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5 Video Games That Leaked Into The Real World Through Alternative Reality Games

5 Video Games That Leaked Into The Real World Through Alternative Reality Games

Signal Boost! is our weekly love letter to all fandoms, be it books, podcasts, indie games, Etsy shops, soundtracks, websites, or events. Come see what wonderful, crazy stuff is out there and connect with a community of fans who knows what it’s like to like the wonderful, crazy, and unknown. Signal Boost! airs every week on both YouTube and Alpha. This week we take a deeper dive in ARGs – Boosted By Rob Manuel.

Alternative Reality Games (ARGs) are games that exist just under the surface of some of these popular titles. They’re not hyped like their video game counterparts and you’ll have to rely on word-of-mouth and online forums to get you started. ARGs go beyond their digital realms into our actual world, mixing media platforms with storytelling and puzzle-solving, and connecting players in new ways for real-life adventures and a different type of collaborative gaming.

Are you ready to dive down into the rabbit hole? Do you want a Michael-Douglas-in-The-Game experience? Then check out these five ARGs inspired by video games.


Halo 2 – I Love Bees

It all started with jars of honey and a website link mailed to previous ARG players. The website was a “hacked” site about beekeeping and soon featured a trailer for Halo 2. Soon, the site’s webmaster posted about it being hacked. Drawn in by the trailer and clues, players began working together to solve the mystery.

Players found pairs of GPS coordinates and time codes, which were eventually matched with pay phones that would ring at the specified times. Recorded messages and live operators allowed players to interact with the upcoming Halo 2 characters. As the game progressed, players were sent emails and private phone calls, and eventually met one another and the game’s characters. In the end, a select group of players who’d solved the I Love Bees mystery wound up visiting one of four places they could play Halo 2 before its release and collected a commemorative DVD.

While not a Halo-type game itself, I Love Bees provided enough hype and attention for Halo that it spawned a sequel, Iris, for the next game in the Halo series.


The Secret World

Set in the modern day world and influenced by the horror genre, The Secret World also offered players an alternate reality experience. Prior to the game’s release, a poem was leaked to the Internet and led players to other puzzles. After solving these, players joined the official forum and were led to a countdown page that contained more puzzles. The answers to the puzzles were sets of coordinates that revealed early screenshots for the game.


Overwatch – Sombra

During the open beta for Overwatch, clues about a character named Sombra began to appear in one of the maps in the game. After a YouTube video from Blizzard was posted, players discovered a QR code among the static. This led them on a hunt for more clues, ranging from hidden messages in HTML to beeps translated in morse code.

Months of puzzle-solving culminated in an animated short called Infiltration, in which Sombra and other characters were sent on an assassination mission.



While playing Oxenfree, gamers were tasked with finding anomalies and soon discovered that they could be put into alphabetical order by their call signs for a real-life phone number. The number contained a recording of a song, but players would later receive text message in Morse code. From here, players downloaded songs, followed a Twitter account, listened to numerous voicemails, and received mysterious emails; all of which led to a real-life geocache found in Seattle, Washington.


Frog Factions 2

Frog Factions was a Flash-based game that proved popular enough to launch a sequel via Kickstarter. Frog Factions 2, however, wouldn’t be anything like the original and supporters wouldn’t know what they were getting. The Kickstarter video preview was “interrupted” with a message from the year 2023 and clues on a background blackboard.

Players soon discovered hidden messages in the source code of the company’s website, which led to another YouTube video and eventually instructions to be entered into the original Frog Factions game.

This time-travel-based ARG included parts of Frog Factions 2 hidden in other Steam games, an Obama Shaving Simulator, Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, a real-life event at Indiecade, and an escape room challenge. Over two years after it began, the Frog Factions 2 puzzle was solved.

Have you played an alternative reality game? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Ruel Gaviola is a writer and educator based in Southern California. He loves board games, books, cooking, traveling, date nights with his wife, and Star Wars. He reviews games and reports news for and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter.



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