Author: Geoff May

ARGFest 2010: Hotlanta Recap

Near, far, wherever you are – ARGFest 2010 in Atlanta, GA was a blast. Whether at ARGFest or its virtual Twitter counterpart #PretendARGFest, the annual conference dedicated to alternate reality games was filled with informative panels and discussions, hands on gaming, mysteries, and social and professional networking opportunities.  While the player community in attendance was less this year and creative minds and industry folk were in relative abundance, all aspects of the ARG/Transmedia genre and community seemed well represented.

To usher in ARGFest 2010, Brian Clark welcomed everyone and introduced the newly appointed “Grand Inquisitor“, Steve Peters. The first session was presented by Andrea Phillips of Deus Ex Machinatio. Andrea set the pace for the fest by presenting Beyond the Brunette – an analytical look at stereotypical gender roles in gaming and storytelling. By providing a look at numerous common character cliches, attendees couldn’t help but notice throughout the remainder of the conference how common they actually are. As one of her session’s focal points, Andrea posed the challenge to be unique and break away from using standard, typical archetypes.

Other panels and sessions this year covered a host of informative topics, including:

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An Arcade Classic Comes to Life, Secret Blueprints Revealed

An important and much hyped event in the Flynn Lives! ARG came to fruition May 6th–the public unveiling of Encom International’s online version of their 1981 arcade classic “Space Paranoids,” which debuted at San Diego’s Comic Con 2009 for the Flynn’s Arcade event.

As a prelude to its release, a special countdown teased the game’s release. Players who visited the countdown splash page were able to click and destroy Recognizers that appeared and hovered across the screen. It served merely as a timewaster, but if players had the patience to keep clicking and destroy 99 Recognizers, they received a badge on By persisting further and destroying 999, they received another badge.  Finally, when the countdown ended on May 6th, Encom published their much-anticipated Space Paranoids Online arcade game, just as Alan Bradley had announced.

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Halo ODST: Discovering Sadie’s Story

Halo 3: ODST / Sadie's Story“Prepare To Drop”
Those words have been resounding through the gaming community for months, and the clashing drums of excited gamers are growing as the release date for Halo 3: ODST draws nearer. But there’s something more in this video game release that’s attracting attention.

Back in 2004, an ARG milestone was achieved with the launch of a defining marketing campaign for the genre. Before Halo 2 was released, a mysterious URL appeared momentarily in a promotional trailer, leading the way to the discovery of another world, another story within the Halo universe. The campaign became known as “I Love Bees“. That campaign is what introduced me to the world of ARGs. Already being an enormous Halo fan, the combination of the Halo science fiction universe with this method of story-telling had me immediately hooked.

Chrysopteron / SuperintendentWith each iteration of the Halo video game franchise, there has been some form of extended experience, viral campaign, or ARG. For Halo 3 it was Iris. Bungie even produced their own relatively localized mysteries, such as the Cortana Letters leading up to Halo: Combat Evolved, and other strange A.I. users posting and interacting on the forums like The Smuggler and The Superintendent. Bungie had created a diverse, dynamic, and vast universe in which many stories could be told beyond the video game genre.

Sure enough, Halo 3: ODST will have a unique extended experience of its own. Or rather, an embedded tangential experience, for lack of a better term. Within the game, players will be able to uncover bits and pieces of a separate story arc throughout the campaign. This story is being called “Sadie’s Story“. Created by Fourth Wall Studios in partnership with Bungie Studios‘ Joe Staten and Ashley Wood, it’s an audio drama (not unlike the radio drama revealed in I Love Bees) that utilizes comic-book style story-telling and will reveal an exciting mystery throughout the campaign, told from the perspective of Sadie- a New Mombasa civilian, and her experience through the ordeal leading up to New Mombasa’s destruction. It’s reported to contain even more voice acting than ODST itself.

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Scholastic set to Shock its readers

Harris_TJF.jpgHot on the heels of the launch of the novel series The 39 Clues and its significant online experience aimed at young readers, Scholastic is working together with author M.G. Harris to create an extended experience for the second book in her series “The Joshua Files”, named ICE SHOCK.

