A genre of online game where a fictional storyline is written and presented as if it were a legitimate construct within our own world, as opposed to existing only in reality of the story.

Such games vary widely in scope. Some have few game-like elements, and most are limited to the Web. However, a few have incorporated puzzles and challenges, and even non-web elements.

The key feature of an Alternate Reality Game is that it does not present itself as a game per-se: it gives the outward appearance of being a real-life adventurous situation, just something the player has stumbled upon. However, an ARG is distinctly a game. The games consist -- for the most part -- in tracking down clues scattered across the real and virtual world and assembling them to solve a mystery.

The widely accepted "first" ARG was ''The Beast'', designed as a promotion for the movie ''Film/AIArtificialIntelligence''. While ostensibly a web-game, it also included fax and telephone numbers the players could call, print advertisements, and even several real-world rallies. ''The Beast'' was solved by a group of puzzle-solvers collectively known as "The Cloudmakers". ''The Beast'' was [[FanNickname named such by the players]], as it was [[NintendoHard difficult]]. Or because it had 666 files in it (the "NumberOfTheBeast"), depending on who you ask.

This can often be, but is not always, a form of ViralMarketing, although not all ViralMarketing includes a game aspect.

!!Real Life Examples:

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Famous fanmade example: ''Luminaria'' for ''Anime/FutariWaPrettyCure''.

* The aforementioned "Beast", made to market the movie ''Film/AIArtificialIntelligence''.
* In 2011, the "social media film" [[http://theinsideexperience.com/#/ Inside]] (also known as The Inside Experience) premiered as a series of short clips released onto Website/YouTube telling the story of a girl named Christina, who was trapped against her will in a room with a [[ProductPlacement laptop]] that she used to contact the outside world. Viewers were encouraged to find clues within the videos and these clues led to several hidden [=URL=]s with even more clues, including area codes, [[http://www.332811.com/13898350428 maps]], and even a [[http://www.janriskibrothersplumbing.com/ phone number]] that could be called to hear another hidden code. Viewers could post their findings on the [[http://www.facebook.com/TheInsideExperience movie's facebook page]] and communicate with the characters. Viewers that found codes and clues were even allowed cameos in the film, often as sympathetic facebook users working to track down the kidnapper and free Christina. A quick summary of the film, the codes found within it, how they were cracked, and a list of the hidden [=URL=]s and links can be found on [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inside_(2011_film) The Other Wiki.]]
* The ''Film/{{Transformers}}'' movie. [[http://www.sectorseven.org/ Sector 7]]. ''[[http://www.tfwiki.info/wiki/Sector_Seven_%28game%29 Don't tell anyone!]]''
* The [[MegaCorp Buy n Large]] website, released by Pixar in the months leading up to the release of ''WesternAnimation/WallE'', was part this and part ViralMarketing. Although it didn't have the Game aspect, it was very heavy on the Alternate Reality aspect.
* ''[[http://www.markwell.us/projectape.htm Project A.P.E.]]'' was an ARG promoting the 2001 ''Franchise/PlanetOfTheApes'' movie. The game combined a web-based sub-plot with UsefulNotes/{{geocaching}}. The clues included coordinates that led to twelve caches hidden around the world that contained authentic movie props for the first to find them. The Project A.P.E. caches remained available to find after the ARG concluded, though ten years later they have all been stolen except for one in São Paulo state, Brazil.
* ''ARG/{{Metacortechs}}'', a fan-game set in ''Film/TheMatrix'', centering around a woman who worked at the same company Thomas Anderson did, a group of hackers [[TalkingThroughTechnique communicating via cheesy desktop backgrounds]], a NewAgeRetroHippie ConArtist obsessed with dolphins, [[LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters a crooked boss, a strange AI construct...]] It was released around the time of ''Reloaded'', prompting some cries of ViralMarketing, but was in fact a FanWork.
* ''Film/TheDarkKnight'' had a rather epic one, that went on for months, both on and offline.
* The 2009 ''Film/StarTrek'' film had one at various Web sites, such as [[http://www.ncc-1701.com/ here]], as well as real-life locations.
* ''Film/{{Cloverfield}}'', come on. It all started with the short teaser trailer preceding Transformers (2008), scaring audiences with a huge roar and the head of the Statue of Liberty. Even news channels ran stories about the mysterious advert, with only information being the release date as 1-18-08, and that J.J. Abrams was producing it. Later, the 1-18-08 site was updated with photos, some of which had messages written on the back. Then www.cloverfield.com with a text message number on it. And the whole slusho site, featuring cartoon characters with thought bubbles to completely random things (a fish dreaming of a hammer, etc.). Tagruato sites were put up, its backstory being a drilling company that provided the secret ingredient to Slusho!. Parallel to it was [=TidoWave=].com, an ecoterrorist group opposed to Tagruato. The ARG contributed to the experience as much as actually watching the film would.

