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Alternate Reality Game

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A genre of online game where a fictional storyline is written and presented as if it were really happening within our own world, as opposed to existing only in the 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. Some are in the form of a Web Video Series with overt game elements from the start; others aren't obviously an ARG until the clues emerge.

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.

Most of them are in the horror genre, as the mystery format of an ARG- which may include things like mysterious videos and websites- makes for a great way to play on the fear of the unknown, and even ones that are not necessarily horror may include horror elements. It also tends to overlap with Analog Horror for similar reasons.

The exact definition of what counts as an "ARG" is a bit controversial and up for debate. Especially in recent years, the term has come to apply to a wide-range of web series that fulfil the 'alternate reality' part of the name by presenting themselves as genuine happenings that require the audience to search for and interpret evidence themselves to follow the story, but otherwise have little to no interactive gameplay or puzzle solving of the kind that determines the pace of the story's progression. Whether these types of series should be considered an ARG or not isn't a settled question, particularly since, in extreme cases, people attempting to treat a story as an ARG despite the creator insisting that it isn't one can lead to Why Fandom Can't Have Nice Things situations.

The widely accepted "first" ARG was The Beast, designed as a promotion for the movie A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. 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 named such by the players, as it was difficult. Or because it had 666 files in it (the "Number of the Beast"), depending on who you ask.

One might say the earliest ARGs were the secret decoder rings delivered to fans of certain radio shows. And as immortalized in A Christmas Story, there are puzzles to be solved that lead inevitably to Product Placement. As such, it can often be a form of Viral Marketing, although not all Viral Marketing includes a game aspect.

Common tropes of the genre include Spy Fiction, Conspiracy Thriller, Dimensional Traveler, Time Travel, Weird Science, Alien Tropes, Creepypasta, Kayfabe, many Moon Logic Puzzles and a handful of Those Few Puzzles, a Hacking Minigame and/or Logging onto the Fourth Wall, and all of the above combined. See Alternate Reality Game Tropes.

    open/close all folders 

ARGs with their own pages:

    ARG Index 

Real Life examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • For the 10th anniversary of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Mikoshiba's defunct Twitter was reactivated to host an ARG set in an Alternate Universe where the four main male characters were employees at the Nozaki Detective Agency. Twitter users could vote on Mikoshiba and Nozaki's course of action, who to ask for help with problems requiring specific knowledge, and the answers to various puzzles and solutions as they investigated a case of heirloom jewels being stolen from Sakura's family.

    Fan Works 
  • Oyasumi Midoriya had shades of this, with both the encoded links (initially at the end of chapters, before being embedded into the chapter's text) and the fact that the commenters had a direct effect on the events of the story, though it never strayed into our reality.
  • Phantastical Boundaries, a Friday Night Funkin' mod, features a minor case regarding Rin Satsuki, a character "who is forgotten by the world itself". Within the song files of this mod is a folder titled "52 61 73 70 62 65 72 72 79"note , which features a notepad file from Yukari sharing a YouTube link to the song in question, with the video featuring a pinned comment linking to a pastebin message from Rin herself, asking for those who find her message to complete her story with the song assets provided.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The aforementioned The Beast, made to market A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.
  • In 2011, the "social media film" Inside (also known as The Inside Experience) premiered as a series of short clips released onto YouTube telling the story of a girl named Christina, who was trapped against her will in a room with a 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 URLs with even more clues, including area codes, maps, and even a phone number that could be called to hear another hidden code. Viewers could post their findings on the 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 URLs and links can be found on The Other Wiki.
  • Transformers (2007) had Sector 7. Don't tell anyone!
  • The Buy n Large website, released by Pixar in the months leading up to the release of WALL•E, was part this and part Viral Marketing. Although it didn't have the Game aspect, it was very heavy on the Alternate Reality aspect.
  • Project A.P.E. was an ARG promoting the 2001 Planet of the Apes movie. The game combined a web-based sub-plot with 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.
  • The Dark Knight had a rather epic one, Why So Serious?, that went on for months (both on and offline) and told the story of Harvey Dent's campaign for Gotham District Attorney and the Joker's rise to power in the city's criminal underworld.
  • The Star Trek (2009) film had one at various Web sites, such as here, as well as real-life locations.
  • Cloverfield started with the short teaser trailer preceding Transformers (2007), 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 appeared 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, an ecoterrorist group opposed to Tagruato. The ARG contributed to the experience as much as actually watching the film would.
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane, had an ARG of its own. It follows John Goodman's character, Howard Stambler, an employee of Tagruato whose job as a telemetry analyst involves working with satellites. Following a URL from the t-shirt on his picture (Radio Man 70) leads to a website that belongs to his daughter Megan that contains a few hidden messages, revealing that he has a history of building bomb shelters and seems to know something huge enough that he's warning her of it and wants her to get into one of the shelters he built.
  • TRON: Legacy had "Flynn Lives", a campaign based on conspiracy theorists who were looking for evidence that Kevin Flynn was still alive and active within the electronics circuit after disappearing years ago. The Blu-ray for the film includes additional footage of it which follow the ending where Sam Flynn finally accepts his role as leader of ENCOM. It's further revealed that Alan Bradley had been supporting the theorists all along.

