Game Development Reference
this complete, real email and maybe you'd better find out what, because the most
important bits may have been hidden. This is not a game.
In theory, this also means copyright notices should be attributed to fictional char-
acters, no one involved in the making of the game should ever acknowledge their part
in it, and no one should ever have to say, “Hey, come play my ARG!”
In practice, the TINAG principle needs to be modified a bit. It's not a good idea
to attribute copyright to people who don't exist. It's not a good idea to lie to the
police or your employer. It's not a good idea to keep all your hard work a secret.
In fact, presenting people with an elegant “rabbit hole” (`ala Alice in Wonderland )is
one of the biggest challenges in the evolution of ARGs today. But that's a marketing
problem, and this chapter is focused on the writing problems. So let's look at what
TINAG means for writers.
You're not writing help text and barks. Working as a writer in other game
genres may mean you spend all day writing explanations for navigating the
on-screen interface, or finding ten different ways of saying, “I've been hit!”
When working on ARGs, you spend all day writing emails in the voice of a
fictional character, or writing newspaper articles about events that never really
happened, or making a corporate website for a company that only exists in
your head. It's not just a tweak on writing for other game genres; you have to
draw on an additional bag of tricks to get your work done. Which brings me
to my next point.
You are writing in established forms. While other game writers complain
about having to reinvent their craft every time the designers come up with a
new dialogue system, ARG writers can go buy a book about how to write a
good business memo. They can take a class on how to write in newspaper style.
They can convince a 13-year-old girl to let them read her diary, so they can
see how it's done. ARG writers are usually using well-known styles of writing
to build puzzle pieces.
You have to include clues in otherwise straight forms. TINAG means
you can't put your clues on the face of a deck of cards marked “Clue!” and
breadcrumbs for players can't be enumerated in a quest log. They have to be
worked subtly into blog posts and banner ads. If you're ham-handed about
presenting clues to players, they'll doubt that your overarching story is well
thought out and ultimately fun. This is a craft requiring clever writing and
the ability to immerse yourself inside your character's minds while holding on
to the larger plot points.
You have to write in exploratory ways, not just expository ways. Resist
the urge to force-feed the players! Don't give them everything on a silver
platter. Make them work for their rewards. If you don't give them anything to
do other than read, you're not writing a game of any kind, let alone an ARG.