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Nov 21, 2005



If I recall correctly, pronoia in ARGs was presented by Jane as a relatively unexpected emergent phenomenon, something that the game designers were surprised to see such strong evidence of as the game played out. I suspect there's no secret formula for pronoia in game design but I'd love to hear a bit more from the 4orty 2wo folks about whether they intentionally designed Last Call Poker and i love bees to specifically generate pronoia.

Another interesting thing to consider is that the ARG projects were, at the end of the day, marketing inititiaves and not some kind of academic experiences in the creation of utopias. But I suppose since branding has always been to some extent about creating a sort of utopia for consumers it does make sense that certain carefully constructed experiences of certain brands could be deeply utopian.


I really enjoyed this post and wanted to add a few additional comments.

I think the comparisions between Disneyland, Las Vegas and Burning Man are apt. The only thing I would add is that there is a dimension of IP ownership to Disneyland which precludes participation. Disney is a brand that specificially forbids any subversion of its IP, while Burning Man specifically promotes it. We've already begun to see inklings of the friction between corporately owned IP vs. player-generated content in the recent Marvel vs. City of Heroes lawsuit tracked here on TerraNova. There.com tacitly avoids these conflicts by screening player-made artifacts for potential IP violations.

It's also interesting to note, vis a vis Betsy's comments, that a related form of 'pervasive branding' is also taking place in the form of Sony's recent PSP graffitti campaign. Sony Draws Ire With PSP Graffitti This is its own kind of inverted ARG. (For a look at an art-based rather than brand-based approach to ARG's, take a look at the British collective Blast Theory). We've also seen this approach to 'experiential marketing' in the form of Wells Fargo's Island in Second Life.

The ARG and these other examples also bring up a subject that I've been tackling in my recent research which is the pourousness of the magic circle. In my sociological studies of inter-game immigration, I'm finding that magic circles are far from the involate boundaries we've imagined them to be. ARG's are of interest because they deliberately bleed the magic circle into real life and create the ambiguity you describe where a person not in the game becames a player 'emergently,' let us say, because 'official players' believe him to be one. This is reminiscent of the comedy The Man Who Knew Too Little, in which Bill Murray believes himself to be playing an ARG of sorts, when in fact, the events happening to and around him are entirely 'real.' In a way it suggests that one might view the entirety of existence through a game lens (I suspect most TN denizens do that in one way or another.)

This leads to my final thought: Anyone up for staging an ARG at Disneyland? We'd probably get arrested (rumor has it there actually is an underground 'security dungeon' at Disneyland) but it would be a hell of a lot of fun.

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