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Six Things I've Learned About ARGs (Courtesy of Some Crows)

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 12:20 AM

Note: This blog entry discusses an ARG (corvidaek) that I am involved in. This blog entry is Out Of Game for that ARG and discusses some aspects of what went on behind the scenes. Any In-Game comments posted on this entry will be removed. This entry may also spoil parts of the ARG for those either not caught up yet, or reading this entry after the ARG has finished. If you're one of those folks, please proceed with caution.

So last week Thursday, a friend of mine over on Slender Haven mentioned in our Skypechat that he was given a link to a random Tinychat room on his Tumblr. We checked it out and there was someone named "corvidaek" posting in the room, as well as broadcasting static-filled video. Soon enough things started getting strange - corvidaek would make cryptic-sounding statements, we had other people interrupt the broadcast, and if PMed through his Youtube channel, corvi (as he came to be called) would send us poems that he claimed "were chosen for each of us" as well as emoticons (One player did not get one, instead being referred to as "Lenore").

Needless to say, being the keen folks we are, it didn't take long for us to realize this was an ARG, and the clues were all pointing to it being a Fear Mythos ARG. A thread was created in the SH forums (calling the ARG "corvidaek"), and speculation began almost immediately. I became extremely excited to participate, since this would mark the first ARG I had actually be involved in from the beginning. At the time of this posting, we've started to figure out what may be going on, and the plot is beginning to fall into place. It's been a wild ride so far, full of scares, hellish noises, laughter, tears, and one hell of an awesome soundtrack.

At the same time, it's also taught me a lot about the Fear Mythos, sort of an extension of the Slenderman Mythos that includes more monsters, more creepy concepts, and a hell of a lot of interesting stories. From the concepts of Nests and Hives to the Wooden Girl as a character and symbol to even the differences and similarities the Slenderman has in this Mythos, I've found a lot of interesting new characters to play with in the Fears, and it's really encouraged me to possibly write my own Fear Blog. That's not all this ARG has taught me though - there's quite a bit I've learned about ARGs through corvidaek, and I'd like to share six of those things with you. This list may expand as the ARG continues, since at the time of this posting, it's still going. But for now, here's what I've learned by playing corvidaek:

  1. Always, always, ALWAYS try to think ahead before you act, and always make sure that you discuss what's going on with the other players first, because poor communication kills. We accidentally released two Fears this way - one of which we're pretty sure is one of the big bads of the story. The first one we accidentally let out was the Cold Boy, who managed to trick us into saying "You can leave" through a game of hangman. It was another player (left nameless here) who guessed these words as the (fairly obvious) answer out loud in the chat, freeing him. A lot of confusion and drama in the skypechat for the ARG followed, and we all agreed not to do anything before discussing it again. The second Fear released like this was the Archangel (pretty much later confirmed to be one of the major bad guys of the story), and this one, I'll admit, was actually my bad. You see, I'm not as familiar with the Fear Mythos as I am with the Slenderverse, so I didn't know that one of this Fear's abilities is to be able to take any form he wishes. I also didn't realize that it had infiltrated the chat by impersonating one of the players (who was gone on a trip at the time; I somehow forgot this fact), and the clue that would have cued me into this was posted in the skypechat when I wasn't looking. The problem is, there was enough discussion in the skypechat at the time that the clue got scrolled offscreen for me and the clue was never brought up again, so I never saw it. Archie kept asking for hugs (or to be embraced, which is a bad thing to do with this Fear if you know anything about this Mythos), and since it didn't look like him at the time, I ended up hugging everyone EXCEPT for what I THOUGHT was him. Problem was, that included the impostor player, so I ended up letting him go. Again, much drama and tears resulted in the skypechat, and the end result was the agreement to discuss things more fully in both the skype AND the Tinychat before doing anything. I also personally learned to be much, MUCH more observant of minor details...

  2. Don't make clues too cryptic, or it frustrates people. Making them too easy or obvious also frustrates people and leads to confusion. We once had a moment where we were asked by one Fear, the Manufactured Newborn, to use another Fear (the Intrusion) that had taken up its home in one of the players, to our advantage. The way it told us to do so? "Bring them back" and "Let them out". So when yet another Fear (the Smiling Man) shows up and offers to "get the bugs out", of course we thought it was what we had to do. Nope. Turns out the Intrusion was a weapon against some of the big bads and we just permenantly disabled our only weapon thus far. If this wasn't intentional, it was surely a case of the creator being too vague with their hints Granted, confusion is part of an ARG, but when your players can't figure out what needs to happen next, it doesn't advance the plot. Fortunately, the creator of this ARG seems to be pretty good about this, and every clue we were confused about at first later started to fall into place. The problem here is when the clues seem too easy, or two obvious. One time where this came up was with Slenderman (going by "branches" so it'd be quite obvious). At this point in the game, we're not sure whether he's a Fear we can trust or not, since one of the clues points to him being a bad guy, but his actions have been rather cryptic throughout the few times he's shown up so far, sometimes being threatening and sometimes seeming to help. Granted, crypticness is part of this Fear, so this may turn out to have been done on purpose. But for right now, it's extremely confusing because the clues just so blatantly seem to point to Slendy here. A little more of a hint would be helpful. Although, since we're all Slender Havenites, I think it'd be amazingly funny if Slendy somehow actually did end up being on our side... A favored group of human fans, perhaps?

