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An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions.
|Name||Year||Developer||Promoting||Story summary||Gameplay summary||Scale||Status|
|Ong's Hat||1999||Independent||N/A||A predecessor to the traditional ARG, Ong's Hat encompasses a conspiracy theory and urban legend about Princeton professors in the ghost town of Ong's Hat, New Jersey discovering a means of interdimensional travel.||Puzzle solving by online communities.||Early pioneer of alternate reality games||Complete|
|Majestic||2001||Anim-X||N/A||Science fiction thriller based on a Majestic 12 shadow government conspiracy theory.||Receiving clues and solving puzzles to unravel the story. Sent messages via AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), and via voice phone calls.||Recognized as the "Best Original Game" at E3 in 2001 and one of the five "Game Innovation Spotlights" at the Game Developers Choice Awards in 2002.||Complete|
|The Beast||2001||Microsoft||A.I. Artificial Intelligence||A murder mystery set in the future featuring artificial intelligences.||Puzzle solving by online communities. Rewards in the form of new websites and videos.||~5,000 players||Complete|
|ReGenesis Extended Reality||2004||Xenophile Media||ReGenesis||A biotech laboratory chases down a bioterrorist scientist alongside players||Weekly television drama filled with clues for online missions following each episode. Multiple fictional websites which feature as fictional organizations in the series.||100,000+ players.||Complete|
|I Love Bees||2004||42 Entertainment||Halo 2||An AI from the Halo 2 universe is stranded in our world and needs help.||Puzzle solving by online communities. Information released by phone calls to public telephones. Rewards in the form of new websites and videos.||600,000+ players.||Complete|
|Last Call Poker||2005||42 Entertainment||Gun||A cursed gun, passed down through generations, threatens the granddaughter of its last owner.||Puzzle solving by online communities. Real world missions in cemeteries. Online poker with dead characters. Rewards in the form of new stories and videos.||Over 500,000 active participants.||Complete|
|Perplex City||2005||Mind Candy||N/A||The Receda Cube has been stolen and buried somewhere on Earth.||Hidden clues on collectable puzzle cards directed players to various websites, blogs, emails, phone calls, and SMS messages, originating from Perplex City||Complete|
|The Charlotte Mystery||2006||AFI||Five people leave messages to each other about five types of flowers, which led to invitations to private shows by the band AFI.||Clues containing URLs, phone calls, MySpace and Aim profiles, in-person visits to a comic store and a park, a riddle in French, Craiglist listings.||Complete|
|Nowheremen||2007||X12 Productions||Mystery involving the disappearance of Derek Francis Border.||Interactive puzzles and treasure hunts across various mediums.||Complete|
|Year Zero||2007||42 Entertainment||Year Zero (album)||Set in a dystopian future where the government surveys everyone.||Players solve puzzles, listen to recordings, and watch movie clips to gain more info and find sites.||Complete|
|The Lost Ring||2008||AKQA||McDonald's||Six Olympians from another world came to help us save this one.||Puzzle solving by online communities. Real world missions. A new Olympic sport "The Lost Sport" was introduced.||3,000,000 players from over 150 countries.||Complete|
|Commander Video||2008||Bit.Trip Beat||A mysterious persona known as Commander Video issued missions to a group of ten "recruits."||Puzzle solving done by online communities. Email correspondence, Twitter, and various Internet interactions are the areas of play.||Complete|
|Superstruct||2008||Institute For The Future||Give humans a little more time on Earth after five "super-threats" start wearing down civilization.||Online puzzle solving.||Complete|
|This Is My Milwaukee||2008||Synydyne||A sinister company creates a bioengineered creature known as Go.D.S.E.E.D. which led to the city of Milwaukee being quarantined.||Online puzzle solving with real world dead drops.||Complete|
|Xi||2009||nDreams||PlayStation Home||Set in secret areas in the world of PlayStation Home where users helped to find Jess and the meaning of Xi.||Users solved puzzles, watched video clips, and did objectives in and out of Home to gain more information. Users searched in Home as well as in the real world depending on the puzzle or objective.||Over 5 million visits||Complete|
