game will often be indistinguishable from genuine sites, and the creators of thegame often go to great lengths to ensure that they are anonymous and upholdthe secrecy of the game.Stewart (2006), lead writer of
, suggests four defining characteristicsof ARGs: that they have an ongoing storyline, which is broken up and theplayers need to assemble over time, piecing together the narrative from multiplesources as the game unfolds; that they make use of many different media typesto act as a delivery mechanism for the game, such as print, telephone, blogging,social networking sites, email, web pages, radio, television, advertising, andactual people; that they provide a collaborative environment in which playersare required to cooperate to solve the puzzles (either because the puzzlesexplicitly require more than one person or because they are so hard and coverso many domains of expertise that it is unlikely that one individual will be able tosolve it alone); and that they create an environment where the audience interactwith the game world and are responsible for shaping it – the game itself changesover time in response to the activities of the players.It has also been argued that essentially, there are three integrated componentsin alternate reality games: exposition, interaction and challenge (Phillips, 2006).Exposition is the story, plot, and events that drive the game, the characters andtheir motivations, and they world they live in. This narrative is presented bothonline and in the real world, using real people and places with fictional eventsoverlaid. Interaction takes place in the form of a dynamic dialogue between theplayers and the game characters and this creates the ability for players to shapethe game world by creating ongoing mythology around the game, bycommunicating both with other players and with characters within the game(this can also be carried out through a variety of media including chat, email,telephone, messaging and live events). Challenge provides the game-play: thepuzzles, ciphers, riddles and collective achievements that provide purposefulactivity to the story and create an ongoing motivator and continued immersionin the game world.Since their inception, there have been many types of alternate reality gameproduced, including promotional, grassroots (games that are produced as fansites or works of fiction for their own sake), productised (i.e. commercial),single-player, and educational (Barlow, 2006). They have been used to advertiseproducts, films, computer games, music and television series. Although much of the most significant ARG development has occurred with developers creatinggames as viral marketing initiatives, they have parallels with other genres,drawing inspiration from literature (in particular the adventure game bookspopular in the 1980s and interactive online fiction), movies, urban treasurehunts, internet hoaxes, role-playing games (RPGs), and massively multiplayeronline role-playing games (MMORPGs). ARGs are niche and generally appeal to asmall proportion of the population, but those individuals who do becomeinvolved typically show extremely high engagement with the game, giving uplarge amounts of time and going to extreme lengths to get involved andcomplete the challenges.