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 Forum index » Meta » General META Discussion
Newbies and timing their entrance
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catherwood
I Have 100 Cats and Smell of Wee

Joined: 25 Sep 2002
Posts: 4049
Location: Silicon Valley, CA

Newbies and timing their entrance

background setup for the discussion topic:

We had someone new join us in chat today (hi, TomInBristol!), and he asked about what games he should play. It is a common question, and the usual response is to list what games are currently running. In this case, we suggested Orbital Colony and Vapor Lofts. He had found #unfiction by first stumbling upon the Perplex City cards in the firebox catalog, so naturally he asked about that game too. In each case, he was concerned about joining a game already in progress. This got me to thinking...

and I asked some questions in chat which can open up this topic for debate:

Would beginners (who have never played an ARG before) do better by joining a game already in progress, one with a guide or summaries? Do they fumble around by entering a game too early, too soon after initial launch? Do seasoned ARGers develop a sixth sense about fresh launches, such as when and where to poke or when it is best to wait for more info?

I have seen beginners try to jump in and view HTML source, and try to contribute their "finds" which turn out to be standard tags or comments, not clues. For example, the <!-- URL's used in the movie--> wrapper generated by Flash, or 'ducky' in an Adobe image binary. Maybe for those people, they need a crash course in the kinds of things seasoned ARG-players might not even bother to mention in a game summary or guide. Do we have a compendium of frequent mistakes made by newbies?

So, should we really encourage new recruits to dive into a currently-running game -- as well as learn the technical ropes by watching and playing along -- rather than wait for a fresh launch? Discuss.

PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2005 11:56 pm
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AmberJoy
Veteran

Joined: 26 Sep 2005
Posts: 140
Location: SW Ontario

I am pretty new around here and still make mistakes. However, it was important to me to start at the beginning of an ARG my first time. I really needed to see how it started and progressed in real time. Until I felt comfortable doing so, I didn't post. I sat back and watched how things ran and what the unspoken rules were.

Of course I am still learning and still fumble things up, but I learned much better from participating and watching than I would have from reading guides and trying to play catch-up.

I think this will depend on the new player and their own learning style. It doesn't seem like this can be answered so broadly.

PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:12 am
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Dionysus
Unfettered

Joined: 18 Nov 2005
Posts: 612
Location: Philadelphia Area

I also am pretty new, but if there's ONE thign Ive noticed needs to be done is to READ THE BOARDS! If your joining an ARG in process, read the threads, especially the top few.. ESPECIALLY the current puzzle, so you know what we've been through already and what ideas have alreayd been batted about.

Now , how to help new players? Frankly the Tutorial needs some updating. I would suggest a more expansive introduction to cryptology includign Vigenere and suggesting how, if you have a number of letters that are ap erfect square, try them in a grid. I know you have the 10 Commandments on there, and they are great, but there are a lot more tips and tricks that could be put up. Sin Vraal has been occasionally quoting his own "Rules" and Ive been recording them. They are pretty enlightening. I'd be willing to help update the Tutorial especially once I get a bit more seasoning. A compendium of common mistakes, as mentioned, would also be great.

One other thing that WE all MUST do better, is the game wikis. We're all guilty of this but over at Orbital Colony, the wiki hasn't been updated in a month - and alots happened in that month. According to the wiki, Steven still hasn't dissappeared!
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:31 am
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theShaggy
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Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 417
Location: Toronto, Ontario

As a relative newbie (I started right around the time that Vaporlofts got started - hence that's the game I'm playing), I can say that starting at ground level on a game makes it easy to not get smothered in an insane amount of puzzles and mythology.

These ARG things are complicated, they're lateral and linear and abstract all at once. A friend of mine who has been doing it for a while keeps asking me how I'm enjoying Orbital Colony, and honestly, I can't say that I've even really looked at it. In that case, I haven't even touched it because even though it only just launched, there is two years of something called a "Pre-Game."

My gripe in getting started with the ARGs here is that for a newbie, there is nowhere to go to properly learn about the process of an ARG. Sure, there are resources available on how to decode or desteg or view source or what-have-you, but after three or four months, I still don't exactly know what a pre-game is, or whether it's important to the game itself. I'm still trying to determine what a META discussion is, what a SPEC discussion is, etc.

