The concept of deus ex machina is fascinating to me. I've come to understand the phrase as referring to any result that could not have been predicted by examining the system that spawned it. God from a machine; a great mystery rising from a mechanical contrivance.
An alternate reality game isn't a machine, though, so much as a cleverly-designed scheme -- a machination of puppetmasters, if you will. So: God from a scheme. A plan that creates something much greater than the sum of its parts.
In alternate reality gaming, I've found any number of these traits that defy expectation. On the surface of it, you'd expect ARGs are the domain of teenage boys, for example. You might predict that player interaction is fleeting, that emotional attachment to characters is shallow or nonexistent. One could certainly never have predicted the powerful collaborative nature of Cloudmakers, nor any of the many groups that have followed in our footsteps.
I intend to examine the facets of cross-media entertainment, and gaming in particular, that give rise to these unpredictable behaviors. I'm hoping that trying to pick apart the pieces that make this genre so powerful will in turn lead to greater adoption of these tools by mainstream gaming, and that more thoroughly understanding my craft will enable me to build better games.
Please feel welcome to comment liberally. Community is the soul of collective gaming, and I would love nothing better than to get a lot of input here. It would help me draw better conclusions, and of course make the whole thing a lot more fun.