|The Davenport Papers||2009||Brigham Young University students||The Book of Jer3miah||A tie-in to the Webby award-nominated webseries The Book of Jer3miah.||Clues were hidden in the webseries itself, related websites, and around the Brigham Young University campus.||Complete.|
|Picture the Impossible||2009||Lab for Social Computing Rochester Institute of Technology and the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper||Rochester, New York||Factions representing different charities compete against each other.||Explore the city to solve puzzles.||2,500 players.||Complete.|
|Urgent Evoke||2010||Jane McGonigal, Funded by the World Bank Institute, infoDev, the Korean Trust Fund on ICT for Development||N/A||The story was set in the year 2020 and followed the efforts of a mysterious network of Africa’s best problem-solvers.||Collaborate to develop innovative solutions to global and local problems||19,324 registered players from 150 countries||Complete|
|Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life||2010||Reebok||Centered around Lewis Hamilton, a secret agent in the game, showcasing a new Reebok technology such as RunTone or ZigTech.||Players worked together to solve puzzles and complete tests online, on mobiles and in the real world.||637,000 players from over 154 countries||Complete|
|Conspiracy For Good||2010||The company P||Various charities||Tim Kring's narrative focused on charity and against the fictional corporation Blackwell Briggs exploiting Africa||Players cooperated online, on mobiles and in the real world. Four big events took place in London during summer 2010.||Gamers on Unfiction, on the game web and in the streets of London during the summer events||Complete|
|A Map of the Floating City||2011||Thomas Dolby||A Map of the Floating City (album)||Set in a dystopian dieselpunk past, a global cataclysm has left the world's inhabitants suffering from amnesia and struggling to move north to the "Floating City" to escape the rising temperatures.||Players worked cooperatively and competitively as tribes to collect items, make inventions, solve a mystery, and move north. The game was unique in that the inventory was all based on lyrics from Dolby's back-catalog and (at the time) upcoming album of the same name. The winning coalition of tribes received a private concert as a prize.||Worldwide||Complete|
|Potato Sack||2011||Valve||Portal 2 and 13 indie games||GLaDOS of Portal is attempting to reboot herself. Clues were hidden in a selection of 13 independent games.||Solving puzzles using clues found in aforementioned games||Complete|
|The Optimist||July 3, 2013 to August 11, 2013||Walt Disney Imagineering||Tomorrowland (2015)||A fictional alternate history of Walt Disney and his involvement in a secret society connected to the 1964 World's Fair and an optimistic vision of the future.||Clues were revealed through character blogs, including scans of notes, napkins, and phone numbers. Players visited real-life locations connected to Walt Disney and gained special access to restricted areas of the Disneyland theme park.||Complete|
|Frog Fractions 2||2014||Twinbeard||Frog Fractions 2||A sequel to the Flash game Frog Fractions funded through Kickstarter, would only be revealed at the conclusion of this ARG, with clues hidden in a number of other games.||Podcasts by the developers, an Obama Shaving Simulator, real life events such as Indiecade and ARG-specific events around Berkley and LA.||Complete|
|The Black Watchmen||2015||Alice & Smith||N/A||Billed as the first permanent Alternate Reality Game, players join the ranks of The Black Watchmen, a paramilitary group dedicated to protecting the public from dangerous phenomena beyond human understanding: including ritualistic murder, occult secret societies, and the paranormal.||Puzzle solving mainly by individuals, but acts in a similar fashion to community puzzle solving ARGs.||Complete|
|Afterbirth||2015||Edmund McMillen||The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth||An ARG that began with the release of the Afterbirth DLC for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Upon conclusion, a new playable character called "The Keeper" was implemented.||Puzzle solving by online communities.||Complete|
|Cipher Hunt||2016||Walt Disney Television||Gravity Falls||Taking place after the events of the series, Bill Cipher's petrified remains are hidden somewhere in America and must be found.||Players worked together to find clues and travel to areas around the world in a scavenger hunt to locate the statue and claim the "gold" hidden with it.||Worldwide, but most players were from the U.S.||Complete|
