the way. Clues went as far as the credits on promotional posters, bringing the game more into the real world than just a realistic blog. As a promotional tool for the movie A.I Artificial Intelligence and being developed by Microsoft The Beast had the funding and attraction to not only remain free but also generate more attention than Majestic.
As a promotional tool it was once again fairly short lived, lasting only 12 weeks, but still managed an awesome and complex story set around what was a relatively dull movie. Set 16 years after A.I the characters were just what you would expect, rather than Majestic’s option to have a warning stating phone callas and emails were from the game, The Beast made the characters as real as possible. What their employee record, blog and phone calls said made you feel as though they were a real person. Screw disclaimers.
Terrifying Link Is A Mii Apparently
7. Haunted Majora’s Mask
Haunted Majora’s Mask first appeared on the internet courtesy of it’s creator Jadusable who set the tone for the game by claiming he had acquired a mysterious copy of the game which contained a suspicious file called BEN.
Over time the story suggested the apparent haunting was getting worse due to how the new owner of the cartridge was playing the game and interfering with the way in which it had been left by its previous owner. This is one ARG which is still running, despite being on hiatus for quite some time the creator continues to promise that the story is not over and that it will rise again to continue and eventually finish the story.
6. There’s Something In The Sea
This ARG was canon from the BioShock universe used as promotional material for the release of BioShock 2. For the most part the clues and main basis of the game where again web based and over time strayed into the real world mostly in the form of props with the puzzles and clues remaining on the internet.
There’s Something In The Sea told the story of Mark Meltzer who was searching for his missing daughter, Cindy and provided some of the best real world items of any ARG. A lot of the clues which appeared on the net would lead people to beaches, early in the morning where items, designed to look as though they had washed up from Rapture had been buried. For those not willing or able to make it to the beach some items, including splicer masks where sent to players through the mail.
5. Missing: Since January
Missing: Since January arrived in the form of a standard, adventure based PC game which spilled over into the real world through
Where Are Jack & Karen
communication. Rather than paying a subscription you simply purchased the game as you would any other except this game had the alternate reality interaction.
Once again, all the staple were present and accounted for with the puzzles and clues scattered across both real and specifically created sites and focuses mainly on hunting down two journalists/adventurers ,Jack and Karen, who have been kidnapped by the Manus Domini, a sun worshiping cult who are responsible for the murder of Karen’s Father.
The game offered a continuation after the main story was complete which continued the game for a short amount of time and secured a more definitive ending.
4. The Last Ritual
The Last Ritual was the sequel to Missing: Since January And had a much darker feel than its predecessor. The story follows the rise of The Phoenix, a notorious serial killer who has resurfaced to kill again. Clues this time came primarily through the games disc, based around videos but, for some, came into the real world in a different way making the game far more engrossing.
The difference in real world interaction came for the French who, at a cost, could opt to receive text messages from in game characters which was a stroke of genius on behalf of the developers and allowed for a more unknown feeling as to when certain pieces of information would become available to the player.
Chief Loves Bees
3. I Love Bees
ILB was a Halo 2 related ARG which was hinted at by the website name being placed within one of the official trailers for the game. Those who followed this initial clue eventually discovered a website dedicated to one woman’s love of bees which appeared to have been hacked.
Over the course of the game the hacker become known as an A.I. From the Halo universe who had appeared on earth due to the ship she was travelling on crashing somewhere on earth. Over time Melissa’s corrupt data revealed more and more information as to her back story.
The main real world interaction came in the form of calls to payphones which players had to answer for further clues. One man is even reported to have waited in Florida as a hurricane bore down on the area just to receive the call and gain another clue, that is dedication.
2. Potato Fools Day/GLaDOS@Home
As we all know Valve has a thing about potatoes, they turn up everywhere from story lines to achievements so naturally the Valve ARG included potatoes. The main premise of the game was GLaDOS attempting to reboot using the power of the mighty potato. Players had to play a range of games from The Potato Sack and find the hidden potatoes in order to reboot GLaDOS faster.
The reward was that working as a community and gathering as many potatoes as possible would lead to GLaDOS rebooting and thus making Portal 2 available sooner than 7a.m. on April 14th, the official release date and time. This was one of the most inventive ARG’s as it allowed people to unlock something as a community whilst supporting indie developers by playing some awesome games.
The Most Valuable Cube Out There
The city itself was set away from Earth but the inhabitants had a way of communicating with people on our home world and were searching for the Receda Cube which had been stolen and hidden on Earth. It was all down to humble Earthlings to safely secure the valuable cube and whoever could find it would be responsible
Perplex City is easily the single greatest ARG to date. It succeeded where Majestic had failed in terms of being self sufficient but in a way which didn’t single out non paying players. The funding was secured by the sale of trading cards. These 256 cards used a variety of different, original methods in order to reveal fresh clues. Two of the cards remain unsolved to this day despite the game having launched in April of 2005.
It was almost two years before The Cube was finally discovered, in February 2007, and even then the lucky winner had spent several long days, once he was certain of where to look, before he finally uncovered the artefact, ending the game and winning his prize of £100,000 ($200,000).
The accounts of the days leading up to the discovery of The Cube are a pretty awesome read so check it out here.