  • 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.
  • John Dies at the End has an ARG website investigating into the rumors about the book. It's found at

    Live-Action TV 
  • A precursor to full-blown ARGs, Homicide: Life on the Street 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.
  • Doctor Who was accompanied by a number of Alternate Reality Web sites during the Russell T Davies 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).
  • Torchwood's second season had an ARG revolving around an alien DNA invasion, with several original websites created just for the game. Subsequently, Torchwood: Miracle Day had such a game.
  • Lost:
    • The Lost Experience was a vast and complicated one that delivered substantial amounts of information about the series' mythology.
    • An ARG was launched before season 4 called Find 815, and another one called the Dharma Initiative Recruiting Project was launched at Comic-Con 2008. Both of these were closer to simple online stories with minigames than true ARGs, and the latter was so plagued with delays and had so little apparent purpose that it was aborted before the end.
    • The series even went so far as to release a novel supposedly written by one of the passengers on Flight 815.
  • Heroes has Heroes Evolutions (originally The Heroes 360 Experience), which, among other things, had the participants taking cues from the character Wireless to solve the mystery of Primatech paper.
  • The 4400 makes extensive use of this technique.
  • An ARG was the reason that some of the letters are color-reversed when location names were shown on Alias.
  • The BBC's Jamie Kane, in which the player investigates the death of a fictional pop star.
  • 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 True Blood. Started great and then... things quickly declined when it was discovered what the game was for.
  • 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, 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 Batman Gambit 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.
  • Skins had tie-in blogs and videos, complete with puzzles to find out about some characters.
  • The Muppet Experiment was an ARG based around locating The Muppets, who were lost in 1937 California. The first part of the game was online, on a website supposedly run by Muppet Labs, and there was also a live section at Disneyland.
  • Dexter had an ARG set within the world of the show, starting with a Kill-Room Showtime made to promote the upcoming 5th season, later transitioning to where players would work with a woman known as the Serial Huntress to track down a killer known as the Infinity Killer over videos and geocaches.

