Season 1

Falling into the Past. In spring 2011, players entered the game through a rabbit hole, an amateur historical enthusiast’s site with an intriguing name: The site details the history of the Junto, a real but secret philanthropic society founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1727. Although the society no longer exists, the rabbit hole includes some curious rhetoric about the secret side of the past that resides beyond history books; about different ways of interpreting historical events; and about the possible dangers of digging too deeply into the historical record.  Following a lesson on wordplay, the students discovered that the site’s mysterious title, Just No Evil, is an anagram that contains another site keyword: Junto Lives. After typing in the words, they were suddenly redirected to a new site: What was going on? Could the history books be wrong about the death of the Junto?

The Game Narrative. Players discovered that within the world of AGOG, Junto does indeed live–except that during the early rumblings of the Civil War, the group split into rival factions which both went underground: JENIUS (the Junto of Enlightened Naturalists and Inventors for a United Society) and the nefarious SCAR (Scientific Confederate Alliance for Revolution). Players trained to become certified members of a special online academy of JENIUS formed to tackle a secret and sensitive mission. After working on their talents in one or more of four “orders”–Archivists, Surveyors, Cryptographers, and Inventors–the players were equipped to help JENIUS through a week of dramatic events, a week in which they would gradually come to learn that their understanding of the past was key to the survival of the present.

A Timeline of the Game. Click the image for a timeline and storyboard of AGOG Season 1 with links to audio, images, and video.

Counterfactual Design Patterns. The AGOG design team developed a formal typology of counterfactual design patterns as the narrative and game challenges for Season 1 evolved. For example, one design pattern is genealogical: the secret society that our players join is “JENIUS” (Junto of Enlightened Naturalists and Inventors for a United Society), a fictional society that derives from Ben Franklin’s factual Junto club. Another pattern is causal: in the absence of a definitive known cause for the historical 1877 fire at the U.S. Patent Office, a fictional cause was invented as part of the AGOG storyline. The goal of our typology is to help designers, educators, and players to locate interesting fault lines in reality and facilitate the expansion of ARG mythologies, and to promote the design of game challenges that promote counterfactual thinking. The basic process of counterfactual mutation could also apply to future-oriented ARGs, such as World Without Oil and Superstruct.


  • Player Community Shots

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  • Media from Season 1 Design and Play

    AnthonyListensMorse AprilMorseMsg6 Aprilprofile FireNoAccedent TyPonders aprilFrederickBreakIn charlotteTypes clueNotes dailyCircleTime girlsListeningToApril kairo-illum morseEncoding