Alternate Reality Games and Information Literacy

One area where ARGs have near-unlimited potential is in teaching information literacy skills. By placing the skills’ use in the framework of a game, students/players become more invested and enthusiastic about learning these skills. In fact, they often may not realize they’re being taught at all. Here’s some random bits & pieces from the ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards, with brief notes on how ARG players develop and use these skills while playing an ARG:

  • “Recognize that existing information can be combined with original thought, experimentation, and/or analysis to produce new information.” – ARGs require exactly this kind of thinking. Players must use their original thoughts to solve puzzles and interact with characters (existing information) via analysis and experimentation.
  • “Identify the value and differences of potential resources in a variety of formats (multimedia, database, website, book)” – Many ARGs require balancing information from a variety of source formats including websites, books, raw data, music, games, movies, etc.
  • “Create a system for organizing information” – Take a look at the amazingly in-depth and well organized wiki for the recent Dark Knight ARG here: This was entirely player-made.
  • “Utilize technology for studying the interaction of ideas and other phenomena” – ARGs by their very nature require the use of many kinds of technology including GPS devices, smartphones, computers, cameras (still and video) audio recordings, etc. Players are encouraged to study and investigate the world around them.
  • “Validate understanding and interpretation of the information through discourse with other individuals…” – The Unforums are an example of a vibrant community of ARG players discussing and playing games with each other.
  • “Apply new and prior information to the planning and creation of a particular product or performance.” – Players must take information from previous parts of the game and decide where to apply it in order to move forward.
  • “Manipulate digital text, images, and data, as needed, transferring them from their original locations and formats to a new context.” – This is a very generically worded skill, but ARGs can still teach it. See any of the examples I’ve listed above.

Games4Learning: Alternate Reality Games

Last Friday I gave a presentation as part of UNC’s wonderful Games4Learning initiative on Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). I think these games have a huge potential to be used as a teaching tool for both social issues and information literacy. I’ll be writing more about this topic in coming days & weeks, but for now here’s my slides:

They may not entirely make sense without my narration, but I wanted to get them linked. I’ll try to give some context in upcoming posts.