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Alternate reality game (ARG) | Bełchatów, spring 2013

In 2007, on the eve of the premiere of The Dark Knight, in dozens of cities throughout the United States, you could get a cake decorated with an inscription with powder that read: “CALL!” and with the set of numbers that made up a phone number. After dialling the specified number, the cake began to vibrate and ring itself – in the middle of the cake there was not only a mobile phone hidden, but also a Joker card and documents allowing to participate in an alternate reality game (ARG). This story has become popular with many game developers around the world. We also started looking for opportunities to create our own ARG. This became possible in 2013 as part of the Mediokracja project, that is, a project that uses gaming mechanisms for the media education. As part of the second release of the project, we had to prepare an alternate reality game, and the Polish city of Belchatów was to become a platform for it. Most games of this type accompany a well-known work of culture or a popular product and therefore are considered as an extended form of advertising. When creating our game, we did not have such a product that we could “connect” or relate to, so we had to take everything into our own hands.

Alternate Reality Game (ARG) to interaktywna narracja sieciowa wykorzystująca transmedialne opowiadanie historii. Środowiskiem w którym taka gra się rozgrywa jest rzeczywisty świat w pełnym spektrum (również cyfrowym), w którym zostały ulokowane stworzone przez twórców gry elementy. Mogą to być zarówno obiekty fizyczne pozostawione w przestrzeni jak i stworzone na potrzeby gry strony internetowe czy też konta na portalach społecznościowych. Uczestnicy gry mają ciągły wpływ na jej przebieg, a twórcy gry muszą dynamicznie reagować na interakcje z graczami. 

The difficulty in implementing this type of game lies in the fact that its potential participants must enter the game themselves – no one has informed them beforehand that the game begins and what its rules are. Therefore, we decided to create a simple story in which there would be a maximum number of “rabbit holes” – entry points into the game, so that players can easily get to the “other side of the mirror.” We came up with various activities to attract potential participants to the game – we organized a small city game, prepared billboards informing about the construction of a new office building for a nonexistent company, released distorted trailers for the documentary film about the city of Belchatów, and even blew up a bicycle.

Was our project successful? We managed to achieve a moderate success. Several hundred people took part in the game, and several dozens reached the final. We hoped that given the amount of work invested in the game, the number of players would be significantly higher. We are comforted by the fact that the participants who took part in the game liked everything though. And we definitely look forward to the next opportunity to make a new ARG project.

Coordination: Michał Grelewski

Master of the game: Piotr Wiśnioch

Game designers: Przemysław Górski, Vojislav Radojicic, Antoni Mirosław, Piotr Lipski

Location manager: Joanna Ufnalska

Graphic design: Mateusz Dziworski

Collaboration: Hubert Bigos, Alicja Gadecka, Łukasz Gajewski, Juliusz Gajewski, Adam Drabik, Maciej Zasadziński, Przemysław Młodzikowski, Michał Rusiecki, Łukasz Biskupski 

Co to była za gra, co to było za przedsięwzięcie! Nieskończone planowania fabuły, przygotowywanie rekwizytów i materiałów wizualnych, strony internetowe, profile społecznościowe, trailer filmu, nocne wyprawy do Bełchatowa. Oczywiście przy takim nakładzie sił i środków chciałoby się uzyskać większy odzew od mieszkańców. Tak czy inaczej – nauczyliśmy się tutaj naprawdę dużo. I kiedyś jeszcze zrobimy prawdziwe, wielkie ARG 🙂 (M.Grelewski)

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