|Oxenfree||2016||Night School Studio||Oxenfree||Based on the game, the Oxenfree ARG delves into the true ending of the game and the secrets that the teenage characters face.||The community of the game work together to translate Morse Code, keep up with Twitter feeds, travel to locations, and call phone numbers to solve the mystery.||~900 members of the subreddit, though no community headcount has been taken.||Complete|
|Sombra||2016||Blizzard||Overwatch||Clues and ciphers referencing Sombra, a new playable character, were found in various developer updates and short animations released by Blizzard.||Puzzle solving by online communities.||Complete|
|Hello Neighbor||2017||tinyBuild, DynamicPixels||Unknown||Clues in the Alpha releases of Hello Neighbor are leading to the announcement of a new release. Incomplete.||Puzzle solving, horror, adventure and general entertainment.||Ongoing|
|Waking Titan||2017||Alice & Smith, Hello Games||No Man's Sky||Follows experiments and technology from an organization called the Atlas Foundation. Two seasons of it were made following Loop16 (an AI) in season 1 and W/ARE (a company) in season 2.||Puzzle solving.||Complete|
|Magiczny Świat Ani||2017||Magiczny Świat Ani||Unknown||The audience is supposed to discover information regarding Anna Słowińska's mysterious disappearance.||On September 10th, 2017, Youtuber using the name Magiczny Świat Ani (pl. Ania's magical world) posted a video entitled Krystalizacja kości/Bone crystallization. In subsequent videos, the viewers could find various coded messages and links to websites such as Tumblr. However, no official community dedicated to solve the case exists.||Ongoing|
|DEMA||2018||Twenty One Pilots||Trench||The story of a man named Clancy, escaping from an oppressive organization called DEMA.||It included a cryptic series of websites (all hosted by dmaorg.info) with images, letters from the main character, and codes to decipher. It was discussed and solved in both a Reddit megathread and a Discord server. The ARG ended when Twenty One Pilots ended their hiatus with the announcement of their 5th album Trench, and the release of the singles "Jumpsuit" and "Nico and the Niners" (both of which contain elements from the storyline of the ARG).||2,000+ Twenty One Pilots fans||Complete|
|The White Door||2020||Rusty Lake, Second Maze||Rusty Lake Games||A man awakes in a mental health facility called the White Door with no memory. The player needs to follow the instructions to find the secret of the main character and help him restore his memory.||The ARG involved people finding cubes from around the world. During the gameplay, a phone number appears after completing a puzzle. When called, a recording states that White Door is closed now, but suggests visiting another website to continue playing.||Complete|
|The Muse ARG||2020-2023||Alex Bale||N/A||Creatures called 'muses' are given meat in exchange for goods.||ARG hosted on YouTube, Reddit, and various websites, most notably happymeatfarms.com||2,200+ members on subreddit, 5,000+ members on Discord||Ongoing|
Media with ARG themes or elements
- The Game
- The Dark Knight
- The Cloverfield Paradox
- Super 8
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
- The Blair Witch Project
- The Institute
- The Last Broadcast
- Ready Player One
- The Batman (2022 film)
- Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
- Penny Dreadful by Will Christopher Baer
- Halting State by Charles Stross
- Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
- Cathy's Book and Cathy's Key by Sean Stewart, Jordan Weisman, and Cathy Brigg (illustrator)
- John Dies at the End by David Wong
- Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- This Is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams
- Strange Flesh by Michael Olson
- The Secret: A Treasure Hunt by Byron Preiss
- McMahon, Chris (May 2013) "The Rise Of The ARG: games™ investigates alternate reality games and what the future has in store for the curious experiment."
- Emmy Awards (2005) "ReGenesis Extended Reality Game - Interactive Emmy Nominee"
- McGonigal, J. (2008) "Why I Love Bees: A Case Study in Collective Intelligence Gaming."
- "Frog Fractions 2 - Game Detectives Wiki". wiki.gamedetectives.net. Retrieved 2016-10-25.
- "Afterbirth ARG - Game Detectives Wiki". wiki.gamedetectives.net. Retrieved 2016-10-25.
- "Sombra ARG - Game Detectives Wiki". wiki.gamedetectives.net. Retrieved 2016-10-25.
- "Twenty One Pilots 2018 Return [MEGATHREAD]". Retrieved 2019-01-05.
- "Web Video / SpongeBob Conspiracy". tvtropes.org. TV Tropes. Retrieved November 18, 2022.
- "Happy Meat Farms Subreddit". reddit.com. Retrieved December 16, 2022.