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ARG and ARG --What are they? What does it mean? Should you care?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012
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In addition to discussing Gamification, I also wanted to take one of my January blog postings and talk about ARG.

The term ARG is batted around from time to time as a method of conducting training programs but there is a lot of confusion around the term.

Let's look at the terms, to help define the terms, I asked Koreen Olbrish who is a self-described--opinionated and snarky entrepreneur, instructional designer, learner and mom who has experience developing ARGs and who blogs at Learning in Tandem for her expert input.

She contributed an entire chapter to my upcoming book explaining the two terms and has created ARGs and implement them successfully.

Here is what Koreen wrote in the chapter:

Alternate reality games (ARGs), also sometimes called pervasive games or transmedia storytelling, are designed to combine real life and digital game play elements. So that you are playing the game in the real world but doing behaviors that are linked to the game. (my addition.)

Typically, Alternate Reality Gamess are "tracked" online but the actual game play consists of real life activities. There are many entertainment-based examples such as the games, I love bees, The Lost Experience,Numb3rs Chain Factor and examples of ARGs for social issues such as Urgent Evoke, World without Oil.

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Here is a video explaining "I Love Bees"

There continues to be a lot of confusion in the term ARG--some people use "alternate reality games" and "augmented reality games" interchangeably. For a point of clarification, alternate reality games refer to game play that integrates real life and online game play through a storyline that seeks to engage learners in an experience that seems real. While augmented reality enhances reality or adds something to it. For example the yellow first down line superimposed on the football field is augmented reality. Often smartphones are used with Augmented Reality Games.

Here is an example of an augmented reality game.

The really confusing part comes in when augmented reality is used as part of an alternate reality game. To keep them straight, think about the meaning of the words; "alternate reality" seeks to create a different reality for game play purposes. "Augmented reality" adds additional information to real life environments and objects.

Here is a great video from BMW that shows the potential of augmented reality in the realm of training:

Here is one done for the military. Notice all the heavy and bulky equipment...remember, cell phones used to be heavy and bulky as well. The technology is shrinking and will soon be in a training center near you.

So yes, you should begin to care about ARG, they have the potential to be powerful instructional tools that can allow a true performance support system. I think the BMW example clearly shows how to mix training with on the job actions. The military example could be used for teaching such skills as negotiations in a highly sophisticated branching simulation or for teaching people how to insert artificial hips or even how to deal with upset customers.

Technology is driving a number of interesting advances in learning environments. The important thing for learning and development professionals to realize is that the basic understanding of how people learn and what it means to motivate learners does not change with technology. Now more than ever we need to know and put into practice evidence-based guidelines for developing instruction.

About the Author

Karl Kapp is a professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA and is the author behind the widely read “Kapp Notes” blog and a regular contributor to ATD’s “Learning Circuits” blog. Karl has written or co-authored six books on the convergence of learning and technology including the bestselling book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction.” In that book, Karl explores the research and theoretical foundations behind effective game-based learning. He examines everything from variable reward schedules to the use of avatars to the use of games to teach pro-social behaviors. Karl’s latest book is a fieldbook which takes the ideas from the Gamification book and provides instructions for implementing those ideas. It’s called “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice.” Karl is committed to helping organization’s develop a strategic, enterprisewide approach to organizational learning. He believes that effective education and training are the keys to increased productivity and profitability. He can be reached at www.karlkapp.com.

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