What’s an ARG, you say? An ARG is an alternate-reality game. Teachers like Paul Darvasi design ARGs in order to make kids feel like they’re living in an epic adventure story—while they learn about history, literature…really, any subject.  By all accounts,kids love these imaginative adventures and learn a lot because they’re so engaged in the stories and gameplay. 

Paul Darvasi has been one of our favorite people ever since we heard about how he very successfully used the game Gone Home in his high school English classroom. Now he’s added a terrific resource to his blog Ludic Learning: a rich blueprint for teachers who want to turn their classrooms into big, exciting, engaging, educational games, or ARGs. “Alternate reality games are a unique and creative way to engage and challenge your students by deeply immersing them in their learning. They foster collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, self-organization and problem solving and naturally check all the 21st century learning boxes,” Darvasi says.

Gone Home games movies

Darvasi used Gone Home in his classroom

He writes in his blog about working with a Canadian teacher to create a suspenseful ARG called Blind Protocol. “What ensued was an immersive 30-day game that pit[ted] our two classes in the U.S. and Canada in a mock cyber warfare simulation,” he says. “By the time it was over, our students were well versed in the pitfalls of privacy, surveillance and online security. And they had fun. Yes, fun. Yes, in school.”

As you might imagine, creating an ARG is no small feat. But Darvasi has now posted The Ultimate Alternate Reality Gamified Transmedia Classroom Toolkit, which contains detailed instructions and a wealth of links to more information. Included are tips on how to create a story and keep score, as well as how to create puzzles, codes, and cyphers (always fun!). There’s also lots of information about creating phony artifacts.

Artifacts span both digital and real-world objects.  Real-world objects are things like books, calendars, and fake IDs. It’s also common for teachers to create fictional video or audio artifacts, and sometimes kids are sent on treasure hunts and geocaching comes into play. They can also use social media to drive gameplay.

Darvasi provides lots of examples of successful ARGs—games like Ingress, The Black Watchmen, and The Secret World. With all these tools, teachers should have an easier time than ever creating experiences that kids just love to come to school for.

Linda Breneman

Linda Breneman

Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda Breneman.com or her family foundation's website, ludusproject.org.