  • The Nine Inch Nails 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. A thorough wiki exists, cataloguing the aspects of this crapsack future world.
  • The band AFI set up one of these, revolving mostly around their Decemberunderground album. It is commonly referred to as the Five Flowers Mystery. Details here. Plus, according to this blog entry, there could be another of these going on.
  • The Singer of Gaijin rock band Area11 set up an ARG titled Digital Haunt. It is believed to revolve around the mysterious band member Cassandra, and is being investigated by a team of dedicated fans.
  • Oneohtrix Point Never currently had an ARG about his album Garden of Delete, which involved an alien named Ezra, his 20+ year old blog and cybergrunge band Kaoss Edge. Details here.
  • Twenty One Pilots ran one for the release of their fifth album Trench by posting clues and journal entries about a dystopian city called Dema on a hidden website.
  • SiIvaGunner held an ARG to go along with its "Rebooted" storyline, with players following a long string of clues based on the channel's memes and running gags across the internet and through multiple Game Mods in order to restore the channel to its original state. You can see a breakdown of the whole thing courtesy of one of the players here.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse had an ARG take place in the lead up to the final expansion of the game, OblivAeon. The game's wiki has a rather informative summary of the ARG. It can be found here.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Valhalla had this with finding Nodens' Arc. It involved not only having to decode the in-universe Isu language, but also decode symbols on the Collector's Edition of the game's box. It's called "Project Legacy".
  • The Secret World has had several linked ARGs leading up to the release of the game. Coverage of these can be found here.
  • No Man's Sky was given an ARG following its second content update, called Waking Titan, produced by Alice & Smith and providing additional context to the game's story and the lore surrounding it. It involves a multitude of websites, puzzles, and radio ads across the globe. It has also featured NPCs, actors, in-world events, and live streams.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum had one through several sites such as (now defunct)... 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! Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Starting on March 1, 2010, Portal was 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.
    • On April 1st, 2011, Valve began a Potato-themed Portal 2 ARG that bleeds into various indie games. No joke.
    • Not only that, GLaDOS was involved and took over the developers of said games, as well as several of the former leading users, even hacking several user accounts of players in the game. Valve certainly has geniuses in their hands.
  • AdventureQuest has an ARG which has no actual site, but takes place with forum posts, and IRC Chats in Falerin's IRC, Caelestia.
  • Project: Enemy Unknown (which has been reworked as Citizen Skywatch) was created to help promote 2K's reboot of the XCOM series. Prior to revealing what it was for, some of the guesses included a new BioShock game, a game known only as Agent, and (of all things) a new Grand Theft Auto 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, Team Fortress 2 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 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.
  • 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 website was registered by the same company Edmund McMillen uses. However, Team Meat denied any involvement, stating that the company behind it was a friend of theirs.
  • inFAMOUS: Second Son has one called 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.
  • The Binding of Isaac had two: one for Rebirth and another for Afterbirth.
    • The Missing Poster was intended to be used for the first one. What it does is obscure enough (you need to kill yourself in a Sacrifice Room while holding it), and if someone manages to figure out its effects, the Missing Poster would be used to generate a small piece of the Game Over screen. Piecing them all together would give hints on how to unlock The Lost. Unfortunately, how to unlock the reward for the ARG was discovered by data miners, which Edmund is still bitter about to this day.
    • After the above ARG, Edmund learned his lesson and tried again. Following the release of Afterbirth, he left a clue 109 hours after the initial release. The first clue started with the icon for a new Achievement added to Afterbirth in a patch, named "Generosity". This led to a clue hunt involving a phone number, Twitter, and some digging. The end result of the ARG led to the release of a new unlockable character, the Keeper. Edmund had prevented data-mining by simply not adding the character to the game until the ARG was completed, making this an Enforced Trope of sorts.
  • Papyrus's Big Christmas Adventure, a fan game of Undertale, in which you play as Papyrus in a Super Meat Boy platformer. If you beat the game as quickly as possible with no damage, Papyrus finds a letter for Sans which describes instructions on where to bury... something. It turns out these are actual coordinates where items for an ARG from were buried.
