If you’ve been living in a cave for the last year, and don’t know about Perplex City, now is the time to get up to speed. Sente Kiteway, the headmaster of the Perplex City Academy, has informed us of a missing priceless cultural artifact: The Cube. It’s here on Earth, and up to us to find, for a large monetary reward. Until recently, things have been slow in the coming:
First, just over a year ago, was Project Syzygy, apparently a site designed to gather players and build hype for the game’s start, which ended up soft-launching nearly a year later. The next site to show up was PerplexCity.com, which contained some cryptic pictures and an email sign-up, allowing those who wanted to play an avenue to register. Quite some time later, a video that started yet more pre-game, albeit with more hunting around for newspapers around the world, and ended with a real-life interaction at Abbey Road in London, UK.
Soon after, a new website for the Perplex City Sentinel, a newspaper site, with only certain areas available for viewing. The PC Sentinel gave players still more insight into the world of Perplex City, where puzzling is as ubiquitous as television is here on Earth, and where, similar to Earth, they are intrigued by political scandal and entertainment gossip.
Finally, there was a blog site created by Sente’s daughter, Scarlett, appropriately named The Scarlett Kite. While this site hasn’t done too much in terms of puzzling, it has been an arena for players to inquire about the culture of Perplex City, and to meet one of the characters in-depth. And I state “finally” because for about a month or so, these sites were the only ones to be found, updating fairly regularly, but with little of “playable” value. Until now.
It started with an email (doesn’t it usually?) on April 22nd. Players were sent a riddle with the promise of a “parcel” to the first 333 who answered correctly. The riddle was simple enough, and tensions began to rise, with players wondering if they were to be one of the lucky 333, and speculation abounded as far as what could be contained in the parcels. Just days later, answers would be given through the first recipients of the parcels in the UK, as well as with an item in the Summer 2005 catalog from UK-based tchotchke company Firebox. And this is where things get interesting…
The Firebox catalog was selling “Perplex City Cards”, seemingly like baseball cards of a sort, giving information about Perplex City denizens, as well as puzzles to be solved. Certain pages of said catalog pointed towards a site for the Perplex City Academy, which ended up being a veritable plethora of information regarding Sente’s place of employment. Beyond this were the parcels received by those lucky 333 (OK, so I’m still holding out hope for myself) puzzle-solvers. The parcels contained not only a pack of these cards, but also some stickers as seen in the corners of the Perplex City main site, a brochure about things-doing in Perplex City, as well as (for some, but not others, apparently) a badge with the number 333 on it. Current speculation is that this would be what Perplex Citizens would call a “Leitmark”. This is where the craze begins and the stagnancy ends.
The “puzzle cards” themselves are all numbered in a set, as well as “point-valued”. They contain a standard-fare puzzle, with some information about Perplex City life. However, what is not known yet is exactly how one would actually redeem these “solve points”, not to mention how they actually play into the final reward of finding the cube and the money. Many players are concerned about the possibility of factions being formed, not to mention the way greed will inevitably play into the scheme of things, in terms of the reward. As one forum-poster wrote: “…the bigger issue is how does one fairly and equitably award an individual prize for what is essentially a communal experience?” Another item of contention is the “openness” of the game, since cards will be available for purchase (apparently the only way to obtain cards other than those included in these parcels) through UK-based Mind Candy.
So the question becomes: Will you pay to play? While there will be sharing of information on various forums and out-of-game collaboration sites, it’s all too obvious that those with the cards will come out with the solves, and in natural succession, the “points” first, a controversial concept not lost on players. Not to mention, there is the promise of new in-game sites, discovered solely on the information gleaned from the cards. You have to know that people will be investigating first, and posting information afterwards, which could also create its share of ethical conundrums.
While it’s still too early to tell if the game will be completely leaning on this “Gotta catch ‘em all!” concept, it’s clearly evident that Perplex City has definitely shaken things up in the ARG community, and that players will continue to form opinions, factions, and continue to become intrigued by this world that has been so skillfully created. As I stated at the beginning of this piece, if you want to get involved in this game, now is the time, as things are really heating up. As for me, I’m going to work some overtime at my job over at Whip Smart, so I can buy some more Perplex City cards and take that huge reward, fair and square.