Jumping through the Layers: Alternate Reality Games and Literature
Danielle Barrios-O'Neill (University of Ulster) & Alan Hook (University of Ulster).
In Using Games to Enhance Learning and Teaching: A Beginner’s Guide (2012). Eds. Nicola Whitton & Alex Moseley. London: Routledge.
"Imagine this: Tomorrow morning, you check your email as you always do, and you see you‘ve received a puzzling message from an unfamiliar sender. The email, when you open it, tells you the beginning of a story in which a shy student named Ana, (searching for a book on the Pleiades star cluster at the university library in Belfast), happened to stumble upon a different book instead. Ana flipped through the pages of this book, entitled The Star Factory. It appeared to have been recently altered with strange diagrams and messages in code. Curious, Ana opened it to the back. She found, handwritten on the final page of the book, addressed to her, a note:
... and the mystery of [in]visible belfast begins."
This chapter examines the use of alternate reality games, or ARGs, as an innovative method of engaging students with literature.
The authors, who designed and produced an ARG based on the work of Ciaran Carson in Belfast in 2011, provide insight into the planning process, necessary elements and potential pitfalls of using ARGs in the humanities classroom.
Walking through the design and production process, they raise issues both practical, such as tactics for managing information streams, and theoretical, like the justifications for using non-linear interactivity to interrogate modern literature.
As a how-to article for educators, there are no conclusions as such, but rather simple encouragement to experiment with non-linear gaming as mode of opening the artwork onto the real space of the city, classroom, and world.