I was just explaining to my friend Ali what Neofuturism was, and I was cribbing notes from the Neofuturist’s mission statement to do so. So I scrolled down and caught the link to Greg’s rules, and thought again just how often and how intensely the theatrical stage and the art involved in putting on a play is so very close to the process and art of making an ARG.
Greg’s Rules that I especially liked:
Rule #1: Don’t create good theater. You must intend to create GREAT theater. We don’t need any more perfectly good productions of perfectly good scripts. You are setting out to do something great or it’s not worth doing.
I would say that the pitfall of this rule is in how you approach it, primarily because it’s easy to consider that everything you create is gonna be “great.” That’s why there are other rules to help supplement this one, and to help define what can be defined as more than “perfectly good.”
Rule #12: Do not suspend your audience’s disbelief. Involve the audience. Make sure you remind them that they are watching live theater. Q: Why do people go to the theater? A: To have a visceral connection with live performers. Take that ball and run with it. If you want to suspend the audience’s disbelief, make a movie. Movies accomplish this much more successfully.
Now, if you know me at all, you know I love TINAG, so why on earth would I select this rule as a highlight? I think that while it’s very important for an ARG to never acknowledge to itself that it’s a game, it’s also important for the Puppetmasters to be very aware of the boundaries and emotional structure of the narrative. There should be a sense of motion or movement in terms of the ‘audience’ (players) interacting with the ‘actors/script’ (characters/game), a vitality that indicates awareness of the chemistry, the give-and-take – even if there’s no e-mail/chat element to the ARG! The ride may be on rails, but the Puppetmaster should strive for honesty in the dynamic so that it can feed the idea of there being an unexpected result, of the characters inside the game having a recognizable human quality that the audience can immediately relate to.
If you’re letting go of the pretense of enforcing an alternate reality, of forcing the immersion, you make it that much easier for your players to fall down that rabbithole.
Rule #17: Change the material world. A small part of the world should be somehow altered by each performance. Something should be destroyed, consumed, built, adorned, or the space itself should be newly endowed by the end of each night of the show. Leave the stage a mess.
I have nothing to say to this rule but: YES.
Rule #23: Establish ritual through repetition. Give the audience a ritual or repetitive pattern with which to identify. Create a shared history for the audience. Once a ritual is established, you can speak volumes through tiny variations on a theme. The art is in the details. There’s nothing better to than feeling part of an inside joke.
Rule #25: Unify the audience. Give the audience shared experiences which create faith and trust in each other. Create an event that brings disparate people to identify with each other through their mutual, but individual, experience of the show.
People who have been through an ARG with a well-formed community are nodding their heads enthusiastically after reading Rules #23 and #25. Again, a Puppetmaster doesn’t really need to enforce a community’s identity: it’s best to let the players define that space for themselves. Lots of details, and things-that-have-a-pattern can really give the players somewhere to rest their brains in the social space of the game, and gives them an organic framework and vocabulary that they can use to communicate with each other.