“The Joshua Files” is a book series aimed at young readers 10+ years of age, much like 39 Clues. Harris’ first book, Invisible City, was released Feb 4, 2008 in the UK as the first book of this series. Harris drops hints about the upcoming novel and ARG in her website’s blog for her fans – she even asks if they’d rather hear more about Ice Shock‘s upcoming plot, or rumours about the alternate reality game. Harris and Scholastic plan to launch the ARG in March of 2009, and until then, she’ll be keeping her fans occupied and interested with teasers and contests.

At the time of this writing, Harris is running a contest for a bound proof of Ice Shock – using a code key, readers are challenged to find a hidden word in the content of Invisible City. Submit the word and register, and you may win. The contest, however, is only open to residents of the UK and Ireland.

Information about the ARG at this point is fairly hush-hush, but we know it’s coming. Stay tuned to her website for details if/when they’re released.

Invisible City: An ancient civilization is awakening. An ancient Maya prophecy is unfolding. One boy – Joshua – holds the key. When his archaeologist father goes missing in Mexico, Josh suspects alien abduction. But when he realises his dad was murdered, Josh is caught in a race to find the legendary ‘Ix Codex’ – a lost Mayan prophecy which predicts the end of the world.

Ice Shock: Josh is even more certain now that his father’s death was no accident – and he’s starting to wonder if he can really trust his closest allies. When he learns of a secret buried within the Ix Codex, he must journey back to the secret Mexican city of Ek Naab. Shocking news awaits him about the mysterious Bracelet of Itzamna. Did Josh’s dad really take it? And where is it now? Josh has no idea what’s waiting for him…

The ARG (source: Readers, I have been SO busy with stuff (…) most of all working on the Alternate Reality Game we’re developing to co-launch with ICE SHOCK. That’s right, I said Alternate Reality Game – ARG! Conceptually, our game is a cross between Lonelygirl15 and The Beast. But! It’s a secret. So don’t tell, okay?

The secret’s out!

For more information about Harris and The Joshua Files, bookmark,, or the fan community hub Keep a watch on this site as we get closer to the launch of Ice Shock and its ARG in March of 2009.

Citizens of Virtue

jwtsc.jpgWe’ve been hearing a lot lately about the “Citizens of Virtue,” and they sure seem to be up to some shady practices. In this ARG-that-campaigns-against-ARGs, the C.O.V. are a fundamentalist Christian group that may or may not be holding some individuals captive while also apparently lying about their business practices. Citizens of Virtue is part of an Alternate Reality Game created by Rob Bell and Don Golden, as a promotion for their latest book – Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Yes, it is in fact of a rare breed – the Christian ARG.

Our first encounter with the C.O.V. came from an email we received in late September from a Ms. Savannah Merks, listed as the Public Relations Specialist for the group. In the email was a press release which claimed, among other things, that, “[a] sweeping wave of ‘alternate reality’ games is steering our nation down a dangerous path, according to the Citizens of Virtue (C.O.V.), a Christian organization dedicated to improving Christian lifestyles around the world.” Merks herself noted that, “[w]ith alternate reality games, literally millions of people could be caught up simultaneously in a mind-altering swirl of confused thinking.” Yeah, imagine that!

Since then, we’ve received a number of game tips pointing us to the game, and while it was part of the discussion in episode 63 of the ARG Netcasts, we know we’re a bit behind on getting involved in this one. However, we know that the community discussion at the Unfiction forums will help those who wish to get started, and we’re pretty sure that anyone there will be glad to help get you up to speed!

We’ve got more information about the plot, the book tie-in, and a few interesting images of swag cards we received in the mail after the hump, so click on through!

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Tying up loose ends in fairyland

HETFET logoNot only was it a tight box office for Hellboy II, releasing just one week before Batman: The Dark Knight, but the alternate reality game running in its shadow was also competing against TDK’s massive viral campaign. As a result, the game, which was a joint venture between Hellboy II director Guillermo del Toro and Double-20, found itself flying in under the radar for the most part. However, the community following it very much enjoyed it, myself included. There is, however, still one minor piece of content that never got a chance to see the light of day, which is revealed at the end of this article.