* The novel ''Cathy's Book'' has some elements of an ARG -- it comes with a packet of "evidence", including phone numbers that can be called and Web sites that can be visited, which in conjunction with information from the book itself allow the readers to solve its central mystery.
* ''Literature/JohnDiesAtTheEnd'' has an ARG website investigating into the rumors about the book. It's found at http://www.johndiesattheend.com/

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* A precursor to full-blown [=ARGs=], ''Series/HomicideLifeOnTheStreet'' spawned a short-lived web-sister, ''Homicide: Second Shift'', several of whose characters made guest appearances on the TV program. The second shift commander even became a regular character for one season.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' was accompanied by a number of Alternate Reality Web sites during the Creator/RussellTDavies era. This got very elaborate for Series Two, with multiple connections between the sites, before being abandoned in Series Three (there were a couple of sites, but no related game). Subsequently, ''Series/TorchwoodMiracleDay'' had such a game.
* ''Series/{{Lost}}'', ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' and ''Series/TheFortyFourHundred'' make extensive use of this technique. ''Lost'' even went so far as to release a novel supposedly written by one of the passengers on Flight 815.
* An ARG was the reason that some of the letters are color-reversed when location names were shown on ''Series/{{Alias}}''.
* Creator/TheBBC's ''Jamie Kane'', in which the player investigates the death of a fictional pop star.
* [[http://whathappenedinpiedmont.com/ What Happened in Piedmont]] was an ARG for the Sci Fi Channel miniseries adaptation of "The Andromeda Strain."
* Blood Copy, the ARG that ran before HBO released ''TrueBlood''. Started great and then... things quickly declined when it was discovered what the game was for.
* ''Series/NUMB3RS'' had an episode revolving around [=ARGs=], in which a group of competitors were intimidating/killing other players. This episode actually spun off its own ARG, ''[[http://www.chainfactor.com Chain Factor]]'', in which the episode's villain made his own ARG disguised as an addictive, mass-participatory Flash game (codes could be found online and in the real world which could be entered in to unlock new powers for every player), as part of a BatmanGambit to destroy the world's economy. In the end, though there was a way to avoid it in the last stage of the game, the plan in fact succeeded.