I might find it much easier to get involved in these things if there was somewhere to go to actually learn about all these standard concepts, about all the process of how ARGs actually take place. I'm sure it's somewhere in the forum, but a newbie won't necessarily think "hey, let's search for a glossary!" There are the 10 Commandments, but even they lack any real description (what, exactly is the "Curtain?"). Poking around the PM forum, there's a whole thing about "the Rules," but what are "the Rules?"

Anyway, I'm enjoying it, now that I'm slowly getting in to Vaporlofts. I'm learning the tricks of the trade, but if it didn't start up when it did, I would likely not have kept up with it. Last Call Poker hit, but with the huge amount of people throwing stuff out at once, it got a little frightening for a new kid. At least with VL I can sit back and watch it unfold.

PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 1:10 am
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Glecius
Decorated

Joined: 23 Nov 2005
Posts: 193
Location: The corner of HUH? and WTF?

While each person does have their own way to "learn", the absolute first thing I advise people to read is THIS. And yes, it has all of the rules, terms, and procedures.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:53 am
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Phaedra
Lurker v2.0


Joined: 21 Sep 2004
Posts: 4033
Location: Here, obviously

Hi, theShaggy!

First, let me say that I'm glad and impressed that you're sticking around even though you're feeling a little lost. Smile

theShaggy wrote:
These ARG things are complicated, they're lateral and linear and abstract all at once.


You are completely right. ARGs are complicated.

The nonlinear, multivocalic and cross-media nature of ARGs is one of my favorite features, but as I was just saying to someone the other day, ARGs aren't for everyone. There are people who got really turned off by the nonlinear plot structures of movies like The Usual Suspects and Memento; those people would probably hate playing an ARG, especially because following the plot of an ARG takes even more active effort than following the plot of a nonlinearly-structured movie.

However, for better or worse, the very nature of ARGs -- that they are usually fairly nonlinear and that the story is told in pieces over multiple media, that players have to seek them out, that they use puzzles and try to be mysterious, that they require players to dig around and research and otherwise put in effort just figuring out what's going on, and all the other features that make them cool -- means that there's a very limited amount of hand-holding that the PMs -- and even, unfortunately, the community -- can do for new players.

That said, I think the payoff is more than worth the effort. Wink

theShaggy wrote:
A friend of mine who has been doing it for a while keeps asking me how I'm enjoying Orbital Colony, and honestly, I can't say that I've even really looked at it. In that case, I haven't even touched it because even though it only just launched, there is two years of something called a "Pre-Game."


A pre-game is basically a way to let players know something is coming, and to start gaining a player base, before the game is actually launched. Generally, I think, it's not necessary to play the pre-game to play and enjoy the game.

ILB, for example, had a sort of pre-game: the countdown on the website to when the payphones started ringing. During this time, some of the backstory was disseminated, but you could jump in after that without having an unmanageable amount of catching up to do.

With Orbital Colony, everyone has known it was coming for two years (did the pre-game actually last that long? I wasn't around...), but since the game only recently officially launched, and when I've checked that forum there seem to be a lot of player-created resources to help people catch up, I wouldn't let that stop you from jumping in.

Everyone learns in different ways, but I've found that personally, it's easier to just jump into a game, get involved in the story, and use the resources people have created to catch up on what's already happened.

And please don't ever be afraid to ask. Most people will be happy to answer your questions and help you catch up. Smile

theShaggy wrote:
My gripe in getting started with the ARGs here is that for a newbie, there is nowhere to go to properly learn about the process of an ARG. Sure, there are resources available on how to decode or desteg or view source or what-have-you, but after three or four months, I still don't exactly know what a pre-game is, or whether it's important to the game itself. I'm still trying to determine what a META discussion is, what a SPEC discussion is, etc.


Well, I agree that Imbri's Guide is an excellent, non-intimidating place to start.

(Imbri, if you're reading this, maybe adding a definition of "pre-game" would help, since pre-games seem to be cropping up more frequently?)

But let me take this chance to just directly explain some of those terms, since we do tend to use them without explanation:

Pre-game -- A pre-game consists of game activities that occur before the "actual" game technically starts. Background information may be disseminated, puzzles may be given out, and it may function as a sort of prologue to the "actual" game. I know that's not a very good definition, but each game that has a pre-game seems to use it a little differently.