For those unfamiliar with Double-20, they were part of the team that created the alternate reality game known as Ocular Effect for ABC Family’s Fallen last year. For this campaign, the story focused on Lexi Lloyd, a girl who loves fairies and whose father disappeared years ago. Living with her mother, Lexi worried about a cat she had found and returned to a mysterious old lady, was bothered by prank calls and a stalker on YouTube, and was eventually led to try to contact her father.

Action also revolved around an organization named HETFET, an acronym for Humans for Ethical Treament of Fairies, Elves, and Trolls. Backed by Guillermo del Toro himself, HETFET ran rallies in a couple of cities to bring awareness to Troll abuse, and was instrumental in bringing down Augustine Pharmaceuticals – the creator of the miracle “anti-aging drug” Uthyntrol, or “glamour” as described in Hellboy II.

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Fish Mongers, Fairies and Fragglewumps, Oh My!

HETFET_Save_the_Trolls-square.gifWriter/Director Guillermo Del Toro recently ‘came out’ as a member of an organization called HETFET – Humans for Ethical Treatment of Fairies, Elves, and Trolls. It’s an organization dedicated to tracking down those who would seek to harm FETs, and bringing justice upon them. Guillermo’s upcoming film Hellboy II, is an effort to recognize FET rights, and raise awareness for HETFET’s cause. If you join them, you may receive a support package!

But it goes deeper than that. Recently some strange videos have surfaced of what appears to be people traveling through gateway-looking graffiti sprayed at the foot of cement walls. And HETFET knows something.

Cryptic emails were received by fans of GDT, containing hints that eventually led to a Secret Device – also linked from HETFET’s homepage. The device is locked with 10 combinations, which are being found in various places connected with HETFET and Guillermo. The first combination – the release date of Hellboy II in theaters (7/11/08) – provides a poem with highlighted letters, roughly spelling out a website, which introduces us to Lexi Lloyd.

Lexi loves fairies.

She also just began her first Youtube VLOG.

Watch Lexi as she vlogs about her life, and shares strange mysteries surrounding a cat, her dreams, her father who went missing years ago, and other cryptic YouTube stalkers like ‘dutchfelines’ and ‘aSmarmyYeti.’

Find out more about PANATROG, a mysterious organization also revealed by the Secret Device. What does the military have to do with PANATROG? Why are PANATROGs training videos so fun to watch? Why is Lexi involved, and what’s the mystery of these “gearways?”

“The Secret Device” is a promotional campaign for GDT’s movie (they’d have you believe) Hellboy II: The Golden Army, coming to theaters July 11th. The locks are phases in the plot leading to the movie, with a contest as a reward for those who follow through to unlock the 10th combination by the deadline of June 10 – which is 11 days from the time of writing. The two winners of the random drawing will each receive tickets for two to take a 3 day trip to Los Angeles for an exclusive fan preview-screening of Hellboy II hosted by Guillermo Del Toro. For more info, visit the HB2 Production website.

The contest is a nice bonus, and the story isn’t hugely complex or long either – so there’s plenty of time to catch up and unlock the 10 combinations along with a world of fantastical, strange creatures and trolls before June 10th. Heck, even if it’s just to help another cute, innocent girl.

Save the Trolls!
Lexi Lloyd’s website

Unfiction discussion
In-game Forums at HETFET
Player Wiki
Player Blog

Official HB2 website

Harvey Dent campaign shut down (in Chicago)?

150px-Dent.jpgIn early March, the “I Believe In Harvey Dent” campaign for The Dark Knight kicked back into gear. was updated to become Harvey’s campaign website, with downloadable flyers, stickers, and posters. It also asked people to promote Harvey Dent for District Attorney by taking photos and videos of their efforts, and uploading to the website, much like the “Why So Serious?” Halloween campaign where the Joker asked people to submit evidence of their allegiance to his cause by painting their faces and photographing themselves in groups at their nearby landmarks. Harvey Dent’s campaign, however, has a travelling “Dentmobile” and a schedule of stops across the United States.

