Just read "Through the Rabbit Hole" the "rulebook" for playing ARGs ("Alternate Reality Games"). I finished it and walked away knowing, uh, not much. Honestly, the book was fine, and for the uninitiated I can see how it would be helpful. Really though, I think creating a "rulebook" misses the ENTIRE point of an ARG(more on that later).
First off, the name "Alternate Reality Game" is redundant. A game is already an alternate reality, that is a central component of what it is to be a game!
From "Rules of Play" by Sales and Zimmerman: "A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome."
"system" and "artificial conflict" that adds up to an alternate reality in my book. What is a reality but a set of rules that we all live by (physics).
Then, are ARG's games even? According to Szulborski from "Through the Rabbit Hole": "Many ARG endings don't have the feeling of finality and sense of completeness that most traditional video games do. On other words, there is no blatant "Game Over" message. In some cases, because ARGs try to mimic life so closely, players aren't even sure if a game has ended or not"
So, the game requirement of "a quantifiable outcome" is missing too.
Maybe I am being too tough on ARG's, so far I have just insulted the name, that isn't fair. The truth is ARG's do have the characteristics of game play, but I think they actually fit the category of "puzzle" much better. Puzzles, again according to Sales and Zimmerman, are a subset of games with absolute correct answers created by the game designer. And in ARG's we clearly see how there are "correct" answers embedded at every step which are crafted by the "puppet masters." So much of what goes on in ARG's is solving word puzzles.
Finally, what is the motivation in creating a "rulebook" of ARG's? ARG's belong to a set of puzzles where the rules are unknown. In creating an ARG the creators decide how much instruction to give, they decide how well defined the rules are. Then an integral part of the puzzle(and often the most interesting part) is figuring out the rules of the puzzle! The fun of an ARG is being immersed in the unknown. It is getting into the mind of the creator. It is in the thinking "if I were to have created a puzzle like this, what might I have done..." It is the process of creating a hypothesis and testing that hypothesis. It allows the player to approach an unknown system(alternate reality) like a scientist approaches our well-known system(reality). Throw the rulebook out! I know if I were to create an ARG I would look at the rule book and deliberately try to break every "rule." So, you can be sure that the next "puppet master" will too.
If ARG is a poor name, what is an appropriate name for what this is? I would go with: Trans-media Puzzle or even better: mystery hunt.