Just taking Randall up on his invitation to post our ARG projects here...

I'll be leading some undergrad students in making an ARG as part of a course on New Literacies next semester. I plan to use the university campus itself, especially the library (and some friendly librarians who have agreed to help out). This way, I can incorporate some course material in a narrative involving a new literacies vs. "old literacies" battle. But we'll also be able to invite people from all over the campus and demonstrate how and ARG could be used as a "get to know your campus" or "get to know your library" tool. And just to add another educational layer...I'll be teaching an American Studies course at a different university and I'm going to require those students to play the game as part of a unit on digital culture!

Would love to hear other people's projects, or talk more about this one. I'll likely have some questions as it evolves I may want to ask here.

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Hi Patrick,

This sounds great! A "new literacies" vs. "old literacies" plot framework sounds intriguing. Do you have an example of how one of the missions might play out, and if you, could you share that here? Using an ARG as a "get to know your campus, library, etc." activity is an excellent idea. Will you have them primarily using mobile devices?

--Randall

Hey Randall. Thanks for asking.

We’ll be writing a Rutgers-Camden student as the central character. She’ll be a journalism major asked to write a blog throughout the semester by a professor encouraging “New Journalism” and will get caught up in the new vs. old battle with a stodgy Professor in the Department of Papyrus, Antiquity, and Scribulous Textification.

The story is more developed than particular puzzles at this point. Since it’s going to be an intro to ARGs for all the students making and playing it, and since I expect the game itself will be only 2 weeks long, I’m concentrating more on getting certain conventions worked in: using multiple social media websites, texts, emails, real world encounters and locations, and certainly puzzles. Plenty of details remain to be filled in. For example, at one point the student will write in her blog about the crazy notes and marks one of her professors makes on the white board in class that don’t seem related to the course at all. Time and location of the course will be mentioned and players will need to find the room and read and decipher the notes left on the board after class... The library is very co-operative so somehow we’ll get players at some point to pick up a book on reserve at the library that a character has checked out previously and left revealing notes in. But I don’t yet know what either of these notes will reveal.

Mobile devices are interesting. Always during this course we watch a Frontline documentary called “Digital Nation.” It opens with students at MIT because, as the narrator says, “These are the most hooked-up students in the world,” or something to that effect. We see students with laptop, Blackberry, and tablet all going simultaneously... Well, my campus is in Camden, the third poorest city in America. While the profs at MIT have problems with students tweeting on laptops during class, I can’t count on emails getting to students because their only access to computers is in the campus library where they only go when they have to. Many use cell phones--not smart phones, no apps, no GPS...just phones. Well, if the game leans too heavily on technology most of them don’t have, they won’t play. Or can’t. We’ll do some. A GPS clue is good and still possible. And players will have to find something on campus, snap a picture, and upload it. So we’re a little bit limited in this regard.

Just letting anyone know, this game has now begun. The real meat of the story won't kick in until April, but my students and I are laying the ground work now. We're sticking with the "New Literacies" vs. "Old Literacies" conflict, but it turns out A LOT of new digital studies stuff just happens to be happening on campus this semester. By putting our characters into motion early on, we're able to tap into a number of real events happening on campus. What's more, a few of them are happy to join in the fun, from letting us post fictitious links on their websites to actually inviting us to stage some sort of event at a conference they're holding on campus in April! (Not sure we'll do that one...) Anyway, keeping in mind students making and playing the game are learning about ARGs in this process, here is the rabbit hole. It's titled "The Rabbit Hole."  You are all invited to join in!

Thanks for sharing the news about your launch. I'll look forward to hearing about how it plays out.

--Randall

We got things officially up and running today in class (yes, April Fool's Day). Prior to now I had dropped hints about the game. For example, I sent my class a link to a blog with a note like "This might be interesting to you, it pertains to our class and our campus." But as my students are assigned to play a digital game, I couldn't completely leave it up to people stumbling down a trailhead. So today I made things explicit in class, and the TING ideal had to be sacrificed.

I mention all this here in case anyone is interested: assigning gameplay is interesting and problematic, and flies in the face of an idea of play as voluntary (as Hungziga says...or is it Callois?). But I also have an underhanded intent: I sense my students, all of whom are new to ARG's, are a quite reluctant to post in someone else's blogs--even when they know it's a game and they can be anonymous. They were very wary in class. So in the name of education over authenticity, if anyone is interested in demonstrating what a comment in an ARG from someone who is not one of the characters might look like, I've got just the blog for you: http://thisrabbithole.blogspot.com/

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