Last night I went down the rabbit hole.
Rabbit holes are what the entry points into ARGs are called [although the urban dictionary has some other, more colourful definitions] - a reference to Alice following the white rabbit into wonderland.
But I wasn't playing an ARG, at least not in the traditional sense - I was buying a t-shirt.
The Urban Rabbit Hole project took some of the tropes of ARGs and built them into a product - in fact they built a lot of marketing into the product itself:
Gaming behaviours and manufactured exclusivity: in order to buy the t-shirt you had to find an invitation code and enter it on the website.
Personalisation: The idea for the t-shirt is that you paint five red dots on a map of Manhattan, all of which represent some important place for you.
Geotility: OK it's not really geotility exactly but an obsession with location, and specifically our own locations as shown by a dot on a map, is an inevitable consequence of GPS enabled handsets.
Create experiences and curate social spaces: To buy the t-shirt you had to attend an event. It was theatrical - people in costumes hand you tubes of absinthe, you meet a bunch of people and then get drunk together with red paint. During the course of the event someone hands you a key and a note with clues on how to find the afterparty.
[Somehow paint got on my face. And other people's faces. This was FUN.]
Create a story around your product: the whole thing becomes a story, itself an aggregation of other people's personal stories, which are being compiled into an anthology.
Stories tell themselves, people like to narrate, so they get passed on.
Most of what I love about the t-shirt I bought is not, in fact, the t-shirt.
The product is primarily a souvenir: an invitation to others to tell a story.
The product is decompiled into a process.