I’ve spent the last 2 weeks playing The Prague Files, an ARGish like game being run by the Live Games Network. Over the last 2 weeks, we were presented with 7 tasks to complete, all going towards some pretty good prizes, the grand prize being a trip to Prague.
This was a professionally run game, in that you paid your money to compete. This contrasts with the many ‘amateur’ games which are on the go at any one time. Amateur in the form of the creators are not being paid not in the format as many are complex and fiendish. The latest ‘big’ game to surface is from the lonelygirl15 team, which started as a fan game and has moved to be official, but there are many smaller games running at any one time.
But I found differences in the Prague Files that were both good and bad.
- First of all, the timing and pace of the challenges. Everyone got the same challenge at the same time and had to complete them to stay in the running for the prizes. Everyone got the same opportunities to play and solve them. There were time limits, but that did not mean you could not play again – the game was fixed. With many other ARGs, relying on AIM and blogs and other pages, things can change faster than you can play and the game inputs can change rapidly.
- Second, the pacing of the game, with information and hints given in advance so you could prepare meant that everyone had a chance to gather the necessary information, such as coe techniques. In other ARGS, often you do not have chance to work through what you need to do before the game moves on.
- What was less obvious in the Prague Files was a sense of community. Look at the boards associated with any ARG and they show a vibrant community discussing the game and trying to solve the puzzles. The forum was not very active in this more formal game and I found that a lack; it would be interesting to see how you could encourage more of that whilst maintaining the competitive elements. The most activity occurred when there was a problem with one of the flash games that meant that many people could not finish it.
There’s a place for both types of game; now the first run is over, LGN are promising more to come over the next year. I’d like to see how they build on this and make it bigger and better the next time.