Dollplay ARG Stumbles From The Start   4 comments

Dollplay, the ARG (or “participation drama” as they’re calling it) for Joss Whedon’s new TV show Dollhouse, failed from the first step for me.

At first I was excited.  I really liked Dollhouse’s first episode.  I tend to really like Joss Whedon stuff.  And I really, really like ARGs.  So what went wrong?  The very first freakin’ introductory paragraph, that’s what.

I can’t get it to load for me now, perhaps it knows my IP address.  But when I first went to the ARG’s website, do you know what it said?  Roughly, it told me that I was about to enter an ARG and that I should pretend it was real, and that everything on the website after that point would be “in game.”

Well, that’s fine and dandy, thanks.  Except now it’s no longer an ARG.

An Alternate Reality Game (concatenated to ARG for brevity’s sake), is a game that can arguably be defined by two rules.  1) The game designers should not acknowledge that it is a game.  2) The game designers should not create a playing field.  Purists might insist on putting up rule 3) The game designers should not create a game.  I consider rule 3 to be something of a hair-splitting thing, though: even if you’re “just creating an experience”, I still classify that as a game.  But I can certainly see why someone might disagree with me depending on your definition of game.

Anyway, that first introductory paragraph broke the first two rules of what an ARG is.  Part of me wants to be bitter at the ARG.  Part of me wants to be bitter at executive meddling.  Part of me wants to be bitter at the laws of England.

Why England?  Because a few years ago, when Perplex City still had some life in it, a law regarding the treatment and definition of hoaxes was passed in England.  Due to the wording of the law, many ARG fans wondered if it would negatively impact the future of ARGs as the classical idea of what an ARG is would now be deemed a “hoax.”  Ever since then, whenever I see a promising ARG, I see it ruined by Microsoft logos or disclaimers in the screens.  It’s removed the mystery, the sense that maybe you made a wrong turn and are actually in over your head, and a definite flavor of fun.  Other fun can be had, of course, but the feeling that you were actually involved in a real-life drama was absent.  More to the point, even American based ARGs can be affected if the ARG’s puppetmasters want the game to be playable to much of an extent in other countries.

And while I’d hoped that this ARG would be promising (after all, if I were to, say, see Dollhouse logos everywhere, it would make sense in this ARG), the opening disclaimer both told me that it was a game, and also established the playing field as existing only on the website.

So it makes me sad.

Now, I’ve not had a chance to look at more than a few of the file histories and things on this website.  It could be that there’s a good ARG here (this is one of those times where my difficulties watching videos on the web will really, really hinder me).  However, whether from executive meddling, a concern over the laws across the pond, or other reasons that aren’t yet clear, Dollplay has, it seems, not granted a positive first impression.  Here’s hoping, though.  Here’s hoping.

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4 responses to “Dollplay ARG Stumbles From The Start

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  1. Who said it was going to be an ARG?

  2. The bright, cheerful explanatory note when I first went to the website indicated that I should think of it in terms of an ARG while simultaneously giving me reasons not to think that. Like I said, the game could wind up being good, and fun could be had by all. My complaint is that it set up a certain expectation, but that the follow through (if a beginning can be said to be follow through) left said expectations unfilfilled.

    It’s sort of the opposite of what Ralphie went through. He went through the mystery and intrigue and discovered an Ovaltine commercial. I, meanwhile, have to go through an Ovaltine commercial to find the mystery and intrigue.

    (As opposed to The Beast and I Love Bees where the Ovaltine Commercial just happened to exist alongside the mystery and intrigue. …and opposed to Perplex City where the Ovaltine WAS the mystery and intrigue.)

  3. People that have never played in an ARG before participated, and more will come when the game continues (as I hope and have reason to believe it will). I don’t know how else 2 go about it. We did some things that seemed pretty crazy on that R prime lab site, and I 4 one is happy ppl had an explanation when they entered the site. (Still I was scoulded by new arrivals that didn’t get what we tried to do… :-D)
    This ARG is spreading the culture 2 lots of new players! Yay!
    I’m sorry your experiance was 4 spoiled a bit…

  4. But that’s my point: it’s NOT an Arg. It’s spreading to the culture, yes. And it’s implying that it’s an Arg. But it gets two of the primary details of what an Arg is wrong. It’s just an Ovaltine commercial (and if they’d called it that, I would’ve been happy.)

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