The purpose of this paper is to investigate the ways in which players and producers of promotional alternate reality games (ARGs) negotiate their commercial status, similar to the way in which Matt Hills (2002) argues fan communities negotiate their position within a commercial media industry.
In-depth interviews with game designers is combined with the results of an online player survey and qualitative analysis of discussion on player forums. This provides a strong platform from which to discuss player and producer attitudes towards the status of promotional ARGs as marketing materials.
Both players and producers use various strategies which allow them to negotiate their relationship to the commercial nature of promotional ARGs. These include a focus on the immersive nature of the games (also known as the “This Is Not a Game” philosophy), defining their creative interests strongly against the perceived commercial interests of corporate media companies and an emphasis on the personal, emotional or affective impact of the games.
In the very slim body of academic work on promotional ARGs, few scholars have considered the status of the games as marketing from the perspective of the audience. The paper provides original audience research which is of value and interest to scholars in a diverse variety of disciplines, and to anyone involved in the production or consumption of ARGs.
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