PETLab developed an alternate reality game (ARG) system and a prototype product to enable a multi-platform mystery experience for teens. The purpose of the larger project was to create a methodology and open-source platform to enable the NYPL to pilot, iterate, and eventually evergreen an ARG system. PETLab's design situates players in a cross-technology interactive narrative that promotes exchanges with peers and librarians as well as library collections, both digital and analog. Players who achieve expert status unlock the ability to function as game masters who can design, evaluate, and maintain their own ARG episodes. The prototype "Haunts" used a single branch of the NYPL and content based on historical references to Halloween in the city, specifically in the locale of the branch library.

Many of the key organizing structures of the ARG game genre overlap with academic research practice. ARG players routinely engage in hunting, gathering, and sharing of information in support of an evolving hypothesis, and in collaborative decoding of partially-recovered data (ARG creators call this "the hive mind"). Can interweaving the obsessive, immersive, group aspects of ARG play with library usage extend the relevance of traditional research methods for youth?


  • David Carroll
  • Michie Pagulayan
  • Parsons mfaDT Boot Camp
  • The NYPL Teen Advisory Group