* The Music/NineInchNails concept album, "Year Zero" was preceded by an intricate [=ARG=] based on the future world of the album. Entry points ranged from hidden messages in concert T-shirts, USB drives "abandoned" at concerts by promoters to clues hidden in tracks from the album itself, encoded via audio steganography. [[http://www.ninwiki.com/Year_Zero_Research A thorough wiki]] exists, cataloguing the aspects of this [[CrapsackWorld crapsack future world]].
* The band Music/{{AFI}} set up one of these, revolving mostly around their Decemberunderground album. It is commonly referred to as the Five Flowers Mystery. Details [[http://panasonicyouth.buzznet.com/user/journal/19310/ here]]. Plus, according to [[http://chromagic.blogspot.com/2011/01/afi-are-fantastic-and-if-you-dont-agree.html this blog entry]], there could be another of these going on.
* The Singer of Gaijin rock band Music/{{Area11}} set up an [=ARG=] titled ''Digital Haunt''. It is believed to revolve around the mysterious band member Cassandra, and is being investigated by [[http://www.digitalhaunt.com a team of dedicated fans.]]
* An as of yet unsolved one involving the [[NeoclassicalPunkZydecoRockabilly industrial noise punk hiphop]] group Music/DeathGrips and deep web trafficking sites is a curious case.
* Music/OneohtrixPointNever currently has an ARG about his newest album ''Garden of Delete'', which involves an alien named [[AmbiguouslyHuman Ezra]], his 20+ year old blog and cybergrunge band Kaoss Edge. Details [[http://www.factmag.com/2015/09/04/kaoss-edge-oneohtrix-point-never-mystery/ here]].

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''ARG/ILoveBees'': a promotional game for ''VideoGame/{{Halo 2}}''. It was ''extremely'' successful and netted over a thousand participants, many not even ''Halo''-affiliated, and kicked off the ARG craze. None so far have replicated its success, though.
* ''Iris'' for ''VideoGame/{{Halo 3}}''.
* ''VideoGame/TheSecretWorld'' has had several linked [=ARGs=] leading up to the release of the game. Coverage of these can be found [[http://crygaia.net/wiki/Alternate_reality_game here.]]
* ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamAsylum'' had one through several sites (of which only http://www.arkhamcare.com/ still appears to be up)... [[spoiler:Where you break the entire Arkham security, being rewarded with villain and other character bios... Until, at the end, the Riddler sends you an e-mail, thanking you for basically setting up the entire plot of the game proper! NiceJobBreakingItHero.]]
* As of March 1, 2010, ''VideoGame/{{Portal}}'' was currently involved in an ARG leading up to the announcement of its sequel.
** ''Portal'' has had ARG like elements since its release, such as the username and password written on a wall inside the game which works on the game's website.
** As of April 1st, 2011, Valve has begun a Potato-themed ''Portal 2'' ARG that bleeds into various indie games. [[http://valvearg.info/wiki/Valve_ARG_Wiki No joke.]]
** Not only that, [[spoiler:[=GLaDOS=]]] is involved and has taken over the developers of said games, as well as several of the former leading users
** And as of now, several user accounts of players in the game have been hacked by her. Valve certainly has geniuses in their hands.
** spitfire1945, one of the main ARG players, [[http://www.thesteamcast.com/episodes/56/ explained]] [[http://www.thesteamcast.com/episodes/57/ everything]] on his podcast.
* ''VideoGame/AdventureQuest'' has an ARG which has no actual site, but takes place with forum posts, and IRC Chats in Falerin's IRC, Caelestia.
* ''[[http://www.projectenemyunknown.com Project: Enemy Unknown]]'' (which has been reworked as ''[[http://www.citizenskywatch.com Citizen Skywatch]]'') was created to help promote 2K's FPS reboot of the ''VideoGame/{{X-COM}}'' series. Prior to revealing what it was for, some of the guesses included a new ''Franchise/BioShock'' game, a game known only as ''Agent'', and (of all things) a new ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAuto'' game.
** With ''The Bureau: XCOM Declassified'', there's a new iteration of ''Project: Enemy Unknown''/''Citizen Skywatch'' known to its players as either ''What Happened in '62?'' or ''Erase The Truth''.
* Starting from June 19, 2012, ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' had started a huge, multi-part ARG, with one part leading up to the Pyromania update, and the other up to the mysterious "Mann vs Machine" update.
* During the lead up to ''{{VideoGame/BioShock 2}}'' the ARG 'There's Something in the Sea' was released. It detailed the investigation done by a man called Mark Meltzer of the various disappearances of notable figures around the world, and eventually his daughter. His eventual fate was revealed when the game was released.
* ''{{VideoGame/Ingress}}'' is both an Alternate and AugmentedReality Game. It uses GPS locations to show what in-game units and resources there are in your area.
* ''Camdrome'' is one, but nobody seems too sure about what it's about. All that is known is that a monitor and webcam showing a series of disturbing videos mysteriously appeared at the PAX 2013 Indie Megabooth with nobody manning or updating it, then disappeared at the end of the show, and a [[http://camdrome.com/ website]] was registered by the same company Creator/EdmundMcMillen uses. However, Team Meat denied any involvement, stating that the company behind it was a friend of theirs.
* ''VideoGame/InfamousSecondSon'' has one called [[http://infamouspapertrail.com Paper Trail]] which focuses on solving several mysterious murders and discovering the identity of a conduit with paper powers suspected to be behind the murders. In a unique twist, players are required to complete tasks both in-game and on the Paper Trail website.