  • Persona 5: As part of the Tokyo Game Show 2015 marketing, the Japanese fanbase was tasked with tracking down and scanning QR codes at various places throughout the country, presented as finding information for the police force against the thief team. Scanning these unlocked the party's character bios on the official website for everyone to view.
  • Overwatch had a particularly infamous one regarding the then-to-be-released 23rd hero, Sombra. She was originally lightly hinted at by developers as a stealth hero, but clues started to get revealed in several promotional content for other things, starting from the announcement video of the 22nd hero, Ana, with an absolutely staggering amount of decoding by fans, documented here. Unfortunately, problems started when it seemed that they solved the puzzles too fast, and there were multiple long droughts of new info, none of which were even substantial (all that was learned about her character up until her reveal was that she's Spanish and a hacker), culminating in a discovery of a mysterious website with a countdown that lasted 3 months, which by the end revealed... more clues. The fans weren't happy about that, especially since she was later revealed at Blizzcon 2016 anyway, something planned from the very start that would've been the case regardless of whether or not the ARG was actually solved.
  • A long ARG spanning twenty-six other games, including Firewatch, The Magic Circle, and Kingdom of Loathing, as well as dozens of websites, eventually turned out to be Frog Fractions 2, and led to the unveiling of Glittermitten Grove as Frog Fractions 3.
  • The Rhythm Game Arcaea used a short ARG as part of the unlock method for one of its boss songs; Tempestissimo. After completing a series of in-game challenges, the player would be met with a password prompt to unlock the stage. By deciphering codes found both in the game and on its official YouTube channel, they would be led to a site that provides them with the necessary password.
  • Inscryption had an ARG which involved the use of codes hidden in the game, a real-life Youtube channel that ties to the game's story, Daniel Mullin's other works, and the game's prototype, which revealed some major revelations about the game's story, including the origins of OLD_DATA, and the fact PO3 somehow succeeded in uploading Inscryption to the net. The process is documented here (SPOILERS).
  • Deltarune featured an ARG as part of the Spamton Sweepstakes charity event in 2022, in which the sweepstakes website featured a number of hidden links to various pages. Some are just Easter eggs hinting at content in future chapters, while others take the form of blog posts by Noelle providing lore about herself and the rest of Hometown's residents; some of these are connected by interactive pages that tie in with the blog's contents. A few other pages, including a couple of Noelle's posts, hint at lore for Spamton himself.
  • Halo:
    • HUNT the TRUTH for Halo 5: Guardians was probably the closest the franchise has come to creating another I Love Bees. It was a later campaign for Halo 5: Guardians, centering on a journalist (played by Key of Key & Peele) searching for the truth about the Master Chief's origins.
    • I Love Bees, created for Halo 2, was extremely successful and netted over a thousand participants, many not even Halo-affiliated. In fact, it is widely considered responsible for kicking off the ARG craze, particular in the video game industry. None of its successors so far have replicated its success, though. It establishes a backstory for the game which involves a time-traveling AI from the game's era trapped in a present-day homemade website about beekeeping. The audio clips recount lore about the day of the Covenant invasion. The gameplay is helping to repair the fragmented AI and get it home.
    • Halo 3 also had one ("Iris"), but due to changes in advertising laws, it had Bungie and Xbox 360 logos slapped all over it right from the start, much of it took place on and, and it ended abruptly with a "buy the game for the rest!" cliffhanger.
  • ULTRAKILL launched an ARG teasing the update for the second Prime Sanctum. In the official Youtube upload of the first part of the level's soundtrack was a decimal code containing a cryptic poem. The Bandcamp download contained a strange image which turned out to be a .zip file containing a modified version of the song "Take Care", spliced with a SSTV signal which when deciphered revealed an image of the first boss, the Flesh Panopticon. The binary on the image itself contained a link to a bonus song by the composer, Master Boot Record, and an incomplete Library of Babel address, which wouldn't be fully discovered until the second part of the ARG, started after the update was released. An error code on a terminal turned out to be part of a Youtube link. It led to an unlisted video containing music and a very long cipher, before a message that said there were "four words." These four words were the keys to decrypt the cipher. The task of finding said words involved spectrograms, image data, locations on Google Street View, and even code implemented into the chords of the song in the video.note  The code once decrypted was the hexagon needed to complete the Library Of Babel link which when accessed is a major bombshell involving the lore of the game: Hell is alive, sentient, and manipulating and rearranging the aspects and entities within itself for its own amusement.

