args are story games

ARG company Six to Start‘s CEO on the problems with ARGs and how to make them better.

Don’t have enough players
The people who play are weird
The people who play have no money
They’re not mainstream
We make games for the hardcore
We’re too expensive
We don’t scale
We lie (“this is not a game”)

His basic suggestions:

No more:

* viewing source code
* “de-stegging” (which, to be honest, sounds a bit like tea-bagging, and you don’t want to know what that means if you don’t already know)
* waiting for stuff to happen
* breaking codes
* breaking more codes
* making use of esoteric knowledge (for no apparent reason)
* viewing more source code
* solving stupid puzzles (for no apparent reason)
* (encouraging me to) buy stock in UV torch companies (because of above stupid puzzles and esoteric codes)
* more waiting; and importantly
* not telling me what to do

And more:

* short, snappy, fun gameplay (which may be entirely appropriate in the context of a longer, less snappy and more involved arc)
* stuff like what 42 Entertainment did with Last Call Poker: which was embed the game of Poker, something a sizeable proportion of the normal human populace understands, into a game that not many people understood
* stuff like what Jane McGonigal did with The Lost Sport, which was create a playground game that anyone, anywhere, could play, any when. Ignore all the rest of the stuff for The Lost Ring like the amnesiac sportspeople, that’s just a red herring. Ignore the blog network too, that was just a diversion. And the classy, expensive trailer video. Just concentrate on the game. You know, the fun bit.
* Oh, playtesting. That’s good. Because, you know, you’re making a game. So test it. Just like you’d test your user interface.
* use proper game design. That means thinking and not going “Well, I guess if we just ROT-13 this piece of text, then it’ll be fun!”
* make your games repeatable. A non-repeatable live ARG (ie one that starts at one time, runs for a period of time, and then finishes and is only really playable while it’s live) is the equivalent of investing a sizeable proportion of money on a big budget prime-time tv show that you demand everyone watch at the same time and can’t record to watch later. In the world of I WANT EVERYTHING NOW, that’s known as Being Stupid.
* Oh, and be social. You know, with your friends.

Full Talk: Six to Start

(Thanks Public Individual)