Stranger Than UnFiction: Why Creators Should Care About ARGs


If there’s one thing we love about the Internet, it’s how weird it is, and how deeply passionate fans of subcult followings tend to be. (Although, arguably, this is also why the Internet is the worst place?) 

Which is why I’m so obsessed with unfiction: the genre of narrative storytelling that use the unique properties of the Internet to tell incredibly complex and creative narratives, often spanning across multiple platforms, accounts, and media. The only rule is that creators and players must treat the story as if the events are really occurring, making it often hard to identify them from copypastas or niche videos you find yourself scrolling past in the middle of the night.  You may have come across a “trailhead” of an unfiction project — the gateway to the larger mystery box story — while not even realizing it. 

This is where Nick Nocturne comes in handy: His YouTube channel Night Mind serves as the ultimate explainer guide for these otherwise camouflaged oddities. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick for the first episode of “Deep Linkers,” our new series exploring creators who have devoted an ungodly amount of time researching and producing long form content on the internet. For Nick, his specialty has been introducing the world with his sonorous voice and three-eyed catvatar (™ me) to various forms of unfiction.


The music videos of American pop star Poppy; the British puppet series “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared,” and the innocent-seeming flash website for an old public access show called Welcome Home are all gateways to interactive projects or immersive narratives; so are the 4 a.m. Adult Swim infomercials “Unedited Footage of a Bear” and “This House Has People In It” by Wham City Comedy.

Alternate-reality games (ARGs) are the most famous kind of unfiction project, and ironically despite their adoption by independent creators, they began as marketing campaigns for big-budget films like “Cloverfield,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Halo 2.” The first ever ARG, “The Beast,” was a collaboration between Microsoft and producer Kathleen Kennedy for Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”; the project’s developer Elan Lee was so inspired by David Fincher’s 1997 thriller “The Game” that he wanted to make a real-life version. And I will die on the hill defending this as the most hilarious origin story of all time.

I’ve been a fan of Night Mind and Nick Nocturne for so long, it’s why I wanted to become a content creator myself. Please check out the interview, if for no other reason than to hear Nocturne’s beautiful gardening metaphor about content creation.


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