Should Arg Designers Go For Ensure The Safety Of Body And Mind Of Their Players?

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What are the limits?

How far should ARG designers go to ensure the safety of body and mind of their players? What are the responsible limits of immersion? To what extent do these responsibilities lay with the player themselves? Consider the implications surrounding the Batman franchise in the context of the Why So Serious ARG.

In the lead up to the 2009 Batman feature film: The Dark Knight, several thousand people received a series of clues that led them to bakeries across the US. Providing a password: the name “Robin Banks”, the bakeries would give them a box. Inside the box they found a cake. Upon it, a phone number was written in gaudy purple and yellow icing, along with the demand: “Call Me Now”. When they called, the cake rang. A
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In response to the shootings, there were murmurs regarding the ethics of immersion, the responsibility of designers and the implications of fictions bleeding into reality. The cinema chain in which the shootings took place banned the wearing of costumes at screenings. Were the creators of the ARG, the cinema, the costumed fans or the creators of the Batman franchise in anyway responsible for these appalling acts? We can safely assume not. Designers of fictions cannot predict the way each individual will respond to their creations, but more importantly, one cannot design any entertainment product to accommodate for psychotic behaviour. All players must take responsibility for their participation not just in games, but in society too.


While highly elaborate and controlled, ARGs are also intended as open systems, engineered to be responsive and adaptive to player involvement. In this way, ARGs empower players to become part of the construction of the game’s narrative. To respond player actions and ideas, ARGs require a degree of player observation and surveillance, which in-turn raises issues around personal privacy, identifying details and data collection. In arguably the first sustained exploration of ethics in real space games, researchers within the Integrated Project on Pervasive Gaming: Montola, Waern,
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