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Behind the Curtain: The Making and Execution of the ELI Annual Meeting Alternate Reality Game

Friday, February 20, 2009


Alternate reality games (ARGs) weave together real-world artifacts with clues and puzzles hidden virtually any place, such as websites, libraries, museums, stores, signs, recorded telephone messages, movies, television programs, or printed materials. At the 2009 ELI Annual Meeting, attendees were thrust into the world of ARGs during a conference-wide effort to uncover clues left behind by a researcher in distress. Starting at the opening session, attendees learned that Professor Rufus Bluth would not be showing up for his scheduled concurrent session. Instead, he implored the audience to follow the clues to find his research before they did. For the rest of the meeting, attendees followed hints and riddles left on Bluth’s research site and throughout the meeting space to piece together what, exactly, he was researching and who was out to destroy him.

Behind Bluth’s disappearance was actually a team of remote collaborators who worked together to build the game’s overarching narrative and weave together a series of physical and virtual clues to conceal the various pieces. Through riddles, images, and audio files, the “Bluth Crew” created a complex tapestry of content, designed to foster interaction and collaboration between attendees and to demonstrate the possibilities for game-based learning. During this one-hour webcast, go “behind the curtain” with the team, learning about the phases of the game’s production and how you can scale a similar project on your campus. Attendees are also encouraged to share their own reflections about participating in the game.

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