By Laura Acuff, Opinion Editor
A discussion among faculty last semester concerning alternate reality games (ARGs) has transformed into an interactive experience involving students and some faculty across campus this semester.
The Honors College and the First-Year Program have teamed up to sponsor oGame, short for OmegaGame, an ARG that challenges students to solve puzzles leading to locations on campus in search of clues.
Unlike some Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs), Dr. Kyle Dickson, assistant professor of English, said ARGs tend to seem more accessible to a broader audience, instead of being restricted to the typical “gamer” stereotype.
“One of the things that they found compelling about ARGs was the way that they kind of changed the dynamics of your typical gamer,” Dickson said. “The numbers of people playing ARGs out over the Internet broke across gender lines. They broke across typical kind of age lines.”
Nicholas Hill, freshman accounting major from Abilene, works on a team of freshmen with various majors to decipher the weekly clues. The team includes Greg Sherwood, physical science major from Celina; Alex Ketteman, physics major from Buda; and Dustin Janssen, history major from Abilene.
Although the team came together “rather haphazardly,” through friends talking to friends about the challenges, Hill said the teammates’ differing backgrounds contributed to their success as the recipients of oGame t-shirts, prizes they received for completing the first two weeks’ challenges first.
“Our group is very well-balanced,” Hill said. “You get a lot of different perspectives and a lot of different ways of thinking and different skill sets, which are required for this sort of game.”
Although Hill said the game could be played alone, he said the benefits would not be as substantial.
“It wouldn’t necessarily be more difficult, but it would definitely be a lot less fun,” Hill said. “There’s a certain joy to finding a clue and having someone to be able to tell about it.”
Unlike some Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) ARGs may use actual history and real Web sites for clues, said Bethany Scroggins, Honors College freshman adviser and events coordinator.
“That’s one of the things about ARGs is that everything is in real life,” Scroggins said. “It’s not another world necessarily. It’s a game about the real world.”
Hill said participants in oGame use online clues to locate actual places on campus, correct locations denoted by brown, tape markers.
“They’re everywhere and very discrete,” Hill said.
New clues appear each Monday at midnight on the game’s Web site at www.neo-lud.com, said Hill, whose team usually designates several hours each Monday to address the new challenge.
Although Hill’s teammate, Sherwood, said the team spends a significant amount of time working on the game, sometimes six hours a week, the game encourages skills in logic and outside-the-box thinking and has been a good way to better learn about the campus.
Sherwood said he would recommend the game for both its intellectual challenges and the new ideas it introduces to students.
“It’s like National Treasure with computers,” Sherwood said.
The game will continue through next week, Dickson said. But participants could continue to pursue clues without hope of winning prizes. Also, potential participants still have the option of playing, with more information at the game’s Facebook group, ‘Technology is not a game?’