[[folder: Web Comics]]
* ''{{Webcomic/Homestuck}}'' has an unofficial, but still very popular, one with [[http://sbarg.tumblr.com Sbarg]]. Later spawned [[http://sbargv2.tumblr.com a sequel]] that is still ongoing.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Series 1 of ''WebVideo/{{lonelygirl15}}'' (which itself resembles an ARG at times) incorporated the [=OpAphid=] ARG.
** [=OpAphid=] is currently being incorporated into ''WebVideo/{{Redearth88}}''.
** There's also the ''WebVideo/MaddisonAtkins'' ARG, which originally existed in the same universe as [=OpAphid=], although it remains to be seen whether this is still the case.
** ''WebVideo/LG15TheResistance'' was promoted by an ARG.
* ''This is My Milwaukee'' is a WebOriginal video for an ARG with a somewhat humorous bend. Appears to have died, unfortunately.
** However, due to similar themes and links between the believed creators (domain registrations being the main cause), the below mentioned Pronunciation Book ARG is believed to be a continuation of This is My Milwaukee.
* Franchise/TheSlenderManMythos has generated a fair number of [=ARGs=] and borderline ARG examples; there's ''WebVideo/MarbleHornets'', ''Blog/SeekingTruth'' and ''Blog/DreamsInDarkness'' for the latter, with ''Blog/JustAnotherFool'' and ''WebVideo/EverymanHYBRID'' outright demanding player activity in contrast. There's a full list at the Unfiction forums, which can be found on the article itself.
* The TV Tropes webseries WebVideo/EchoChamber had it's own ARG, ''ARG/TheWallWillFall'', in 2012 involving fictional characters appearing in reality after a break down [[TheFourthWallWillNotProtectYou in the fourth wall]], and the players having to send them back and restablize reality by repairing the wall.
* Youtube account ''[[http://www.youtube.com/user/pronunciationbook Pronunciation Book]]'' started out as just a video guide to pronouncing words. Then, two years later it started making more cryptic entries before finally beginning a [[ARG/PronunciationBook video countdown]] which ended in September.
** The final entry? [[spoiler: [[https://twitter.com/Horse_ebooks Horse_ebooks.]] Apparently, it was the creators' way of [[GainaxEnding ending both accounts]] and [[ViralMarketing starting a new project: ''Bear Sterns Bravo'', a performance art commentary on the stock market.]]]]

