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ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.ARGs are growing in popularity, with new games appearing regularly and an increasing amount of experimentation with new models and subgenres.Sean Stacey, founder of the website Unfiction, has suggested that the best way to define the genre was not to define it, and instead locate each game on three axes (ruleset, authorship and coherence) in a sphere of "chaotic fiction" that would include works such as the Uncyclopedia and street games like SF0 as well. This prompts the unique collaboration emanating from ARGs as well; Sean Stewart, founder of 42 Entertainment, which has produced various successful ARGs, speaks to how this occurs, noting that "the key thing about an ARG is the way it jumps off of all those platforms.It's a game that's social and comes at you across all the different ways that you connect to the world around you." Due to factors like the curtain, attempts to begin games with "stealth launches" to fulfill the TINAG aesthetic, and the restrictive non-disclosure agreements governing how much information may be revealed by the puppetmasters of promotional games, the design process for many ARGs is often shrouded in secrecy, making it difficult to discern the extent to which they have been influenced by other works. Chesterton's 1905 short story "The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown" (part of a collection entitled The Club of Queer Trades) seems to predict the ARG concept, as does John Fowles' 1965 novel The Magus.The One Game, a British television drama serial screened in 1988, was entirely based on the premise of the protagonist being forced to play an ARG (referred to as a "reality game" in the script).Due to the influence the Beast exerted over the form of later ARGs and the willingness of its creators to talk about its development, its sources of inspiration are both particularly relevant to the evolution of the modern ARG and somewhat more verifiable than other possible antecedents.

The marketing for the 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project resembled ARGs in many ways (and some of its makers went on to create the 2005 Audi promotional ARG The Art of the Heist), expanding the world of the movie online, adding backstory, and treating the fiction as reality through real-world media such as fliers and a fake documentary on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Subsequently, it is shaped by characters that are actively controlled by the game's designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game.

Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and collaborate as a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities.

Overall, academics have been intrigued by ARGs' potential for effective organizing.

Across the board, a diverse range of organizations, such as businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and schools "can learn from the best practices and lessons of ARGs to similarly take advantage of new media and collective problem–solving".

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