Today, one of the Dentmobile’s first stops – Chicago, IL – may have taken a rough turn. reports that after a mere three minutes, the campaign was shut down by Chicago police!

Two people (who knew what was going on) reportedly made it to the Dentmobile before they were closed down. As user Vlkers54 describes the scene:

“…I was at the 8 a.m. stop. I got there at 7:30 a.m. and I sure am glad I did. At 8:03 a.m., the cops came and kicked us out! Only me and another guy showed up, but we did end up getting a lot of free stuff (including) bumper stickers, posters, buttons and a T-shirt.

You should have seen the people as they were coming out of the train station:

“Who is Harvey Dent?”
“What is this all about?”
“Is this for that movie?” (We responded: “What movie? ‘No Country For Old Men?’ That’s a movie!”)

We kept “in character” and promoted Harvey Dent for (district attorney) as if he were a real person. Confusing people was a lot of fun. Some people did catch on to what was going on. Even middle-aged men who knew who (Harvey Dent) was were excited, (asked) for buttons and filled out the petition forms.”

This may be much ado about nothing, however, as we hear through the grapevine that the fine police officers of the Windy City were much more understanding of the situation after learning that the campaign was for Gotham City District Attorney. This coincides with an update on the Hollywood Chicago article which states that the 11 am event went off without a hitch. Regardless of how events actually played out, it must have made for an exciting time in Chi-town.

Save the world at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

LostRingLogo.pngFINDTHELOSTRING – No, there’s no “lo” string, nor a string named Thelo – but there is a lost ring..somewhere..and we need to find it, to save the world. Apparently. By August 24th.

On Leap Day, I received a package via FedEx, which was followed quickly by reports from others who received similarly couriered packages from “T.L. Ring” in San Francisco, CA. (Could T.L. Ring be “The Lost Ring”?) The package itself was quite curious, filled with a number of items forming a mystery begging to be unravelled.

First off, there’s a large poster advertising the 7th Olympiade in Antwerp, Belgium. Two things stand out — the year 1920 (the package originated from 1920 Olympic Way), and a short message written on the back: It’s a secret someone has been keeping for a very long time.

Next up, each package contained three photos — old photos of locations related to the 1920 Olympics. When all of the pictures from the discovered packages are taken into account, there’s quite a variety, and it seems the three photos people got are fairly random. However, on the backs of these photos are written our call to arms:

March 3, 2008
Find her…

March 4, 2008??
Find the others…

March 5, 2008??
Find him…

March 11, 2008??
Find the secret…

August 24, 2008
Save the world.

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Take Back Gotham City!

The Dark KnightIf you’ve been following the Dark Knight campaign for the upcoming Batman flick, you may have been salivating impatiently over what’s in store for 2008 ever since the big Halloween trail ended with the new promotional trailer at With the untimely passing of Heath Ledger, the Joker’s role in the ARG has reportedly been downplayed.

Well, on Thursday there was a new occurance with the promise of more ARGish activity: was updated with a signup form, requesting people to help “join the fight for Gotham”. So go sign up! What are you waiting for?

That’s all for now, just a heads up – TDK will be back in business in a few days, according to the confirmation email. If you want to get caught up, there’s a wiki to read through.
“Citizens of Gotham! The future of our city rests in your hands!”

Have you caught the Abrams virus yet?

trekicon.JPGProducer/Director JJ Abrams is on a viral rampage this year, it seems. Hot on the tail of Cloverfield’s big screen debute, was the premiere of the initial teaser trailer for the 11th installment in the Star Trek film franchise. Reportedly, the movie will carry only the name “Star Trek”, as it returns to the academy days of our beloved Enterprise crew. The teaser can be seen on the official website. But as beautiful as it is, that is not the reason for this article.

If you navigate to the official website, scroll down to the “Under Construction” label. See the little red dot beside it? Click it. Yes, you’ve just found another viral website. JJ is known for tying common threads between his creative productions – his unique drink Slusho! being the most prominent example. Slusho has made cameo appearances in Alias, Heroes, and Kenan and Kel. But recently he’s taken a liking to extending his works beyond their base medium, into the internet world, and the real world.

If you’re familiar with the TV show Lost (also an Abrams production), there was a very well received extended reality called The Lost Experience which ran along the TV show. Currently leading up to the North American airing of season 4 is another campaign called Find 815. You’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t heard of the viral campaign surrounding the months leading up to the premiere of Cloverfield (which also, by the way, has a backstory around the development of the Slusho drink and its secret ingredient Seabed’s Nectar).

So the question is, will Abrams be providing another extended experience or alternate reality game related to the Star Trek franchise leading up to the movie’s release? Or will this turn out just to be another typical viral marketing campaign? Personally, I would love to see a Slusho! cameo appearance in the movie. Imagine: Kirk and Spock order a Slusho from a bar at the Academy. And Guinan serves it to them.

At the very least, we have a new website – a relatively covert website, which seems to be showing ‘streaming video’ from the construction site of the Enterprise NCC-1701. What will the days ahead reveal to us? We have nearly a whole year to find out. JJ knows how to bait and taunt his target market, so expect a lot of mystery and viral advertising.

Live long, and drink Slusho.

Official website Trailhead
Discussion at Unfiction
Resource wiki

What’s an xPod?

jPod.jpgA new article posted at (also via hints at an upcoming game from Xenophile Media, tied in with a new show from the Canadian network CBC called jPod, which premieres Tuesday, January 8th (on CBC of course). While much of the show’s online components are typical of the new trend of extended interactivity, the key point is noted in a later paragraph:

“And midway through the season, an alternate reality game dubbed xPod will launch, built by the same company that designed the Emmy Award-winning web game for ReGenesis.”

Now, while we take the term alternate reality game in this context with a grain of salt, Xenophile does have a decent track record with their past projects for Fallen (Ocular Effect) and Regenesis.

What might xPod hold in store for the ARG community? Well, first of all, it will most certainly be geared towards the crowd who would enjoy jPod. Otherwise, it’s too early to tell. xPod is reportedly scheduled to begin sometime in the spring, while the TV series premieres this week. Though it is a Canadian show, it might make its way to the US at some point. So, if jPod appeals to you, then keep an eye out for xPod!

The Joker’s latest task is a Piece of Cake

tdk_postersmall.jpgIt’s been a while since we’ve reported on the alternate reality game for the upcoming movie The Dark Knight, but that doesn’t mean that the action has stopped. In fact, on December 4th, after a long trail of tasks, websites and information spawning from a Halloween countdown from late October, fans of Batman and players of the marketing campaign were treated to a day-long, frenzied scavenger hunt set up by “the Joker”.

At noon EST, the mysterious countdown that was previously featured on was replaced by a strange carnival-style booth, in typical Joker fashion. A note attached instructed viewers to travel to specific real-world addresses to pick up a ‘very special treat’ under the name Robin Banks (get it? Robbing Banks? hahaha!)

Players quickly determined that the addresses were bakeries, strewn across the United States. At first, six addresses were attached to dirty stuffed animals hanging in the booth, but every hour on the hour, another five to seven addresses were hung. Within five hours, all twenty-two addresses had been revealed, as players scrambled to each location to pick up the ‘treat’.

It was discovered that the Joker had left cakes at each bakery, and lo and behold, the cakes had phone numbers written on them in icing! Even more interesting was how, when the number was called, the cake itself rang! Players found that after digging furiously into the cake, there was an evidence bag filled with goodies – a cell phone and charger, a Joker playing card, and a note which instructed the person to call a different phone number.

Once all the cakes had been found and the phones had been used to call the new numbers, the game page opened to reveal the new Batman: Dark Knight movie poster, and another special treat – invitations to IMAX screenings in five cities (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto) on Thursday and Friday night, Dec 6th and 7th.

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Holy blue jumping spiders!

randibone.jpgWhat happens when you receive an email that looks like spam, smells like spam, and reads like spam, but isn’t flagged as spam? Why, you take it to the ARG community, of course! Starting the week of October 9th, several people began receiving strange emails from someone called “Jumping Spider”. The emails in and of themselves seemed very random and made no sense. They contained a portion of a story, gibberish text, and broken sentences. I received one of these emails, and were it not for the fact that it wasn’t selling a product, I may not have taken notice of it at all. But thankfully, others at the Unfiction forums reported receiving the same email.

The email’s subject read: “Zetria Atrian and the Sparrow-Clam“, and contained what looked to be the first portion of a short story about a girl named Zetria, who in a dreamlike setting, watched a sparrow land softly on a sandy shore and turn into a clam, with which she began a fairly philosophical conversation, before it burrowed away.

The latter part of the email contains inconveniently cut lines of text that appears to be snipped from a chat session. And, amongst the narrative and the disjointed text, the email contains strings of random characters. It was quickly determined that the not-so-random characters are encoded in ROT-17 (see here for a brief explanation of ROT coding) and, when decoded, revealed what can only be described as computer commands, such as MAILSTART, FILELOAD, TRANSFERERROR, COREDUMP, and so on . It appears that whoever this “Jumping Spider” is, the emails are being created by some form of software, sending out portions of various texts.

Most bogglingly, however, is a code that’s appearing in each email, containing 12 characters – 3 sets of one number between 0 and 3, and three letters.

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‘Cause Sooner Or Later, It’s Over…

iris_02.gifA recently leaked article, supposedly posted to Microsoft’s internal news site, appears to verify the dreaded truth — Halo 3’s Iris “spiral marketing campaign” has come to its official end. The article, which was posted to the Unfiction forums with permission from the author, reveals the end date of August 16th, which coincides with the opening of Iris’ fifth and final server, or “episode”. It also details the campaign’s goals, achievements, challenges and failures. Undoubtedly, the primary point of dissension this article raises is the challenge undertaken to provide a “low-key, low budget campaign [which] does more with less, whetting the appetite of the blockbuster video game’s fanatical followers.”

The article reveals that Iris was developed by “more than 50 people from 20 Microsoft teams [who] contributed time, coding expertise, and industry contacts.” The attempt was ultimately to provide a grand marketing scheme incurring little cost while attaining “critical mass” — defined in the article as getting “interview requests from The Wall Street Journal”. “It’s about breaking out of the hardcore and getting into the mainstream,” said Aaron Elliott, online marketing manager for Xbox Global Marketing (also listed as one of the ‘founders’ of the Society of the Ancients, an in-game organization that appeared at the beginning, but was never heard from again).

Strictly speaking, given the resources used to produce the campaign and the costs (or lack thereof) incurred, Iris may be considered an impressive success. However, if one includes the overall sentiment of the demographic that was actually actively playing or following Iris, one might say that their reach had exceeded their grasp. They seem to have ignored (or miscalculated) an inherent factor in the kind of campaign they were hoping to produce – most players had expectations, whether misplaced or not, of another I Love Bees. That potential was lost, and while the production may have been impressive to some, it failed dramatically in achieving what could have been achieved quite easily.

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The Sweet Scent of Mystery

coveticon.jpgSarah Jessica Parker is probably one of the last people we’d expect to see in a web-based mystery, or “interactive fictional story”, let alone actually seeing a web-based game promoting a new perfume. However, Sarah’s new fragrance “Covet” is at the center of a game which begins at (also the perfume’s official website). The premise is this: “You must try to locate the missing bottle of Covet perfume and help prove that Sarah Jessica Parker has been framed for its disappearance. To do this, your goal is to identify the true mastermind behind the theft.”