  3. Just because it's set in a horror Mythos doesn't mean it has to be 100% serious. This ARG is set in the Fear Mythos, a universe where there are no less than 25 different Eldritch Abominations of varying degrees of power, where people are turned into servents for or tortured by these beings, and body horror is distressingly commonplace. There's a Fear based on infestation with insects. There's a Fear based on sentient, evil water, so now even water isn't safe - need I remind you that water is freaking everywhere on earth? There's a Fear that solely exists to take your eyes and mutilate them horribly. At least two of those Fears are in this ARG, and we've speculated that the third may come in later. And yet, despite all that... the Wooden Girl asked one player "a/s/l?" and was driven off for a bit by being rickrolled. The Eye, who's on our side, came in right on cue one night while I was playing The Grep Theme Song on the chat as a joke. The Smiling Man uses Tiptoe Through The Tulips as his theme music. The Manufactured Newborn, another one of the Fears on our side, used I'll Make A Man Out Of You from freaking Mulan as inspirational music. The Intrusion used cute smiley faces to communicate with us one night. And the Archangel ACTUALLY USED THE :3 EMOTICON. We know for a fact some of these events were the creator joking with us, since some of them were events that only happened after we discussed them either in the tinychat or the skypechat. That's not even counting the billions of goofy things we tried in order to get answers from Fears, or communicate with Fears, or just to try to cut down the in-game paranoia when things looked bleakest. And of course, all of the Fears that were given music appropriate to them have AWESOME MUSIC. Corvi, who's a Nest for the Convocation, gets this. The Choir gets this. Wooden Girl had this, and the Manufactured Newborn had Industrial and Dubstep. As for Slenderman, the less said about his... unique taste in music, the better. Every single one of those linked songs are awesome. All of them. Not a single one of those songs is NOT in my Youtube music playlist. This ARG helped me find new music and I love it for that. Now sing it with me: "Thus quoth the raven... nevermore..."

  4. Don't answer blatant riddles or clues at the start of an ARG unless you want to be singled out. This is what happened to me: all I did was happen to know a lot about Edgar Allan Poe and therefore understand what corvidaek was talking about with some of his crypticness the first night. I was also keen enough to pick up on his name - corvidaek, which contains the Latin word corvidae, which is the proper taxonomical name of all members of the crow, raven, jackdaw, jay, and mockingbird family. I was thereafter referred to as "Lenore" and corvi often spoke to me through PM for the first couple of nights... until he started remembering what happened to the real Lenore: death by Convocation. And the best part? The poem he sent to me was Edgar Allan Poe's "Lenore", in which the titular female character is already dead. All because I happened to be the first one to respond to his riddles and happen to be a female that knows her Poe. XD So yeah, if you don't wanna be that plot-important or you're still a newcomer to ARGs, don't answer riddles on the first session. You'll only end up with more problems on your plate in the longrun.

  5. Feels WILL happen, regardless of your emotional and mental toughness. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten angry or cried, both on-camera and off, as a result of this ARG. I've gotten the shit scared out of me more than a few times. I've snapped at people in-game and out because of events in the game, and because I've gotten so involved in the ARG. I was warned of this by some friends who are ARG veterans, one of whom is a very plot-important Butterfly in CNS - and yet I still thought it wouldn't be that bad if I could remind myself that it's just a game. Yeah no, that pretty much flew out the window the first time I was called "Lenore", and then again when I thought I was going to be killed by the Convocation just like the actual Lenore in this ARG, and then AGAIN when I was told there was "some creepy guy standing behind [me]" (that is, Slenderman) despite the fact that I had my back to a damn wall. It also flew out the window when I thought Archie was using the Manufactured Newborn as a weapon on us, then it turns out that MN was actually sort of helping us. I actually cried. I also actually cried when I accidentally let Archie go. Very little makes me actually cry in a story, and this one has managed it because of the level of audience participation in it. I've done a lot of crying and getting paranoid and becoming upset with this ARG, to the point that I've started acting more depressed In-Game to justify this. So long story short? Yeah, Feels will happen, and you don't have to be super plot-relavent for them to happen, either.

  6. The players can drive the plot a LOT more than you think. I am very fairly certain that's what happened with this ARG. Either that, or most of my predictions just so happened to be true. You see, the creator of this ARG is a member of Slender Haven, and is therefore in the skype chat for that forum as well as in the dedicated skype chat just for the ARG. That means the creator can see everything we're discussing as we discuss it, making secret-keeping very, very difficult. It also means that the more potential ideas for the plot we discuss, the more potential directions that the creator can take the game, even if we ask him not to change the plot just to suit us. Because of the constant theorizing and discussing, what began as a simple ARG about helping a Nest (a Convocation servent for those who don't speak Fear Mythos) escape the Empty City slowly became a mystery dedicated to discovering who the Five (a group of definitely really totes evil u gaiz Fears) were and what they wanted, and then evolved into a story about a Fear civil war that threatened to tear apart the Universe. Fears that were probably never supposed to make an appearance in the plot (like, I suspect, EAT and the Cold Boy) were added in or at least appeared a few times. Bonds were built, trust was broken, people were killed. One previously thought-erased character killed another character (played by the same guy) just to come back and help out. All because we drove the plot towards those things with our interaction and decisions. You see, much like in real life, choices in an ARG have consequences. They can be good, or they can be bad, but they WILL happen. My actions today in the plot could affect someone else tomorrow, and that's the beauty of chaotic fiction - one story, many ways it could go... all depending on who does what and when they do it.

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