Education and research institutions like Northeastern University take gaming to the next level by using ARGs to carry out research.
Gaming has evolved over the past few years beyond what we would have thought possible – or even plausible – when the first home consoles arrived on the market some four decades ago. There is a myriad of games now on the market, with graphics that become more stunning and gameplay that become more engaging with every new title released. Games have even started producing spin-off franchises or tie-in games – and that is how Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) came to be. Now, education and research institutions like Northeastern University take gaming to the next level by using ARGs to carry out research.
A New Kind of Gaming
Imagine offering prospective clients the chance to get to know your brand and become engaged by playing a fun game that includes real-life elements. That is precisely what an ARG is about: ARGs were devised as an ingenious marketing approach that allows people to become familiar with a product while they associate the positive feeling of silliness and playfulness of games with the brand. ARGs are often compared to treasure hunts and they incorporate real-world elements in a wider narrative that has the player collecting clues to unravel the backstory and trigger the next stages in the storytelling.
Some of the most successful ARGs appeared in the buildup to the reveal of the next installment in a popular gaming series, like the iconic I Love Bees campaign that had players waiting outside designated payphones to answer questions and perform tasks set by an AI named Melissa – all in an elaborate ARG that would kick off the Halo 2 storyline. Another successful ARG was the one developed for the release of Fortnite Season 5 that saw iconic pieces of scenery from the game suddenly appear in real-life locations. The campaign was a massive hit as it develops on the element of exploration that is built-in the Fortnite series. Now, other industries beyond the entertainment and gaming world are turning to ARGs – including universities like Northeastern.
Daedalus: An ARG that Will Foster Research
Northeastern University has launched a new ARG called Daedalus that will see players work in teams to solve riddles and puzzles over the next couple of weeks. The objective of the game is to complete the programming of Daedalus, an AI that was designed to provide answers to the biggest problems that mankind is faced with. The puzzles were devised to guide the players across the neural network of the miraculous AI. The performance of the teams that participate in the ARG will be used to further research on team performance and how individuality and adaptability affect group project outcomes.
Many of the challenges can be completed on the digital platform of the game, but some of them will need players to go out into the real world to gather clues and figure out the next steps. Since Northeastern is based in Boston, this means that players willing to participate will have to team up with Boston residents. All teams that complete the game will receive a gift certificate – with the fastest team winning a coveted prize. In order to develop the game, Northeastern has teamed up with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), who have worked on similar projects before.
If you’d like to try out your luck in the game, remember that you have to be an adult US resident – and be quick to visit the sign-up page of the ARG to claim a spot on one of the teams.