Beyond Viral Marketing – Engagement, Narrative, & Passion

futurelab placeholder website

by: Karl Long

So what does the Blair Witch Project, Lost, and Lonelygirl15 have in common? Well on the surface they had what we might call “viral” components, lots of buzz, lots of WOM (Word Of Mouth); all things that marketers are frantically “adding to the plan”.

But each of these phenomena were driven by narrative, mystery, and discovery; they were/are puzzles that engage the audience (and I use audience in the loosest possible way), they make the audience participants. Part story, part treasure hunt, there is nothing passive about it for those that opt to engage, but of course there is an audience as well, one that sits back on the couch and watches it unfold, and their experience is surely richer for all the fanatics involved as well. Surely it is no coincidence that the word “fan” is derived from fanatic.

Well, the recent unprecidented interest in Lonelygirl15 (which I might add since I misspelled it lonleygirl15 has generated twice the normal traffic here), has introduced me to a concept called Alternate Reality Gaming, which is very much beyond viral. As i’m only just introduced to the subject, I thought I’d share a few sites about it:

First off, the grandaddy site the ARGN (alternate reality gameing network), a collection of sites dedicated to the topic.

The network sites include: is a comprehensive resource for those interested in Alternate Reality Gaming, both from the players’ perspective and from that of the puppetmasters.

Cloudmakers was founded as a discussion group for the interactive web game centered around the film A.I., which was officially solved on July 24, 2001. Though the original game, The Beast, has ended, Cloudmakers now serves as a clearinghouse for online gaming. The latest news on Alternate Reality Gaming and unique features for both players and Game Designers. Also, look for reports on cross-genre projects spanning traditional media and the gaming community.

Smirkbox is a great ARG humor site dedicated to looking at this whole Alternate Reality Gaming thing from a, well, different perspective. Plus, it usually reminds us not take ourselves too seriously. keeps us up to date on ARGs and computer games in general, with news, reviews and commentary.

Metaurchins is the home of the Metaurchins Book Project, an online narrative chronicling the Project MU (Metacortechs) game. If you’re new to Alternate Reality Gaming, make sure to stop by to get a hint of what you’re in for.

Somewhat tangentially related is a 24 – 48 hour treasurehunt in the bay area called simply “the game”

I’m fascinated in these rich games that are essentially enabled through technology, and social media, absolutely fascinating. In many ways it is an example of what Chris Anderson talks about in the Long Tail, we’re not as mainstream as we think.

And lost fans, check out the Generally Speaking Lost Podcast, each show dissected weekly.

Original Post: