Image courtesy of Geoff May at Wikibruce
On Monday, January 16, Alcatraz premiered on Fox. The time travelling drama focuses on the mysterious disappearance of 256 prisoners and 46 guards from Alcatraz in 1963. In 2012, the inmates suddenly begin to return. To kick off the premiere, Fox partnered with Ford to produce Legends of Alcatraz, an alternate reality game set to run throughout the show’s first season.
Approximately a week before the show’s premiere, a number of blogs including /Film, Collider, ComingSoon.net, The L.A. Times’ Hero Complex, Wikibruce, and 5.0 Mustang Magazine started receiving mysterious metal boxes containing a series of artifacts offering a glimpse into the world of Alcatraz. Circled letters on one of the pages, a magazine clipping, led to the LegendsofAlcatraz.com website. Ford’s promotion of the 2013 Mustang throughout the campaign so far is overt: one of the newspaper clippings received by bloggers promoted a Mustang commercial that aired during the series premiere, while the Legends of Alcatraz url redirects to a url prominently featuring Ford branding.
The first puzzle references the notorious 1950 Alcatraz Spaghetti Riot. Solving this puzzle, sends viewers to GPS coordinates for the first drop or live event, set to commence next weekend at Alcatraz between January 27th and 29th. Viewers are directed to the alcatrazlegends Twitter account for additional puzzles.
The Fox site explains the game this way:
Over the upcoming weeks, you will be challenged to examine Alcatraz in its past and present form. You will be tasked to solve perplexing anomalies and crack the many puzzles that surround this most infamous rock. The search will lead some of you to seek out clues in the city streets, and may even bring those who dare to the island itself.
In addition to the alternate reality game, Alcatraz has launched an aggressive marketing campaign with a featured appearance at last year’s ComicCon, comprehensive social media presence on Facebook, GetGlue, Google+, Twitter and Tumblr, and a robust viral campaign. The show has already referenced ancillary material like Dr. Diego Soto’s Alcatraz comics and book, Inmates of Alcatraz. Hopefully, the show will take a page from Heroes’ book and create a website that builds upon the story’s universe with rich, evolving content.
If Bad Robot’s signature devices of plot twists, time travel, the supernatural, gothic noir, and layers of mystery shape the game, it could be fascinating. However, there is a possibility that flaws inherent within the show may be reflected in the ARG. Hunter Daniels at Collider argues that, “By the end of Lost’s first episode viewers had an emotional hook for almost every single member of the ensemble cast. Alcatraz doesn’t match this feat.” If the game can help to define and expand the mythology of the show, it could have an intriguing storytelling element rather than function as an aspect of the marketing campaign.