    Web Comics 
  • Homestuck has an unofficial, but still very popular, one with Sbarg. Later spawned a sequel.
  • Rhyme and Reason, Several parts of the comic's story are revealed through ARG and then later posted to the main blog after fans discover them.
    • Some Information about the Therapy House storyline was obtained through an event where fans could battle characters via Pokémon showdown.
    • Mang, Lightman, and Kassir have all had Tumblr blogs that fans can send asks to, revealing story information and progressing the story during events.
    Web Original 
  • Series 1 of lonelygirl15 (which itself resembles an ARG at times) incorporated the OpAphid ARG.
    • OpAphid is currently being incorporated into Redearth88.
    • There's also the Maddison Atkins ARG, which originally existed in the same universe as OpAphid, although it remains to be seen whether this is still the case.
    • LG15: the resistance was promoted by an ARG.
  • This is My Milwaukee is a Web Original video for an ARG with a somewhat humorous bend. Appears to have died, unfortunately.
    • However, the Pronunciation Book ARG is believed to be a continuation of This is My Milwaukee, due to similar themes and the fact that both ARGs share the same creators (which people had already guessed even before it was revealed, thanks to domain registrations). It helps that TIMM has been referenced in the PB-related adventure game Bear Stearns Bravo.
  • The Slender Man Mythos has generated a fair number of ARGs and works with ARG elements; there's a full list at the Unfiction forums, which can be found on the article itself. Some of those with elements are:
  • Deagle Nation was performed primarily via YouTube videos and live streams, but also encompassed Twitter, Tumblr, various message boards, its own websites... The actors were so convincing that most everyone thought they were real until they slipped up — they stayed in character even during private phone calls!
  • Guy Collins Animation's Kaizo Trap (named after its depicted genre) has FIVE secret endings leading into each other, which get progressively more difficult to find as you go along. Failed attempts will often get you Rickrolled.
  • The Sandsverse originally seemed to be just a loosely-affiliated collection of Tumblr blogs dedicated to surreal shitposting involving a bunch of Talking Animals that each sell some comically specific thing. Then the shit hit the fan with the Breach arc, which saw an otherworldy Eldritch Abomination intrude the Sandsverse blogs. Ever since, the vendors have been engaging in intense Mythopoeia mostly communicated through YouTube videos and cryptic posts peppered across the Sandsverse blogs... in between their usual surreal shitposting, of course.
  • "Barney the Dinosaur" is a Creepypasta tying into an ARG. Appears to have died, judging by the comments on the video mocking it.
  • The Mario Party DS Anti Piracy series incorporated an ARG. Appears to have died, as the identity of the rogue developer that created the anti-piracy measures was never solved.
  • SMPEarth has two, that both players in-universe and fans out-of-universe attempted to solve, with both tying together — the "Octangula ARG", run by chippledipple, and the "7 ARG", run by JoshA20.
  • Every episode of Spooky Month starting from Unwanted Guests has had a secret QR Code that leads to major lore hints. While Episode 3’s isn’t really all the special (just being a phone book of all the phone numbers for several characters in the show with the most lore relevant things being a hint as to the plot of Episode 4 involving a possessed Happy Fella and Latin text involving the cult), Episode 4 and 5’s QR Codes are far more important, with Episode 4’s practically confirming that Dexter is inside the Happy Fella (alongside a page in a book with Latin text again involving the cult) and Episode 5’s showing that Moloch is still alive and in Dexter’s body, a family photo of Skid’s family with his dad’s face scribbled out (with the words “YOU ARE EVERYTHING” written at the top of the picture), and another page in the book from Episode 4’s QR Code.
  • WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK. has elements of this, with the videos being posted out of chronological order and giving little information regarding what exactly caused the events of the story to happen, leaving the viewer to try and piece things together. Additionally, the descriptions of a few videos contain download links to passworld-locked ZIP folders containing files with information pertinent to the lore.
    • "TeleBlue Cable UI (1991)", which introduces the Tele-Freq brain reader and is also Val's earliest known appearance in the timeline, has a folder called "", with the password "CORRUPTUS". It contains newspaper articles about business deals MacNeil Tech has entered with Disney and PBS, as well as a wanted poster for CEO Donovan MacNeil issued by the Portland Police Department.
    • "Nickelodeon Rebrand Pitch (1984, Low Quality)", a tape distributed by MacNeil Tech containing a pitch for Nickelodeon's now-iconic 1984 rebrand, has a folder called "", with the password "macneil". It contains a PDF of "Corruptus" incidents from the Abandoned by Disney creepypasta series, as well as a video of a TeleBlue startup animation from 1993 that was posted to
    • "Red Mist Anomaly (2008)", which involves Squidward's Suicide being played on Nick On Demand, has a folder called "", which has no password. It contains a slowed-down version of the SpongeBob theme song that, according to one commenter, produces a picture of Val when run through a spectrogram; as well as an error report text file containing a string of hex code that was also seen at the end of the video. When translated, it reads as follows:
      I'm surprised. Shocked, actually. You always seem to come back. Even after what you read online. October 2006. Even if it was just some "narrative", some "fictional story", do you believe it disregards your reality? Do you believe it erases what you saw, that late summer night? You're young. You have a vivid imagination. This isn't your territory.
    • "Evidence Capture (2003)", which is centered around an FBI recording of a phone call between Donovan MacNeil and a business advisor of his named Gabriel, has a folder called "", with the password "eugene". It contains three music files, as well as a text log saying that they were pulled from the databases of their respective channels for someone who requested them. The music files are "generic_vt.mp3", the song that played during most channel IDs on Boomerang up until 2015; "rugrats_concept.mp3", an extended version of the Rugrats theme song; and "travel_song.mp3", an instrumental version of the Travel Song from Dora the Explorer.
    • A community post by TapeWorm contains a link to a folder called "VAL_12-23-1999.bin", which has no password and would later be put in the comments section of "Abstract Idents (2003)". It contains computer code that dictates how Val was originally meant to operate, as well as a description from her point of view of the events that seemingly led to her corruption.
  • Imigrantes Road is an ongoing Youtube horror series revolving around mysterious death of the titular road workers. Has spawned a blog, twitter account, and youtube channels owned by main characters Kami and Soccoro telling chronological events of the main story.
    • Another blog owned by unknown character with the initial “N” detailing secrets behind the mysterious cult disguising as mental health facility, Fundação Mariposa.

