471: Alternate Reality

A Thousand Things to Talk About
471: Alternate Reality

Have you ever participated in an alternate reality game?

Full episode script

Alternate reality games are a fairly new form of entertainment, all things considered. 1996 saw the introduction of both a commercial ARG intended to promote a video game, and a non-commercial game tied in with the San Francisco Chronicle.Then, In 1998, a British TV show called The One Game played with the idea of creating a game that intertwines with “real” life, blurring the boundary between the two.


From there, those games grew into a plethora of intense, built environments that vary from political statements such as 2007’s World Without Oil to mysterious, conspiracy magnet games like Cicada 3301. All of these games take an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and in many cases, resources to set up and run. Usually there’s so-called puppet masters that control the game and continue to lay out clues or next steps for those that choose to play in to the game.  


Some alternate reality games are clear about what they are, others straddle the line between conspiracy theory and game. Often, there’s some kind of purpose behind the game — advertising something, making a political point, or — some theorize — recruiting tools for spy agencies. However, they’re not really always clear about the reason for throwing all of the resources towards the game.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.