The educational value of ARGs
Alternate reality games offer several educational advantages related to Web literacy and gaming. The collaborative nature of gameplay encourages teamwork and interpersonal skills, both for face-to-face and distance groups. ARGs teach a strong skepticism of digital information, based on the foundations of gameplay in puzzles and close examination of courses. The complexity and diversity of ARG content appeals to diverse learners, learning styles, and literacies. ARGs also offer a fascinating subject for study in any number of settings and disciplines, including identity, community, peer support/mentoring and cognitive studies.
ARGs are also useful in training and corporate environments, where they are able to generate knowledge, experience and reflection through lifelike events and environments.
Who is this page for?
Anyone who is involved in teaching, training, learning or research, and is interested in the rich affordances ARGs have to offer in these areas. You may, or may not be, one of the following:
- An educator, involved in teaching and learning;
- A researcher, looking for a rich source of social/communal/problem-solving data in public/commercial and educational settings;
- A corporate or staff trainer, looking for innovative ways to deliver engaging training;
- A potential student, looking to study ARGs at college;
- Already involved in ARG research/teaching/learning, and looking for contacts and case studies in the field.
The field is relatively young, and very few peer-reviewed publications currently exist (although details of the growing number will appear in the Research Archive,coming soon). However, the following links and publications are recommended starting points for studying ARGs in an educational context.
- IGDA (2006), Alternate Reality Games Special Interest Group Whitepaper: ARGs and Academia. Available Online.
An exhaustive (albeit now slightly out of date) summary of educational activity surrounding ARGs.
- McGonigal, Jane (2008), “Why I Love Bees: A Case Study in Collective Intelligence Gaming” in The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games and Learning. ed. Katie Salen. Massechusetts: MIT Press, pp199-228.
Jane McGonigal was one of the first academics to play and publish scholarly work on ARGs; this paper discusses collective intelligence in one of the first ARGs, I Love Bees. The containing publication is also of general interest for the use of games in education.
- JISC (2007), Game-Based Learning. JISC Briefing Papers. JISC, 2007. Summary online.
An overview of the use of games within higher education contexts, from the UK strategy and grant-awarding body.
- An overview of ARGs in Education in the UK appears in Viewfinder magazine no 75 (May 2009). Details online.
- Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture. NYU Press, 2006.
Several discussions of ARGs in the context of “transmedia storytelling.”
The following projects are those currently known to be active. If you have details of any other research projects or case studies, please add a comment to this page and we’ll add it to the list.
- Routes game, Channel 4
- Blood on the Stacks (Coates Library, Trinity University, Texas)
- Havet Research (Worcester Polytech)
- Help Me Solve A Mystery (library world, no source)
- ARGOSI: Alternative Reality Games in Student Inductions (Manchester Metropolitan University)
- The Great History Conundrum (University of Leicester)
Archived, finished projects:
- the.door (CECS 1100, University of North Texas; 2007)
- Missed Steaks (corporate communication training, Brooke H. Thompson)
- World Without Oil, Institute for the Future and Independent Television Service – Re-playable, Includes Lesson Plans for Teachers
- Let’s Change the Game (in aid of Cancer Research UK ) : also see related conference
A full list of research and conference papers, case studies etc. will appear in the forthcoming Research Archive.
The following staff and students are currently known to be working in the field of ARG education/research. Please check their published work/websites (where given) before contacting them directly.
- Bryan Alexander, NITLE
- Christy Dena
- Henry Jenkins, MIT
- Steve E. Jones, Loyola University Chicago
- Andrew Losowsky
- Jane McGonigal, Institute for the Future
- Ann Morrison
- Alex Moseley, University of Leicester
- Eva Nieuwdorp, Utrecht University, The Netherlands,
- Jeremy Reynolds
- Aaron Smith, PhD student, Middlebury College
- Nicola Whitton, Manchester Metropolitan University
The following courses contain some ARG elements within them (details below where known). Contact the college or individual listed for further information about enrollment, fees, content etc.
Forthcoming Events (Conferences, seminars etc.)
- to follow
- ARGuing is a Comenius project funded within the European Union Lifelong Learning programme for the promotion of language learning for secondary school students (ages 13 to16). The project has created a special collaborative, multilingual Alternate Reality Game, that has been piloted in 3 schools across Europe, extremely successfully. We are now looking for further secondary schools that would like to participate in the final piloting of the project. Every participating teacher and school will receive official certificates of participation from the project. You can read much more about the project on our website at: http://www.arg-education.eu
Related Research Areas
Research into ARGs overlaps with two other relatively recent additions to the educational research arena. Issues of community, problem solving and gameplay are being explored in relation to Massive Multiplayer Online RolePlaying Games (MMORPGs), with several studies based around games such as World of Warcraft. Issues of identity and pedagogy are driving forces behind Higher Education’s current fascination with Second Life and similar virtual worlds. Initial research, and several case studies of adopted use in educational contexts, are developing in the area of pervasive games and augmented reality games.
- MMORPGs: For psychology studies, see The Daedelus Project, by Nick Yee; for identity, see a recent Innovate article by Joey Lee & Christopher Hoadley.
- Second Life: See details of the JISC/Eduserv Second Life in Education meeting in 2007; also MOOSE and SEAL projects at the University of Leicester.
Page authored/collated by: Alex Moseley, Bryan Alexander and J. James Bono.
This is v0.8 – information will be fleshed out in the coming weeks. If you have any additions (courses or new research to announce, conference details etc.), please send them to Alex Moseley.