The Downside to the ARG

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) have become quite popular as promotional tools, especially in the wake of the success of I Love Bees (the Halo 2 release ARG). However, there’s a flip side to the ARG concept.

The unfortunate truth is that even in the most carefully choreographed ARG, the players can end up harassing people who aren’t affiliated with the game.

Case in point: The Halo 3 ARG (starring “Adjutant Reflex“) yesterday resulted in hundreds of calls to Michael VanderZand. I suppose it was lucky that he’s a fan of the Halo games and Red vs. Blue.

In any case, while the annoyance may only be temporary (a few days, maybe weeks), there isn’t much of a recourse for the victim. And more than likely, the cost of forcing any such payment (for time lost, annoyance, cellular phone bills, etc.) would likely exceed the amount to be recovered.

Just as a common courtesy, I really think the people who run the ARG, be that the game company or a private ARG production firm, should build in a cost to compensate people who do get temporarily steamrolled by the flood of ARG players (who, I must admit, are really into these games, and I think their dedication is quite remarkable). For example, I think it would be appropriate for the powers that be to offer to pay for the lost cell phone minutes (and/or for overages on that bill) and maybe offer a free copy of Halo 3, since Mr. VanderZand is a fan, and really took this pretty well.

It’s really not asking for a lot, just a little responsibility for the ARG, since it does have an effect in the real world. I don’t know for certain if this hasn’t already happened (and it very well might have), but these type of situations are something to think about in planning an ARG marketing event.

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About Mark Methenitis

Mark Methenitis is an attorney in Dallas Texas. Mark received his Juris Doctorate and his Master of Business Administration from Texas Tech University and his Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas.

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