Among the terms essential to understand discussions about ARGs are:
- Puppetmaster – A puppetmaster or “PM” is an individual involved in designing and/or running an ARG. Puppetmasters are simultaneously allies and adversaries to the player base, creating obstacles and providing resources for overcoming them in the course of telling the game’s story. Puppetmasters generally remain behind the curtain while a game is running. The real identity of puppet masters may or may not be known ahead of time.
- The Curtain – The curtain is generally a metaphor for the separation between the puppetmasters and the players. This can take the traditional form of absolute secrecy regarding the puppetmasters’ identities and involvement with the production, or refer merely to the convention that puppetmasters do not communicate directly with players through the game, interacting instead through the characters and the game’s design.
- Rabbithole – Also known as a Trailhead. A Rabbithole marks the first website, contact, or puzzle that starts off the ARG.
- Trailhead – A deliberate clue which enables a player to discover a way into the game. Most ARGs employ a number of trailheads in several media, to maximise the probability of people discovering the game. Some trailheads may be covert, others may be thinly-disguised adverts.
- This Is Not A Game (TINAG) – Setting the ARG form apart from other games is the This Is Not A Game aesthetic, which dictates that the game not behave like a game: phone numbers mentioned in the ARG, for example, should actually work, and the game should not provide an overtly-designated playspace or ruleset to the players.