META -- (since this one is on Imbri's guide, I'm going to attempt to define it differently rather than just repeat what she said) This is primarily a topic tag for certain types of discussion, and a descriptive label for those discussions themselves.

In the context of a particular game, a meta discussion is one that discusses issues related to the game as a game -- e.g. who is behind it, how does the game structure function, is it appropriate to introduce particular information gained by questionable means, etc. -- rather than information actually used in playing the game itself -- e.g. what one thinks will happen next, what a character said to one, what happened at a live event, etc.

In the context of ARGs in general, a meta discussion is one that explores issues related to game structure, to community behavior, to issues in making or designing games, and so on. Most discussions about ARGs that aren't about a specific game are pretty much automatically meta discussions, if that helps.

SPEC -- SPEC is another topic tag, and an abbreviation of a label for a type of discussion: speculation. Spec is basically just player guesswork that can't be proven yet. Most of the time, spec is about the plot: what will happen next, what a particular character's role will be, etc.

theShaggy wrote:
I might find it much easier to get involved in these things if there was somewhere to go to actually learn about all these standard concepts, about all the process of how ARGs actually take place. I'm sure it's somewhere in the forum, but a newbie won't necessarily think "hey, let's search for a glossary!" There are the 10 Commandments, but even they lack any real description (what, exactly is the "Curtain?"). Poking around the PM forum, there's a whole thing about "the Rules," but what are "the Rules?"


The Rules are the forum's rules for what PMs wanting to run a game here can and can't do. They're pretty brief and simple, and a prominent, visible link to them is displayed in one of the boxes at the top of the forum.

There is also a glossary forum. You don't have to search for it -- all you have to do is scroll down the page on the forum and you'll see it. (Although, admittedly, it doesn't define most basic ARG terms -- you're probably better off with Imbri's guide.)

Like I said, while the community tries to provide as much help as possible to make the initial encounter with the concept of alternative reality gaming as non-intimidating as possible, the very nature of ARGs makes that difficult.

Every ARG is different, so it's very hard to make too many general statements about them. But one of the things ARGs require is that players go looking for things -- additional webpages, clues, solutions to puzzles, etc. ARGs aren't movies -- they don't just unfold in front of their audience without the audience's interaction. To a certain extent, the "story" in an ARG is as much about what the players are doing, and the stories they're telling to each other, as it is about the PM-created content. The players have to help make it happen, and a lot of what they do is investigation. To a certain extent, learning about ARGs in general is the same way. Most of the information is there, but you might have to search for it a little bit.

The difference is, while you can play an ARG passively -- because other people will play it actively even if you don't -- there's no guarantee that you can do the same thing with learning about ARGs. Maybe someone will ask what you've been wondering about in a game forum you're reading, but you can't count on that. If you are passive about it, you're probably going to remain confused. The most important thing -- and I really want to stress this -- is to ask, if you don't know and can't find the answer on your own. As well as being nonlinear and all that, ARGs are also collaborative -- they fulfill their potential best when they get people to work together. Most people around here are happy to answer any questions you have, but you have to ask.

theShaggy wrote:
Anyway, I'm enjoying it, now that I'm slowly getting in to Vaporlofts. I'm learning the tricks of the trade, but if it didn't start up when it did, I would likely not have kept up with it. Last Call Poker hit, but with the huge amount of people throwing stuff out at once, it got a little frightening for a new kid. At least with VL I can sit back and watch it unfold.


Well, I'm glad you've found one you like. Smile But if you have questions about terminology other players in that game are using, please ask them what it means -- I'm sure they'll be happy to define it for you.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:20 pm
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vpisteve
Asshatministrator


Joined: 30 Sep 2002
Posts: 2441
Location: 1987

There's no such thing as "pre-game." You either set the hook effectively, or you don't.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 4:43 pm
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Phaedra
Lurker v2.0


Joined: 21 Sep 2004
Posts: 4033
Location: Here, obviously

vpisteve wrote:
There's no such thing as "pre-game." You either set the hook effectively, or you don't.


Erm, then why is there an entire pre-game forum for Perplex City? Smile

I'm not saying I like pre-games or anything, but they do appear to be out there...
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 5:10 pm
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RungeKutta
Veteran


Joined: 01 Aug 2004
Posts: 120
Location: Frostbite Falls, MN

I don't know if anyone thinks this is a great idea, or would even want to do it., but who cares.