* ''Lockjaw'': a game created by the Cloudmakers themselves.
* ''The Basin Hills Project'', aka "Operation Falcon Punch", came up as a post on The Imageboard That Shall Not Be Named on June 2008. What was initially a pretty standard ARG ultimately failed as the players started ''stalking'' the {{Puppetmaster}}, who called it quits.
* ''[[http://www.thelostring.com/index.html The Lost Ring]]'', a promotion for the 2008 Olympics, is a BilingualBonus-laden ARG involving a lost Olympic sport.
* The rather strange "Gleemax" thing that WizardsOfTheCoast ran - just what was that about, anyway?
** A new forum from Wizards. Gleemax.com hits something now.
** Also, it has been a long-time in-joke on magicthegathering.com that Wizards' R&D department was run by Gleemax, an alien brain in a jar. [[http://ww2.wizards.com/gatherer/CardDetails.aspx?&id=73947 Card version seen here.]]
* ''Notes to Mary'' is a bit of a subversion: a man began by writing fictionalized versions of letters to a friend, which told a creepy story, and someone commenting on it insisted it was "definitely some sort of game or viral thing", which inspired him to pull an entire ARG out of his ass, culminating in a ''rick-roll'' of epic proportions.
* Evidence: The last ritual is single-player ARG. In which you register online with your email account. Then the game tracks how far you are in the game and sends you actual emails to your account in which messages from fellow detectives to the killer himself. (Little friend? Where have you gone?) However the game has the hardness of battletoads and the first three myst games.
* ''TabletopGame/PerplexCity'': Now-defunct ARG run by Mind Candy Games which encourages players to buy [[CollectibleCardGame packs of puzzle cards]] with clues to the location of an item, with £100,000 (or a rough equivalent in the finder's local currency) to the person who found it. There was going to be a second season, but it was repeatedly delayed and eventually cancelled after one-third of the new run of cards was sold.
* The iPhone/iPod app ''Microdot'' is a free, downloadable ARG. The player's device becomes a "Microdot" device/communicator that is used to solve puzzles and receive debriefings in order to track down a terrorist organization named Vanquish. The app not only requires the user to solve puzzles, but to [[ProductPlacement travel to real-life locations, scan products, and identify actual brands.]]
* ''Majestic'' was one of the first self-supporting [=ARGs=] (Which failed).
* BR1ngFoRth is shaping up to be an alternate reality game.
* [[http://www.whatsinthebox.nl/ What's In The Box]] is one of these. Nobody's sure what it's for at the time of writing, but it has elements from both ''Series/{{Lost}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{Half-Life}}''.
** ''Half-Life'' relations are evidenced by paying attention to the stock market ticker in the test film accessed by clicking the top quarter of the ring. "Largest single collapse in history since Black Mesa"
** During the above mentioned Portal ARG, Many people claimed there was a connection between the two. Creator/{{Valve|Software}} quickly denied any involvement.
* ARG/TheHuntForTheGangadiddle (sometimes shortened to just "Gangadiddle") is a particularly well-structured ARG.
* A [[VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaMajorasMask Majora's Mask]] ghost-story (commonly referred to as ''WebVideo/BenDrowned'') evolved into this, involving a cult ("The Moon Children") and an apparent GroundhogDayLoop. [[http://inuscreepystuff.blogspot.com/2010/09/majora.html The original story and youtube videos]], and [[strike: The Moon Children site]] [[http://www.youshouldnthavedonethat.net the main website]]. As of October 10 2010, it's back online.
* [[http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=30750 Wonderland or Bust]] is a modest ARG about a cult, its insane leader, and the people he victimizes. Better than it sounds, and currently enjoying a new life. The game has since moved into the real world, with a contact phone number listed and a package being forwarded.
* ''Little Lenny Penguin Breaks the Fourth Wall'', which can be found [[http://fantendo.wikia.com/wiki/Little_Lenny_Penguin_Breaks_the_Fourth_Wall here]], possesses many ARG elements and is set to feature more, being frequently updated.
* [[http://www.testsubjectsneeded.com/ Test Subjects Needed]] involves mail, texts, and live action meetups. It now has multiple games to play and turns out to be a promotion by Wrigley for 5 Gum.
* ''Collapsus'', [[http://www.collapsus.com released]] in 2011 by Submarine Channel. A combination of documentary and transmedia with some light ARG elements as well, only takes a few hours to beat.
