Joined: 27 Jul 2004
Location: The People's Republic of Dork
I know this is a much older topic, but I thought I'd throw out an idea and give it a bump cuz I love these philosophical discussions about the genre...
WARNING: REALLY FREAKING LONG!
I'm thinking about the branding of the ARG itself, to promote the game. This is tied into the idea of the poll for "how would you want to find out about an ARG" stuff, as well as the newer idea of having "trailers" for the upcoming ARGs... I mean, it's breaking the TINAG barrier (which is not good or bad, IMHO), but it's also an important way to "get the word out..."
For example, if the ilovebees (public) rabbithole didn't happen through a nationwide theatrical trailer (of a highly anticipated console game) before a summer blockbuster film, and got /. and PA reviewing, would we even be able to imagine answering the axons? The design of this game apparently required nationwide, massive numbers of players, only available when the "word is out."
So in this case, when the trailhead is the only branding experience, what does that lend to a game experience? Beyond that, what if the branding continues throughout the game? (Again, only for the actual ARG, not the "product" if it's a glorified commercial) Meaning, what is the effect of branding of an ARG?
For example, we do this very lightly when we name a game. We give it a name so we can talk about it to friends, or those others interested in the genre. We promote the ARG through low-level branding. How many people can you talk to about ilovebees, urban hunt, or project syzygy? I mean, these things are necessary for basic communication, but also to market a game (even if not intentionally...)
Finally, my editorial in all of this, is that I DON'T think that branding of the ARG itself is a bad thing, and I DON'T think that branding it makes the curtain appear too closely to play immersively. I loved the Orbital Colony trailer, and I can't wait to take a look when it gets rolling. Now, I know that's a unique circumstance, but still, will it take me out of the game, knowing that little bit of info in the trailer? NO WAY! I'm psyched, and I would be regardless.
Also, in terms of out of game branding, such as identifying Microsoft, Bungie or even the Hive with ilovebees, for instance...
I find no problems with that, as long as it's part of the picture or the game. With ilovebees, yeah, we're dealing with massive interrelated branding, but at the same time, that's ok, since it's working with the context of the game. (I mean, Halo and Bungie and MS are part of the game, or the design, and I don't think that's detracted.) My only caveat with branding is that we should avoid getting sucked into the idea that it's ok to market as long as it's in ARG format. I mean, would you want to go through all of UH and find out that it was just for T-Mobile? I mean, yeah, you may get a little more respect for T-Mobile, but beyond that, it WOULD detract from the game for me. It has to be very specifically marketed and have a demographic that makes sense for the type of ARG and "world" created for that game, otherwise it stinks, just like a bad plotline would stink for an ARG without branding...
Ok, well, if you got through that rant-fest, I commend you... but that's my entire thoughts on the branding argument. Hope it enriched someone!