The Live Action, Large Area, Alternate Reality Role-Playing Game

Sat Jul 22, 2006

I’ve been fascinated with this concept at a distance for some time now, though I can’t help but to regard it as faintly ominous. Having recently read Jane McGonigal’s Modern Drama article “SuperGaming: Ubiquitous Play and Performance for Massively Scaled Community,” I’m wondering again about the technoutopianist slant of the concept, mirroring, as it does, the demotic gnostic nightmare of Dick. I’ve taught “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” and The Magus (and eXistenZ, come to think of it) over the last few years, and I’ve always asked the students to compare them with the ARG/LARP phenomenon. (Another, more topical, comparison might be The Little Drummer Girl.) Surprisingly few of the students seemed to be enthusiasts. I had assumed that an interest in these or even an autochthonous culture of them would have grown around Georgia Tech.

My default mode for imagining the likely social consequences of these activities is a peculiar combination of Rona Jaffe and Lem (The Futurological Congress or Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, say). I can’t bring myself to see The Game. But the genre/concept is also a decent, though perhaps mildly anachronistic, explanation of this nonsense, which, again, I can’t help but to find fascinating.