* An internet group, known as [[http://internetbatman.forumotion.com/ the Internet Batman Brigade]], centres around solving [=ARGs=]. And they have their own ARG planned, set to start up as soon as the WebVideo/BenDrowned ARG ends.
* ''ARG/TheWallWillFall'', an ''WebVideo/EchoChamber'' ARG started on [[Wiki/TVTropes this very wiki]].
* "In Memoriam," also known as "Missing: Since January" in the US, was a puzzle game with ARG elements. The game disk was presented as being distributed as per the demands of a kidnapper/SerialKiller who claims that if the CriminalMindGames contained within are solved by anyone, he will let his victims go free. The game also required for the player to subit a valid email address to receive clues from fictional other players and many of the puzzles in the game required the player to search online for the solution (usually contained in some fake website constructed for the game). The US version's box art was made up like a post office missing persons poster, the angle being that the investigators needed gamers to help solve the puzzles and find the kidnapped people.
* Blog/{{LIS_DEAD}} is a still-forming ARG/interactive blog.
* ''ThisIsNotTom.'' is one that was put out by John Green a few years back. It required the player to solve a series of incredibly difficult puzzles just to find the next chapter of the story. It very much relied on the game part of ARG, as not participating in the game meant not being able to read the story part at all. Just to give an example of how difficult some of these puzzles were, one week the regular update didn't come. Why? Because even though the ARG had thousands of followers, not a single one had noticed a secondary puzzle hidden in the previous week's chapter, and the new chapter wouldn't come until the puzzle was solved.
* ''ARG/{{Trick}}''. This one has been made by a Fantendo user, it tells the story of candy people and their halloween parties. It starts normal and funny. Then it get more darkier and edgier as it progresses. The users interact with the characters in order to make the story progress.
* In 2004, beer company Stella Artois started up a website called Helpmefindjon.com, which was advertised almost exclusively through graffiti of a pair of glasses (Jon's apparent trademark frames), a reward of at least £20k, and the website address. It led to a plea from a woman to find her brother, by searching on a website recreation of his room and finding clues as to his recent activity. Enough searching found that Jon had made a deal with an acquisitions company, in return for a lifetime's supply of Stella Artois. It turned out that he had infact sold his soul to the devil and disappeared to a remote island off the coast of Scotland.
!!Fictional examples:
* ''Literature/HaltingState'' by Creator/CharlesStross has [=SPOOKS=], a spy-themed ARG that two of the three main characters play or used to play. One of those two used to be a developer for a competing game called [=STEAMING=], which was cancelled just before the plot of the book kicks off. [[spoiler: [=SPOOKS=] is actually a training and operations program that turns gamers into unwitting espionage agents. [=STEAMING=] was actually a spinoff program to covertly recruit and train programmers to work on [=SPOOKS=].]]
* The protagonist of ''This Is Not A Game'' by Creator/WalterJonWilliams is a professional ARG writer; the book begins with her being trapped in Indonesia during rioting and enlisting the help of the people who play her [=ARG=]s to get her out.
* In ''Rainbows End'' by Vernor Vinge, [=ARG=]s are a major publicity tool for entertainment {{Mega Corp}}s, with the possibility of major profit for the person who first discovers them.
* In the Creator/CoryDoctorow book ''Literature/LittleBrother'', the protagonist and his friends are skipping school participating in an ARG. Which finds them [[spoiler: near a terrorist attack]] that sets off the plots of the story.
* ''Film/MercuryRising'' features an ARG sponsored by a GovernmentConspiracy to test how uncrackable their new secret code is.
* The murder victim in the season 2 finale of ''Series/{{Castle}}'' gets killed while in the middle of a "spycation" that plays out a lot like an ARG. Castle and Beckett spend the first third of the episode thinking he's a real spy, with hilarious consequences when they try interrogating one of the other players who thinks they're part of the game.
* In episode 6 of ''Anime/GatchamanCrowds'', the creator of a social network starts an ARG on it in order to rescue the main character from some {{Paparazzi}}.
* ''Film/TheGame'' is about a businessman who gets reluctantly embroiled in an ARG that turns out to be terrifyingly real.