    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls ended with Dipper giving a speech encouraging the viewer to go out and look for Gravity Falls somewhere in the woods. In addition, a cryptogram was hidden on the bus that takes Dipper and Mabel home talks about a treasure hidden in the woods, and the last thing shown on the series is a real life statue of the villain Bill Cipher sitting somewhere in a forest, based on the demons having a similar fate. Naturally, fans assumed that the statue probably existed somewhere. In July 2016, creator Alex Hirsch released a series of clues that resulted in a worldwide scavenger hunt known as "Cipher Hunt". After two weeks, fans managed to find the Bill statue outside the town of Reedsport, Oregon (though it now lies at Confusion Hill in Piercy, CA). Fully completing one of the clues,note  resulted in the original Gravity Falls pilot being posted online.
    • A Twitter page called "Oregon Parks Dept" posted some pictures of the official journal 3 as a teaser for its release, mentioning that everyone who reads it has been getting nightmares and headaches.
  • Archer has done two ARGs, one for Season 6, and one for Season 7.
    • Season 6 had an ARG that started off with a hexadecimal code briefly shown in an episode that, when translated, leads to a link to a bizarre YouTube video. From there, decoding various clues leads to more URLs that go through Reddit comments, a craigslist post from Kreiger, and eventually leads to his website that has various clues. Eventually, this concludes with a .zip file containing a picture of a blueberry muffin. The scavenger hunt managed to get the series its first Emmy for "Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media - Multiplatform Storytelling"
    • Season 7 did another scavenger hunt. This time, it was kicked off by a URL in plain sight that led to the Figgis Agency's dossier on Veronica Deane. This leads to an Outrun spoof that takes 3 hours to beat, and contains more clues. From there, it gets even more complicated than the last one and includes a Kreiger phone call, various mazes to solve, a clue hidden on the Season 6 DVD, another clue hidden in the season's Title Sequence, a text adventure, and a "hacked" version of the show's subreddit. Eventually, it's revealed that the Pirate Virus from Season 2 was somehow behind it all, and the reward is a .zip file containing a picture of the virus congratulating the player, and a 3D model for them to print out. These files are literally named "A Winner Is You". The series got another Emmy for this.
    • A mobile app titled Archer P.I. was released with Season 8, where the player works for Archer and solves various cases. Various objects hidden in the episodes can be pointed to with the phone's camera that will reveal items to use in the game. Playing it will also enter the player into a Sweepstakes to win $500. Not technically an ARG, but it does have some of the spirit.

