After many years in which I happily heard about ARGs through word of mouth and community excitement, I suddenly find myself getting a steady but growing trickle of unsolicited emails announcing ARGs. Some of them are cryptic, some of them amount to press releases, but they all have one thing in common: They piss me right the hell off.
Why would they do that, Andrea? Isn't email a great tool for getting your name out there? And don't YOU of all people want to hear about my great new ARG?
My answer: No, and really, really no.
I sympathize with the difficulty in getting a game out there in front of an audience. It's hard work, folks. We're living in an attention economy, and getting your piece of the pie gets harder by the hour. And on the surface of it, sure, sending out that cryptic email to everyone in your address book might seem like a good way to grab a little attention.
But no matter how awesome your game is, no matter how innovative the thing you plan to do, however pure your motivations, it's SPAM. It's cheap, sure. It's easy, absolutely. But that's why the guys trying to sell you Russian brides and various cheap, effective methods for increasing your sexual stamina use it, too. And do you want to be associated in anyone's mind with these things?
Let me be straight with you. If you've sent me an email about your ARG, I guarantee I won't look at it, won't write about it, and won't talk about it. You've already made it clear that you don't respect my personal boundaries, and this bodes very poorly for your respecting me as a player. And you've already proven to me you aren't willing to go the extra mile to provide a great player experience, so honestly, what's in it for me?
It's true that I do receive emails from a few ARG campaigns that I look forward to: My Young Bond Shadow War emails bring me joy when they pop up, and so do my Heroes messages. But that's because I've explicitly opted into these. I was given a choice.
Oh, but what's a poor, honest grassroots ARG developer to do without spam, Andrea? Wherever shall we go? Whatever shall we do? Well, look, this is a problem with a solution as individual as your game. Maybe you could send out a targeted postcard. Maybe you could put something interesting on Craigslist or YouTube or eBay. Maybe you could -- gasp -- tell a few friends about your rabbithole, and encourage them to blog about it and tell their friends to do the same, and see how it spreads via word of mouth. Maybe you could put up flyers and walk around town with a sandwich board. What I'm saying is, there are many, many creative ways to tackle this problem. If you aren't up for finding one, what does that tell me about your capacity to run the rest of a game?
So please, stop with the spam. I know you can all do better than this. I know it's hard. But if it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right.