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Am I allowed to ask questions on Worldbuilding for an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that I'm creating?

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  • $\begingroup$ Good question, I don't have a clear, simple answer right now. However, I feel a good part of the discussion will be about real-world (off-topic) and fictional world (on-topic). It might be hard to distinguish one from the other. $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2022 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ If you wish, you could try your question in the sandbox without fear of downvotes. It could be interesting to see what you're wishing to ask and see if it can be accepted or not. $\endgroup$ Sep 16, 2022 at 23:21
  • $\begingroup$ The only caveat I'd offer is that the very definition you link to --- that uses the real world as a platform --- tells us that your questions would most likely be off topic. We don't really take "real world" questions here. We'd refer you to another SE forum for questions about Earth climate, weather, history, culture, etc. That said, if the game you're designing is set in an entirely fictional world (think Discworld, Middle Earth, Barsoom, etc) or here on Earth but within the framework of an alternate history, then you'd be okay! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Sep 17, 2022 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas ARGs don't have to be actually set in the real world as a setting. Pokemon GO allows users to interact with the Pokemon world within the real world. Maybe a better example of something more original: the previous game by the same developer is called Ingress and it creates a fictional narrative of secret organisations engaged in an invisible (to most of the world) struggle for control. The "real world as a platform" doesn't mean ARGs are about the real world. Just that whatever alternative reality they tackle is overlaid on the real world. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Sep 19, 2022 at 7:01

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It depends.

We don't have any particular prohibitions on asking worldbuilding questions related to an ARG. However, like any other Stack Exchange site, questions need to be more than topically adjacent to be permitted. The standard requirements for any Stack Exchange still apply. A question needs to:

  • Not be a duplicate
  • Be about building a fictional world
  • Be clearly asked
  • Not be too broad
  • Not be too opinion based

We also have a custom close reason for questions about building a story, or about the actions and decisions of a character or organization. While we don't have a custom close reason, questions about 3rd party worlds, i.e. any world that you yourself didn't build, are considered to not be about worldbuilding for the purposes of this site. You can read more about the specifics by searching meta, or visiting the help center.

How can I determine if my question about worldbuilding for an ARG is appropriate?

The two common problems I've seen from other questions related to games are; asking about game design, and mechanics, instead of about the world of the game, and asking for brainstorming, or idea generation.

Game design and mechanics are off topic for this site. If you want to thematically incorporate the rules of your game into your world, we can help with that, as long as the focus is on the game world. If a valid answer to your question need to include novel mechanics for your game or modifications to existing mechanics, rather than treating the mechanics as a fixed quantity, your question is off topic for this site.

We're also not here to build your world for you. Brainstorming and idea generation are explicitly called out in our help center as inappropriate for this site. The more specific your question, and the smaller the possibility space of valid answers the better.

As long as your question is otherwise suitable for this site, the fact that it's related to an ARG should not be an issue. If you're still unsure whether your question is appropriate, you can use our sandbox, as Tortliena suggested to get feedback on a post before posting it to the main site.

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You're allowed to ask for help developing your world. You are not allowed to ask for help developing your game.

There's an important distinction between the game and the world and it's not always obvious. For example, you might ask (and someone once did ask) what sounds the player should hear to indicate a particular world event is occurring? Such a question is actually off-topic because even though it sounds like a question about the world, it's actually a question about game mechanics.

Here's the rule of thumb:

We help you create and consistently use rules governing an imaginary world of your own creation wherein an infinite number of stories may be told (or games played).

We do not help you write stories or build games.

In your case it's a bit more difficult, because ARGs are fictional stories, not fictional worlds

From the link you provide we learn the following:

An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players' ideas or actions.

Here's the problem: on this Stack, "alternate reality" means the Real World with changes in the underlying physics rule set. "Alternate history" is the Real World with changes in the underlying cultural rule set. If either of those are what you're trying to achieve, we can help you.

For example, while we do allow Real World questions on this site, those questions are expected to be in the context of developing and consistently using the rules of an imaginary world. Thus, it's reasonable to ask about fictional interplanetary space travel from the perspective of Real World physics.

But it's not acceptable to ask a Real World physics question with a Real World application that would be as easily asked on Physics.SE.

And that's a potential show stopper for you. Because as I understand it, ARGs are games based in the Real World. All those rules are already developed and known — you just need to ask about them on the appropriate Stack. And since we don't answer story questions, you quite literally may not have a question you can ask here.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for summing up the difficulty; I'll just bring a game-design hint if something is about the game or the world : If it's extradiegetic, it's clearly not the world; If it's intradiegetic, it could be on-topic... If you focus on bringing consistency to said world, rather than focusing on the player needs (feedbacks, Camera/Controller/Character #3C, level design...). $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2022 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ While most ARGs are played in the real world, they have their own fictional world, lore and narratives as well. The gyms of Pokemon Go, don't physically exist, but they exist within the fictional world of the game. Similar to how playing pretend can result in the organic construction of complex and diverse worlds in the minds of children an ARG will construct a complex world and present it to their player base. Ultimately whether or not a question is for an ARG should have exactly 0 influence on whether the question is suitable for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 21, 2022 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ It would be worth linking this other meta question about the suitability of game mechanics to this post. Whether or not a question is for an ARG should have 100% influence if the question is about player interaction with the world rather than the world itself. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 22, 2022 at 2:21
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    $\begingroup$ That's correct. The ARGness of a question is irrelevant to the analysis in my answer there or my answer here. If you're asking about a game mechanic, no matter what for your question is not appropriate. Show me even one question where adding "it's for an ARG" will salvage it or make it unsuitable for this site. That would prove that is can matter. You'd need to show that for every question to prove 100% influence. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 27, 2022 at 7:09

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