Singular goals for collectives
As I mentioned, the issue with new groups or classes (for lack of a better descriptor), is that not everyone knows each other. And to get them to the point of working together to actually start learning and achieving things is often unwieldy. You need to break the ice so that they can get on with things.
ARG’s and LARP games are not necessarily the answer straight out of the box, but rather methodology’s and frameworks that can be used to facilitate more organic collaborative environments. In essence, they give attendees, students, participants a reason for having a purpose to collaborate and by working together they have a collaborative purpose. Your goal, as a designer, is to facilitate them working together by giving them a goal, to achieve that given goal, they need to work together, thereby achieving your goal.
ARG’s? Alternate Reality Games
Though for those that jumped ahead and maybe didn’t read some of the other pieces I’ve done, may not know what an ARG is.
In a quick summary an ARG or Alternate Reality Game is:
A fictional story-world that takes place within or is layered on top of the real world. It incorporates an adventure storyline that includes puzzles, mysteries, and challenges. Sometimes, but not always, this includes a role-playing element, hence the inclusion of LARP games. But generally, the role-playing element is the buying into and suspension of disbelief when entering “the game”. Usually, the setup for the ARG is that people “stumble” into the game, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Intentionally is when you as the designer create an event that signifies the start of the game, it may not be obvious that it is a game, but people are engaged. Unintentionally is the more historic version of ARG’s where people literally stumble across a strange clue and then fall down the proverbial rabbit hole.
In either case, the ARG should blur the lines between the real world and the fictional world it has created.
Everyone is different
What makes ARG’s so unique an interesting is the fact that they use a multitude of mediums. This is generally referred to as transmedia and ARG’s are very much transmedia experiences. Using online, offline, visual, audio, written, etc. mediums to relay the story to the players. The story is replicated in every medium, but parts of the story are revealed on each medium, requiring the players to interact with each one.
On top of the transmedia experience is also layered the variations of challenges that the participants must go through. These can be encryptions, specialized knowledge, physical challenges, logic, arithmetic, literary and so on. The beauty then of using an ARG with a group of total strangers is that each person can bring something to the experience.
As the designer and facilitator, you can improve the experience by tailoring it to your players if you are able to do research on them ahead of time. But even if you use a standard version of an ARG experience as a one-shot, it can still be effective if it has a broad enough selection of challenges that will engage people, and where they can learn from each other.
Using these kinds of experiences promotes a level of self-organization within a group. If the players are thrown into it from the start, you will see that they very quickly start to organically pick, choose and promote themselves for the aspects that they are best suited towards. Through this they start to organically collaborate as well, naturally breaking the ice and learning about each other, through what they are good at. This provides each player with a sense of empowerment, self-worth, and respect for each other. What you’ve thus facilitated is an opportunity for a group of strangers to give a good first impression, which we all know is both hard and long-lasting.