I'm so sorry for accidentally freaking emailing everyone the below essay - I mistook the discussion thread and direct messages. Here's the essay for discussion.
I'm really glad I decided to stumble onto Jane McGonigal's website after taking some time to evaluate how to go about with a redesign of an ARG I'm developing, because it's great to be able to discuss this with likeminded people
Here's the full story:
I'm a Masters student at the University of Pretoria, and I'm attempting to run an educational ARG to teach library and information literacy to first year university students (they even have a course that aims to teach them these things). Development started on it last year with my colleague and co-sup, and this year we brought on a team of students via our postgrad programme to help refine the design, build assets etc (our academic year starts in January).
Over the first semester we finished the design and built the assets, and we attempted to run it starting in August. However, for the study to be academically valid, we need freshmen to play. Obviously, they didn't.
I think one of the main reasons for this was the fact that we did not explicitly sacrifice TINAG, and as a result were going on a couple thousand students being curious enough to jump down the rabbit hole (a really cool "hacked" presentation that the game character gave to each of the first year Info Lit course classes).
However, we did get a few players at the first live event (noted by info in the presentation). Well, five, one of which was a freshman. At that point we started seeding the first puzzle phase, which was basically just "get the name of a book, find the book in the library, get the clue". We additionally tried to individualise these pieces and encourage communication between players by giving each player separate information - at this point, we'd had a few more eyes-on due to a game character posting a plea on Blackboard, the university's online organisation system, so we tried to rope those guys in by giving them something to do.
And then at some point everyone just stopped playing. Our 5 players, one of which at some point actively tried to brute force the puzzles, just didn't say a word for a week.
At this point, validity became a worry, so we attempted to target the freshman Multimedia students by claiming that another university site had been hacked, which pointed them to the game site, which we replaced with a counter for this pastTuesday. This was essentially another rabbit hole for a specific group that we felt might be more "curious" about goings on.
And then, obviously, none of those targets showed up on Tuesday, and we were left with 4 players - 2 of our initial active group, and two people one player literally dragged along. The freshman player wasn't even involved anymore. At which point we decided to call it, because it wasn't academically valid anymore, and my supervisor said we could use this current incarnation as a pilot study for the game proper that we can hopefully run at the start of next year.
So now I have a few months of downtime with a mostly developed ARG, and I've decided to spend it doing a LOT of case study reading regarding educational stuff, as well as reaching out as best I can to any and all designers just to get their perspectives on a few things, which I'll get to in a moment.
First and foremost, here's a rundown of the game in terms of what the players do:
So, what do I need from you guys? Well, I really just want to stimulate discussion regarding how we can go about things in the final study. The pilot was a failure because players didn't even really finish the puzzles for Phase 1 (They didn't complete the photo, so we had to force LE1's time and date and place via the "MM rabbithole", at which point we pulled the plug before making the phone call), so how do we make the next iteration better?
Any discussion surrounding this thing would get my wheels turning, so I'd really appreciate it.
Thanks for reading guys!
I held an educational ARG for computer science education about an year ago. In my ARG, I held to the TINAG aesthetic and it was a central design choice of the game. However, in my case, the ARG was not part of a course and therefore keeping with the TINAG was probably easier. I have written an article about the ARG that is currently in press but not published yet, and I also discuss the TINAG aspect in the article. If you are interested in it (before it's published), send me a private message. If you want to know more about the ARG and maybe get some ideas that way, you can check its blog: http://stoptoilworndiamond.blogspot.com and the discussion thread in Unfiction: http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=37576
If you want to read more, you can also check this paper that briefly introduces the ARG and discusses about using ARGs in computer science education: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2526973
You ever think of using http://arisgames.org/ to design an ARG app employing GPS and QR codes and such?
I'd never heard of it until you pointed it out. I'll definitely have a look as it since we're looking at developing more "gameful" interactions for the next iteration.I just wish it wasn't iOS only, as here in ZA Android or Android-based OS's are more common :(