The game works much like other recently run promotional campaigns where challenges or riddles are released based on a schedule, leading towards an end goal usually consisting of a challenge or draw for a grand prize. In this case, if you’re able to solve each of ten “lead challenges” released over a ten week period (the end date of the game is October 15), you’ll be entered into the grand prize drawing for $10,000, a trip for two to New York to attend Lucky Magazine’s Lucky Shops 2007, and of course a few Covet products. Numerous other secondary rewards are up for grabs, including weekly prize drawings, and prizes for two bonus challenges.

While The Case of the Coveted Bottle seems to follow in the footsteps of similar online ‘treasure hunt’ promotions, a few points stand out about this one. First, the How To Play guide is clear in encouraging community cooperation, even to the point of linking directly to the Unfiction forums as an example of a community to join. Secondly, in solving the weekly leads, not only are you entered into drawings, but the overall story and mystery is also advanced. The game is filled with opportunities to employ numerous research strategies, from googling for information and answers to interacting with characters in their blogs. The two bonus challenges encourage creativity by requiring players to make videos based on particular guidelines, and post them to MySpace or Youtube, where the winners will be chosen by popularity (votes and judging).

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It’s alive! It’s huge! It’s 1-18-08…?

011808.jpg4 8 15 16 23 42 — J.J. Abrams really has a thing for numbers. Beginning last week with the opening of the Michael Bay summer blockbuster movie Transformers, theater-goers were treated to a mysterious, home-movie-style teaser trailer for… well, no one knows exactly. All that’s known is what’s believed to be the release date, shown briefly at the end of the trailer: “1-18-08”. Until recently, the trailer was only viewable in theaters, prompting people to bootleg it on Youtube and various locations (to which Paramount responded by forcing removal of the videos). However, it’s now been made available at for public viewing.

The teaser starts off with a guy walking into a surprise party – lots of people, lots of happy, smiling faces, and one surprised Rob, their “main dude”. Rob is apparently going away to Japan, and his friends are giving him a farewell party. Some of his friends are interviewed, recording their goodbyes. Then, without warning, the lights flicker, car alarms sound, and the apartment is shaken. People flock to the television for breaking news about what’s believed to be an earthquake. Soon people head to the roof to see how the neighborhood’s doing. A dull rumble is heard, and everyone turns to the horizon in shock as a large ball of fire erupts and expands in the distance, hurling large flaming debris into the air. What follows is broken audio and video of the panic stricken crowd scrambling to the street, which is teeming with people running away from whatever’s happening. What can only be described as a deep, loud groan is followed by a swirling object, which impact a skyrise and falls to the ground at breakneck speed, destroying vehicles and anyone in its way. It comes to a stop meters from the camera and we see it appears to be the head of the Statue of Liberty. And cut. A final quick line is shown from one of Rob’s friends – “It’s gonna be the best night ever”

From producer J.J. Abrams. In theatres, 1-18-08.

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Alice is Lost — We Hear Rumors She Fell Down Some Sort Of Hole, Made By A Rabbit Or Something

argnicon.jpgAs if the ARG world just can’t get enough of Alice in Wonderland lingo (rabbit holes, curtains, puppet masters), a teaser was made public on June 1st for an upcoming project from Eric Harshbarger of Perplex City fame, called Alice Is Lost. Eric first made it known at Perplexorum that he had opened the website

Eric released news of the project hot on the heels of the abrupt and unexpected end of Perplex City, knowing that the countless dedicated fans and followers of PXC would be pining for puzzles and mysteries to solve. Eric makes it clear, however, that this is not PXC II: “This is a side project of mine. While I am still at Mind Candy as a Puzzle Designer, this is not a Mind Candy affiliated project.” He expects to launch “the search,” which he’s been working on for nearly a year, to begin this fall.

