Alternate Reality Games on Campus

In Spring 2010, UNC-Chapel Hill conducted its first alternate reality game designed to help undergraduates learn how to communicate better in relationships. This presentation will describe the planning process and results of the game.

Alternate reality games (ARGs) are games that merge the real world with the online world. Players may seek clues in blogs or other Web sites while finding other clues in libraries, bakeries, or under park benches. Storyline, collaboration, and solving puzzles to find clues are important aspects of ARG play.

In Spring 2010, UNC-Chapel Hill conducted its first ARG, “Should Brandon and Nicole Get Engaged (ShBANGE).” It was designed to help undergraduates learn how to communicate better in relationships, a topic that was chosen in conjunction with representatives from the Office of the Dean of Students and the Campus Y (a service-oriented organization primarily for undergraduates). Both groups were interested in supplementing their didactic education efforts with more engaging and immersive efforts.

In ShBANGE, action began when Brandon proposed marriage to Nicole in the Pit. (Brandon and Nicole were played by actors.) Game confederates handed out custom-made fortune cookies with URLs to observers after the proposal. In game parlance, this was the primary “rabbit hole” into the game. Players accessed the Web sites to find story background and to begin a network of puzzles and clues.

This presentation from project team members will describe the planning process to create the game and the results of the game. A discussion of how ARGs might be used on our campuses in the teaching and learning mission will be included.

Libby Evans UNC-Chapel Hill
Chad Haefele – UNC-Chapel Hill
Laura Christopherson – UNC-Chapel Hill

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