How about setting up an ARGBuddy / ARGMentor thing. Where if some new person is lost and wants to try to understand things, they could have someone that would answer any questions for them. What do you think?

PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 5:32 pm
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krystyn
I Never Tire of My Own Voice


Joined: 26 Sep 2002
Posts: 3649
Location: Is not Chicago

I'd say the #1 rule for newbies is: don't be afraid to make mistakes.

People will tell how How Things Are and How Things Are Supposed to Go, but:

if ARGs are alternate realities

held together by the sinewy and sometimes ethereal-looking net of a 'Game,'

... then you will find that much like Life, ARGs generally work a bit better when you're not forcing them to fit your pre-conceived notions.

Basically, use common sense, retain your sense of wonder, and for goodness' sake, respect the real-life laws of your own country and/or the country hosting the ARG.

All the rest is rabbit holes and narratives on crack. Mmmmmm!

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:08 pm
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theShaggy
Unfettered

Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 417
Location: Toronto, Ontario

Thanks, everyone, your response rocks Smile Everyone here is so damn nice! I was so scared the first time I tried to contribute to VL, but there's nothing to worry about!

RungeKutta wrote:
I don't know if anyone thinks this is a great idea, or would even want to do it., but who cares.

How about setting up an ARGBuddy / ARGMentor thing. Where if some new person is lost and wants to try to understand things, they could have someone that would answer any questions for them. What do you think?


I think that's a great idea, though it might be hard to implement. I, personally, still feel that a well organized and visible FAQ-type document does wonders at alleiving the fear a newbie might have.

And reading Imbri's guide: fabulous. That's exactly what I would be looking for as a newbie (and was, as a matter of fact Razz). This should be linked at the top of the forum, if I may make a suggestion Smile I don't think I had seen it earlier (some parts ring familiar, but some parts don't), and I really could have used that when I first got here.

Just for the record: I love the complexity of the ARG, but that's also the scariest part. I've tried to read the guide to the Beast, but the massive amount of information to go through is simply daunting. At the same time, I like that they often need a different type of thinking for different puzzles, so that even a cryptographically-deficient guy like myself can still solve puzzles or come up with a necessary connection to help solve something.

Also, it helps that you're able to be passive with it. I remember reading about Majestic a couple of years ago and thinking "That's a GREAT idea!" but likely would have felt ripped off because of the time required. But with many of the ARGs here, there's no pressure to even sign up, let alone contribute.

Man, I ramble.

Smile
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:36 pm
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Varin
I Have No Life


Joined: 02 Dec 2002
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Location: South of where I used to be

theShaggy wrote:

And reading Imbri's guide: fabulous. That's exactly what I would be looking for as a newbie (and was, as a matter of fact Razz). This should be linked at the top of the forum, if I may make a suggestion Smile


Actually, it already is! If you look in the Announcement box on the upper right, there are a few messages that are rotated and one of them is a link to imbri's guide.

Well ok, so like every fourth time you visit it's linked at the top of the forum Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:10 pm
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theShaggy
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Joined: 17 Sep 2005
Posts: 417
Location: Toronto, Ontario

Ahhh, good call.

In fact, it just rotated there now!
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:30 pm
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Glecius
Decorated

Joined: 23 Nov 2005
Posts: 193
Location: The corner of HUH? and WTF?

I also forgot to mention the Welcome message in the top left. It has a link for posting guidelines, as well as Imbri's guide. I'm fairly new myself still, no matter what the "title" under my name says. I basically just read anything I could sink my teeth in, asked questions about things I was unsure of, got trouted, scratched my head, and went to find more to read. I havent found any player, Mod, or Admin that wasnt willing to help if I've had a question or 100, right Phaedra? Cool (only b/c I bug her with all my questions if she is on b/c she truly does have a LOT of patience)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:41 pm
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Phaedra
Lurker v2.0


Joined: 21 Sep 2004
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Glecius wrote:
I havent found any player, Mod, or Admin that wasnt willing to help if I've had a question or 100, right Phaedra? Cool (only b/c I bug her with all my questions if she is on b/c she truly does have a LOT of patience)


Embarassed

Just trying to pass on the help I got when I was new. Smile
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 12:10 am
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