Has Alternative Reality Gaming Gone Mainstream?

I was prompted to write this post when I saw my dad playing an ARG this weekend , all thanks to Mercedes new ‘Escape the Map’ campaign.

A TV advert (see video below) directs viewers to a website to help Marie Escape the Map..

When viewers log on to the website the game automatically starts, and on screen directions guide the player around the game. Mercedes is a big, mainstream brand, as a result most of the people who want to check out it’s new car will be unfamiliar with the concept of an ARG and many will simply be logging on to find out about the car. Suddenly they are without choosing to do so, thrust into a game.

I showed this site to a few different people after the add came on TV, what I found really interesting where the different responses to it. Female friends got really involved in the game and where slightly confused about what was going on, Male friends (and my dad) commented on how nice the car was throughout the game.

The interactive features which include carrying out ‘normal, every day tasks such as having to search for directions to a car park that a man on the street gives Marie, or inputting your phone number create the sense that this is real, and not actually a game.

Is this the biggest commercial use of an ARG? It is after all being advertised at peak TV times, and Mercedes is a pretty big brand.

Will Mercedes engagement with an ARG format catalyst them into becoming the next big marketing thing?

Mercedes using ARG’s moves the format far from its original cult existence as discussed in Frank Rose’s book ‘The Art of Immersion’ 

Could this be the tipping point, ‘the’ campaign that makes ARG’s mainstream?

The answers to these questions has yet to be seen, but ‘escape the map’ certainly lowers the barriers to engagement, participation is not by selection, or a passworded website, participation is simply by inserting the escapethemap.com URL

The final genious in this campaign is the unexpected follow up….a call from Marie to thank you for your help and to let you know that she is safe. Simple, brilliant, genious use of information the user has provided in the game. A truly Transmedia experience that starts on your TV screen in the comfort of your sitting room, moves to a website then via maps, and sat nav screen shoots you out into the ‘world’ via your computer screen. Then just when the participant think its over, the final piece of the experience a phone call …that leaves the recieptent confused, intrigued but mostly, I think impressed.

….and just incase you want to find out more about Maire she’s on Twitter @girlinmap : ‘I’m a girl who’s trapped inside the map’

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