The Mysterious World of Unfiction and Immersive Storytelling

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Have you found yourself with nothing to do lately? Looking for an exciting hobby to pursue in your free time? Just want to see something new and exciting? If so, then you will want to hear about the world of unfiction and how you can join in.

What is unfiction?

While fiction traditionally refers to a creative narrative and nonfiction refers to works based on reality, unfiction treads in between. Unfiction is an umbrella term that refers to a large range of artistic works that all share a common theme: they exist in their own fictional worlds as if they belong in reality. In other words, unfiction pretends to be telling a real story, even though it is fictional.

Okay… but how is unfiction used?

There are many types of projects that fall under the category of unfiction. One of the most well-known types is called an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). These often use puzzles, clues, and even physical locations to progress the story. A great example of an ARG would be Cipher Hunt, the Gravity Falls ARG.

Another type of unfiction project is the “interactive project”. Similar to the ARG, the interactive project does not acknowledge that it is fictional. Where this differs is the level of interaction; in this case, interacting with content is optional, not required. If one does interact, they may experience the project on a more entertaining level or gain a deeper understanding of the story. Projects like The Sun Vanished on Twitter fall into this category because there is some communication with viewers, but it isn’t necessary.

Finally, there is the “immersive narrative”. In this form of storytelling, no interaction is needed to fully understand the plot. The story will unfold and can be completely enjoyed by just watching. One example of the immersive narrative is I Am Sophie, a web series on YouTube that contains no activity from the viewer, but can be completely digested online.

Who created unfiction?

Unfiction finds its history back in the late 1990s when the makers of The Blair Witch Project, a found-footage horror film, started using websites, posters, and fake newsreels to promote their film. This was a new form of storytelling and created an illusion of reality within the fictional world. This trend started to catch on with large filmmakers, then began to develop a following online.

Groups of people started to meet in forums and work together to solve these fictional projects. In the early 2000s, Sean Stacey created, a website that acted as the hub for discussion of ARGs and the genre as a whole. Over the course of the following years, the genre blew up into an art form that anyone can partake in. Fans of popular movies and videogames, coding and encryption, puzzles, and mysteries can all find a place in the unfiction community. 

What does an average ARG look like?

Unfiction and Alternate Reality Games are difficult to define because they break traditional forms of storytelling and creative writing. With this, it can be a challenge to make rules for exactly what an ARG is. This being said, there are still some hallmarks that will alert you of an ARG.

Many ARGs take place on one or more media platforms and develop a story between these places. This includes YouTube videos, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, TikTok, and everywhere in between. Another common tactic that ARG creators employ is the use of puzzles and codes. More often than not, encrypted files and encoded phrases need to be deciphered to reach the next destination. ARGs can be seen as internet scavenger hunts that simultaneously carry a plot.

How do I participate or learn more?

The beauty of this relatively young form of media is that an endless number of creative projects can stem from it. Because of this, different levels and types of unfiction have evolved: those for people who like solving puzzles, and those who just enjoy watching something new. Along with this are several genres, meaning immersive projects for fans of horror, mystery, puzzles, and even comedy.

The best way to enter any community is to just expose yourself to the content out there. One of the easiest methods of exposure is through YouTube channels devoted to exploring mysterious and immersive content. My recommendations would have to be Night Mind, Nexpo, and Inside a Mind as they take a deep dive into some of the most entertaining ARGs that have transpired.

If you have decided to explore the world of ARGs and unfiction, good luck. It’s worth noting, however, that your first priority is to keep best practices while searching the internet. Stay safe and have fun!