Game Development Reference
writer is having fun with the game, the game is more fun. So, how do you keep your
ARG from killing you? These things work for me:
Make sure you're comfortable with the scope and reach of your ma-
terial. If the plan calls for writing a ton of fake press releases, and you just
hate writing press releases (like I do), reach out and get some help from some-
one who is more comfortable in that medium. Every writer has strengths and
weaknesses. If you're aware of your own weaknesses and can set yourself up for
playing to your strengths, you'll have a lot more fun and produce better work.
Don't be afraid to admit that you're just not that great at writing X kind of
material. Also be aware that creating an entirely alternate reality can require
the generation of a great deal of content, and there's never enough time. If you
don't confine the scope of the project, you'll be bled dry before it's half over.
Make a point of figuring out what content is really important and focus on
the essentials for the game to be fun. Sure it would be nice to have a blog for
the nephew mentioned in the main character's emails, but if he's not going to
play an important part in the plot and gameplay, just say no—and consider
cutting the mention of him in the emails, as extraneous details can kill you
when players are combing your materials for clues.
Give an in-character reason when you need to take a break. Remember,
TINAG. An ARG schedule can be grueling, and if you need to take a break
to maintain your sanity or get a root canal, build in a reasonable reason for
the writing to go on hold for a while. Don't cop out and just say, “We're
pausing the game for two weeks.” Make your main character's in-laws show
up for an unannounced visit. Break his CB radio. Make the time machine
malfunction and send him to an ice age for a week. The players will appreciate
the maintenance of the alternate reality and be more forgiving when you return
refreshed and ready to have fun again.
Get another set of eyes on your work when possible. It can be very lonely
to be writing these materials for a wacky, twisted world. Have your teammates
read over your work whenever possible. Get feedback. Make sure you have
someone on the team who will shout down your internal critic and keep you
Don't neglect your timeline and organizational materials. Once the
doors open and the players come in, things can get hectic pretty fast. The
big spreadsheet on the wall can quickly get out of date, and all that careful
preparation can get jumbled. Build time into your daily schedule to organize
yourself and update your big-picture plan. It will help you remember that
you're the one creating this alternate reality, you're not just its slave.
Enjoy the ride! You'll hear novelists talk about how their characters take over
and drive the story places they never imagined when they sat down to write