Fans have already jumped in excitedly, and even created a Facebook group to rally people and keep everyone updated. The group attracted Eric, who decided to come out from behind the curtain and share a bit about his project in the group’s discussion. He described it as having “some ARG elements to it; there will be a story to some extent, but mainly it will be about PUZZLES. Lots of puzzles.” There will be puzzle cards, he says, but they will not be physical. Instead, they’ll be distributed via the website, and only ‘registered’ users will be able to submit solutions and gain points. That raises another significant point: the registration fee. He continues, “There will be a registration fee, yes; but it will be a one-time thing (not a subscription), and it will be pretty small (not more than the cost of a typical boardgame probably.” He estimates the fee will be around $25USD, but is open to suggestions. Registration will most likely also include additional privileges for the player.

“The best way I can think to describe this,” Eric states, “is a massive ‘Puzzle Party‘ like I’ve hosted in the past, but it will be available to everyone on the web.” He also expects the project to run for over a year, although he doubts it will extend as long as two years. That’s nearly a potential twenty-four months filled to the brim with puzzles galore, but the main mystery ultimately will still be How do I find Alice?

So mark Fall 2007 on your calendar. Also, keep an eye on the unfiction thread, or the perplexorum topic, or even the facebook group. But, most importantly, visit and sign up to receive updates.

Love Nevr Dies

lovenevrdies.jpg So I’m sitting at work when up pops an AIM chat window from itstarted1988. His greeting to me is this: “they speak you listen. Of the Psycaem. You can look forward to games. To your satisfaction, perhaps not… A man, a woman, a line drawn. Not a shepard. Not a shepard. 1988.” In basic ARGer fashion, I go with it, and thus begins the trailhead for “Love Nevr Dies“[sic], another hostage-arg, with a name coined from the dark, creepy artistic design found at MySpace to which players were initially directed.

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Transformers: Truth in Disguise


Little Timmy’s at home on a warm Saturday afternoon, playing away the time with his brand new Optimus Prime transformer and a few of his partners in crime, like Ironhide, Ratchet, and Bumblebee. Timmy’s got some Decepticons, too — Megatron, Barricade, and Starscream — and he has buckets of fun imitating the sepulchral voice of the villains while his toys battle it out for the fate of the galaxy! Hardly an uncommon scene, Unfiction member b_dann_b relates: “I am a loyal fan of the transformers – watched them since I was born and will always remember the day my dad brought me an optimus prime toy as my first transformer.”

But little does Timmy know how close to the truth he is. Those toys Timmy’s playing with, those cartoons he loves to watch, even that lunch pail he carries around daily with the lunch his mother prepared for him…all of it is a cover-up. Far from being mere fictional entertainment, it’s counter-information, with the sole purpose of distracting us from the truth by hiding it in front of our very eyes. And that live-action Transformers movie that you’ve certainly heard about, slated for a July release? That’s part of it too.

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The Hunt For More Frustration

Editor’s Note: Big thanks to Geoff May for contributing this article about the recently-launched Dr. Pepper marketing campaign. Geoff is a former ARGNet staff writer, and we are thankful for this timely article.

drpepper.jpgIs there a drink you’d be willing to purchase and drink for a full month to get the chance to win up to $1,000,000? What if it weren’t a matter of chance, but of skill and problem solving?

Recently, Cadbury Schweppes PLC ran a marketing campaign for the Dr.Pepper brand that would take its followers potentially to every corner of North America (and beyond), both physically and virtually. Dr.Pepper’s “The Hunt For More” campaign could be considered a great success, though YMMV. Following the marketing theme of Dr.Pepper’s unique 23 flavored pop, the ‘Hunt’ campaign would get people all over the US and Canada hunting down 23 physical coins for guaranteed $$$ – ultimately ending in a flurry of controversial press.

Over the course of 30 days from Jan 21 to Feb 21, Dr.Pepper bottles were disappearing off shelves faster than usual, making it a hunt in itself to find them before they disappeared, and not every store carrying the brand had the specially labeled bottles. It was a frantic race for players to have a unique code in their possession every day, and it was a lot of pop to drink.

The clue portion of the hunt was very much a game of skill. There was no luck involved or random draw – just be the first to either find your region’s physical coin, or report the location of the virtual one. To balance this game of skill, players were also given the option to use the code not to retrieve a clue, but for a chance to win an instant prize.

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