The much ballyhooed J.J. Abrams television series Fringe kicked off earlier this week, and with it came an update to a web site connected to the show, which in turn prompted quite a few of you to send in game tips about the apparent alternate reality game. We’ve heard you loud and clear, which may please The Powers That Be behind the game, since a viral campaign is only as good as the word of mouth advertising it generates. So, what’s the deal with this Massive Dynamic corporation anyway? And what does it have to do with FBI agents, six-fingered hand prints and something called The Pattern?
Honestly, there’s no clear answer to the variety of connections between the web site, which is assumed to be the trailhead into the game, and the broadcast of the pilot episode of the hotly anticipated TV show. Perhaps it’s best to look at a chronology of events before jumping into what might just be a blockbuster ARG.
On June 17, Jenna Wortham at the utterly fantastic Underwire blog at wired.com revealed that a rough cut of the show’s pilot had made its way onto the BitTorrent file sharing network. In the show, it’s obvious that Massive Dynamic will be a focus of the story.
Later in the month of June, a puzzle of sorts showed up at the official show web site, as documented by deletia at the Unfiction forums. Combined with subtle-but-mysterious messages in the show’s trailers, and given that other Abrams productions (such as Lost and Cloverfield) have used the Internet as a hype promotion mechanism in the past, ARG players felt that familiar twinge of curiosity.
In July, animated advertisements started showing up on television, and the Massive Dynamic web site went live with an ‘under contruction’ page featuring the MD logo and the message: “Updating Our Site. Updating Your Life.”
On August 4, a comic was handed out at ComicCon that introduced “The Pattern, which was also a big part of the leaked pilot. Attendees of the conference were also invited to “find the pattern’, a scavenger hunt that began at the web site explortheimpossibilities.com (which had been discovered in July and now redirects to Hadley Media) and was documented by PostLarval at the Unfiction forums.
This takes us to September 9, when the series premiered in North America. We have details on what’s happened since then after the jump, and here’s a spoiler: there’s an employee login to be cracked.
As I watched the pilot (the broadcast version, not the leaked one), it wasn’t long before the weirdness was ratcheted up a few notches. Before many of the commercial breaks, strange symbols paired with glowing dots appeared. These images, as documented at the Wikibruce Fringe Wiki, are similar to the animated teaser videos that showed up in July. At the end of the episode — don’t worry, I won’t spoil any plot points — the leaf image is displayed prominently. While there is no rhyme or reason to them yet, there’s another episode this week to watch, and hopefully, more insight into the images.
After the show had concluded, there was a brief advertisement for Massive Dynamic, which coincided with the relaunch of the trailhead web site. The redesign features a lot of content, and includes an interesting (and, as of yet, inaccessible) employee login page. There have been mp3 files found, but no significant forward progress since the relaunch.
Other news blogs, such as the previously mentioned Underwire blog and io9, have been following the Fringe buzz for a while, and fans of the show have created web sites of their own, like Fringepedia and Fringe Bloggers. If you want a familiar place to discuss the game and the series, there are a number of related threads at the Unfiction forums which may tickle your fancy.
Thanks to all of our tipsters who sent in news of the game!