  • 42 Entertainment:
    • It founded by the team responsible for The Beast, is responsible for many tie-in ARGs; in addition to the aforementioned I Love Bees, they have also made:
    • Year Zero, based on the Nine Inch Nails Concept Album of the same name, explores the album's premise of the war on terror turning the United States into a totalitarian Christian theocracy which enforces its power through fear of terrorism, kidnapping dissidents and drugging the water supply to keep the public obedient.
    • Why So Serious, which promoted The Dark Knight, acts as a bridge between it and Batman Begins, telling the story of Harvey Dent's campaign for Gotham District Attorney and the Joker's rise to power in the city's criminal underworld.
  • Torchwood has an ARG set during the second season revolving around an alien DNA invasion, with several original websites created just for the game.
  • 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.
  • The Lost Ring, a promotion for the 2008 Olympics, is a Bilingual Bonus-laden ARG involving a lost Olympic sport.
  • The rather strange "Gleemax" thing that Wizards of the Coast ran - just what was that about, anyway?
    • A new forum from Wizards called, though it ended up being shutdown.
    • Also, it has been a long-time in-joke on that Wizards' R&D department was run by Gleemax, an alien brain in a jar. 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 a 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 with messages from fellow detectives to the killer himself (Little friend? Where have you gone?). However the game is Nintendo Hard.
  • 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 travel to real-life locations, scan products, and identify actual brands.
  • Majestic was one of the first self-supporting ARGs, relying on the cutting-edge technology of 2001 (including instant messages and fax machines) to pull the player into a Government Conspiracy plot based on UFO lore. Unfortunately, absolutely dreadful timing killed the game — it was released just six weeks before the 9/11 attacks, and due to both its subject matter and its use of the phone lines, its publisher Electronic Arts put it on indefinite hold and eventually canceled it.
  • BR1ngFoRth was a short but intense one that mostly took place on 4chan's /x/ board.
  • What's In The Box was intended to one for a Half-Life fan-film (as 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"), but the whole thing eventually fell through, and it was never revealed what was actually "in the box".
    • During the above-mentioned Portal ARG, many people claimed there was a connection between the two. Valve quickly denied any involvement.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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 the Internet Batman Brigade, centers around solving ARGs. They had their own ARG planned, set to start up as soon as the Ben Drowned ARG ends, but due to that being delayed for so long, the project was canceled and the group disbanded. They have been succeeded by the Internet Detectives, formed from many players of Ben Drowned and fans waiting for the third arc, as they played a spin-off ARG known as John Is Dead.
  • 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/Serial Killer who claims that if the Criminal Mind Games contained within are solved by anyone, he will let his victims go free. The game also required for the player to submit 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.
  • ThisIsNotTom is one that was put out by John Green. 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.
  • Fantendo's Little Lenny Penguin Breaks the Fourth Wall possessed many ARG elements and was frequently updated during its heyday.
  • In 2004, beer company Stella Artois started up a website called, 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.
  • At some point in the mid-2010s, Mexican Televisa-owned network Canal 5 would frequently upload disturbing videos on their Twitter account between 3-7 a.m. in the morning, and then quickly take them down. Most assumed it was Canal 5 trying to start an ARG to capitalize on the Selene Delgado Creepypasta they spawned via their "Al Servicio de la Comunidad" missing persons reports. Others settled on the videos being the work of a bored Televisa employee or a hacker.
  • While it's obviously never been confirmed, it has been speculated that QAnon, a massive, all-encompassing conspiracy theory that starts by alleging the existence of a vast child sex trafficking ring within elite liberal political, academic, and media circles and grows ever more outlandish from there,note  was an ARG Gone Horribly Wrong. At the very least, people who have designed and worked on ARGs have said that QAnon functions like one, using the same sort of psychological lures and mysteries that ARGs use to get players invested in their unfolding storylines. In this case, the goal of the "game" is to rally support behind US President Donald Trump, who is presented as the only figure capable of stopping the conspiracy — in short, the format of an ARG applied to overtly political ends.
  • An example of a conspiracy theory that was ultimately proven to be an ARG was Junko Junsui, or ALFA-ARKIV, which concerned an all-female terrorist group/religious sect in Dagestan, a Russian Private Military Contractor, a Japanese biotechnology company, genetic modification, quantum physics, and more. Created by Rob Auten, one of the writers on Gears of War: Judgment and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Patrick Marckesano, it wound up so convincing that characters from the game were logged in intelligence databases after being mistaken for real terrorists.

Fictional examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • In episode 6 of Gatchaman Crowds, the creator of a social network starts an ARG on it in order to rescue the main character from some Paparazzi.

  • Halting State by Charles Stross 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. 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 Walter Jon Williams 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 ARGs to get her out.
  • In Rainbows End, ARGs are a major publicity tool for entertainment Mega Corps, with the possibility of major profit for the person who first discovers them.
  • In the Cory Doctorow book Little Brother, the protagonist and his friends are skipping school participating in an ARG, which finds them near a terrorist attack that sets off the plots of the story.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • The murder victim in the season 2 finale of 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.
  • Dispatches From Elsewhere fictionalizes a real ARG that took place in San Francisco from 2008 to 2011.

  • The podcast RABBITS takes its title from the unofficial name of what host Carly Parker describes as "an ARG that predates the term ARG". The earliest of nine known modern iterations of Rabbits dates back to 1959, with hints suggesting the game dates back centuries, if not millennia. The podcast focuses on Carly's efforts to learn about the game and determine its role in the disappearance of her childhood friend.

Alternative Title(s): ARG, Unfiction