As announced at ARGFest 2010, several ARG personalities announced the formation of the Transmedia Artists Guild, a nonprofit professional association for transmedia artists. Earlier this week Andrea Philips delved into the TAG in more detail. Keep up with them at the Transmedia Artists Guild website, or on Twitter as @transmediaguild.
First, Argology has been updated to WordPress 3.0. Second, the ARG Developers page has been updated with a number of new listings. If there are any problems with your listing, let me know.
So, are we all ready for ARGFest?
The pencils are down, the data is tabulated, and now, I’m delighted to bring you the complete 2010 IGDA ARG SIG survey results. The slides are embedded below, with analysis of a few highlights following.
The survey was split into two basic sections. The first was demographic information for players and developers, and the second was a survey of salary and other work conditions for professional ARG developers. A lot of the results confirmed what we already knew or suspected, but we found some were pretty big surprises, as well.
The demographic data was a little surprising, and not in a good way. For players and developers alike, women only make up about a third of the population. It’s better than the representation found in traditional game development, but not as close to gender equity as our industry reputation might indicate. Likewise, the ethnic diversity found by the survey wasn’t what I had expected, and I’m personally very disappointed by this. I’d love it if we, as a community, could brainstorm some ways to welcome a more diverse base of players and developers into our fold.
The professional information confirmed what I’ve long suspected already. The majority of work in our field is done by freelancers working for a flat per-project rate, and the rates themselves are across the board. We come from several different disciplines, with half our respondents coming from a background in games or new media. There are also very few people earning their sole income this way — but there are definitely some. And probably because so much of the work is done on a freelance basis — or possibly an unusually biased sample — a full 60% of our respondents said they own their own studio, agency, or other legal business entity.
The actual work is, as one might suspect, highly varied — over half our respondents said they’d participated in game and narrative design, writing, consulting, and production or project management. The one thing the fewest of us do is acting, and a third of us have done that, too.
I’ve also put the original Excel document on SlideShare, if you’re interested. I’ve edited the document from the original in two ways; I’ve removed timestamps on some replies in order to prevent any privacy issues via cross-tabulation; and I removed the many, many countries with zero responses to make the data easier to understand.
Thanks to all of you who participated. Let’s do it again next year!
We are delighted to announce that the IGDA ARG SIG is conducting our first-ever demographic survey! We also have an added treat for those of us involved in ARG production — a short salary survey. When the survey is concluded, we’ll release the results in aggregate so everybody can poke at the data for themselves.
Of course, the more people take the survey, the better the results will be, so please take the survey now, and tell other ARG players and developers about it, too. It should only take a few minutes and the results should be interesting all around. The survey will close to responses on March 11, 2010.
Thanks for your cooperation!
ARGfest 2009 came and went the weekend of July 17-19 in Portland, Oregon. Many prominent players and practitioners were there, and many a deep thought was thunk by those in attendance. Mike Monello of Campfire Media captured a pencast of the panels, though a full DVD should be available soon, as well — keep checking the ARGfest-o-con website for more information on how to buy one for yourself. Meanwhile, Ralph Loizzo has written a lovely summary of the messages he took away from ARGfest this year:
Congratulations to all the attendees of the 2009 argfestocon in Portland Oregon. After much debating and sharing, the writers, web designers, artists, academics, film producers, directors, puppet-masters, and players have created a 26 bullet point list that clearly defines the ARG genre as a whole.
Beginning Monday, July 20th, 2009, all ARG designers must adhere to the aforementioned bullet-point list before “going live” with their work. All present ARGs are excluded from the bulleted list adherence requirement, except unless “beginning a new chapter”. In such case, the new work will be required to comply.
Read the rest at Friartech — it’s definitely worth the click.
Recently on the IGDA ARG SIG list, the inestimable Brian Clark of GMD Studios offered some wisdom on pitching an ARG or similar campaign to a client. The conversation revolved around the reluctance of agencies and clients to innovate in South America, but the information applies anywhere in the world. Following is what he had to say:
To be fair, what you describe is the same here in the US market (but I don’t think it is innovation they fear, it is perceived riskiness.) Over the years, I’ve found a few techniques that can be helpful in making that case.
1. Lead with measurement. An ARG (or other innovation) shouldn’t be something that’s unmeasureable, or means buying into some alternate metrics schema. Find out what bell the client wants to ring (perception, awareness, sales, etc.) and show how you’ll show them you’re ringing that bell.
2. No ARG is an island. No one should be pitching to an agency doing an ARG instead of an advertising campaign: focus on how the ARG element of a campaign to help every other channel produce more results. After all, that media spend is where you’re going to build your audience.
3. Explain away the chaos. Help an agency understand that they’ll be able to manage you managing the chaos, show them the kinds of documents you’ll use to do that.
4. Evangelize the power of iteration. Help an agency understand that unlike traditional campaigns, those metrics and processes will allow you to improve the chances of success from direct audience feedback.
None of those things necessarily solve all the problems for every agency and client and market, but if I go in anticipating those kinds of concerns I find I can derail a lot of the more common fear-based objections. And, to be honest, that advice is more general than ARGs (as similar rules work for other places where you’re helping an agency innovate outside of their core practice.)
Joel Josephson, executive director of the educational website Kindersite, writes:
We recently completed the final pilot of the European Union funded education project ARGuing for Multilingual Motivation in Web 2.0.. This project has built an ARG to promote language learning in secondary school students called ‘The Tower of Babel’…We will be presenting academic papers on the project at the forthcoming European Association for Games in Education conference in October, Graz, Austria and will be placing documentation on the project website as well.
Check out the ARGuing summary video if you’re interested in ARGs in education, or ARGs in Europe, or ARGs in general!
Future-Making Serious Games has more ARGuing coverage.
One of the main features of ARGs, as anyone interested in them will tell you, is that they deal with “collective intelligence” (or, as JC Hutchins puts it, “bunches of brains”). The idea is to get lots of people together, thinking about the content and contributing their ideas. Very often the players create a place for those ideas to be recorded. You could just use the Unfiction Forums, of course, but it may be nice to have your own place.
Aside from organizing information about an ongoing game, these websites also serve as archives when the games are finished. The experience, the process of playing the game is often captured. In fact, there are also sites dedicated to archiving information about ARGs past (although, curiously, none of them ever seemed to get past the planning stage).
Here are some sites organizing information about ongoing and, possibly, past games:
A couple intended as “ARG archives”:
Media studies patriarch Henry Jenkins recently interviewd David Edery and Ethan Mollick, authors of the newly released Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business.
Part 2 is particularly interesting (for us) for its mention of ARGs, including the question “As you note, there is now a rush towards corporate sponsorship of Alternate Reality Games. What factors should a company consider before entering this space?”. There’s some weighing in by Jordan Weisman, and later on in the interview is a mention of Superstruct. So, check out the interview and see if you’re interested in the book!
The inimitable Adrian Hon recently announced the world’s first conference on ARGs in Charity and Education, to be Friday 5th December, in London. From the website:
keep looking »
With sessions and panels by leading ARG designers, academics and educators in the field, this conference is an exceptional introduction to ‘serious ARGs’. For developers and commissioners of ARGs, it’s a great chance to learn about recent games and developments in the UK and around the world, and to network with key players.