Author: Steve Peters

Accomplice Hollywood: Oh Nikki, You’re So Fine!

accomplice-hollywoodSteve Peters is a guest writer for ARGNet and founder of No Mimes Media.

A few weeks back, I was able to head to Hollywood to take part in Accomplice: Hollywood, a new interactive experience produced by Neil Patrick Harris, Tom Salamon and Betsy Salamon-Sufott, that takes place entirely on foot throughout Hollywood Boulevard and its neighboring streets. While the website bills the experience as a “luscious blend” of one part Scavenger Hunt, one part Interactive Theater, and one part Walking Tour, (with all the good parts left intact and all of the bad parts sifted out), I’d add one part Alternate Reality Game into the recipe, for sure (c’mon Neil, get with the lingo). What was it like? I’ll do my best to explain without spoiling the fun. Was it any good? Read on and see.

After reading a blurb about Accomplice: Hollywood on some vanity blog, I said to myself, “Hey! I live near Hollywood!” and promptly bought tickets for the missus and myself, along with cajoling a couple more friends to come along for the fun. We booked 2pm on Sunday, September 27th, and were told that we’d be contacted the day before the event to be given instructions, including where to meet. In the meantime, we were told to visit to find out more. Go there now and watch the video (which is pretty funny, I must say). I’ll wait…

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Changing of the Guard

opendoor.jpgAs some of you may know, I’ve been on hiatus from around here since July, when I took a break from running ARGN to duck behind the curtain to work as a designer for Last Call Poker, the latest project by 4orty2wo Entertainment.

Incredibly, it now looks like my hiatus has become permanent departure, as I’ve been asked by 4orty2wo to continue working with them on future projects. As it’s really not possible to do both at once, I’m turning the ARGN keys over to Jonathan Waite (jamesi), who, along with Sean Stacey (Spacebass) partnered with me on the ground floor to get ARGN (and thereby the ARG community as we know it) off and running.

We as a community set out to raise public awareness for this cool new genre, and it seems we have succeeded far beyond our wildest hopes. What began as an innovative campaign for AI: Artificial Intelligence went on to become loosely known as the This Is Not A Game thing (as coined by Elan Lee) and then Alternate Reality Gaming (as coined by Spacebass over at Unfiction), a term which now is used definitively for the genre.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of you who have really helped make ARGN a success. This includes both our readers and our Staff Writers, who have been doing a bang up job. What began as a backup forum on my company’s website when Y! Groups went down during Lockjaw has become ARGN and its network of sites, most notably Unfiction, which has become the nexus of discussion of all things ARG-related. I’m excited to see what new sites will be added, and how ARGN will grow and change under Jon’s leadership.

Speaking of Lockjaw, if you are a player/puppetmaster/fan today, then you owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Karetao team. For the record, if it weren’t for them and Lockjaw, the first grassroots game produced after The Beast, then the momentum started by The Beast would have been totally lost; the players, community and genre itself scattered to the winds. While Elan Lee, Jordan Weisman and crew are the definitive founders of the genre as we know it, it was Karetao who kept it alive.

I’ve enjoyed my time at ARGN and in the community immensely. I’ve made some great friends, and met some truly wonderful and fascinating people, and had a great time doing it. It’s been a privilege.

Thanks, everyone.

Now, secure any loose articles you may have brought with you, keep your hands and arms inside at all times, and make sure your lap-bar is down and locked. Enjoy your ride.


Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund

redcross.jpgThe images are awful. The reality is worse. Hundreds of thousands of individuals and families have been displaced or otherwise impacted by the devastation that Hurrican Katrina wrought early this week. Thousands are still stranded in downtown New Orleans. Families have lost everything they owned, and far too many have even lost loved ones.

ARGN has set up a relief fund for these victims of Hurrican Katrina. All net proceeds will go directly to the American Red Cross. Our goal is to raise $100,000 as a community for this effort. The victims of this tragedy will need help for months to come, and we’ve been told by relief agencies that the best thing we can do is to donate funds.

Please consider scraping together whatever you can, and together we can reach and exceed this goal. To donate, follow this link. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been affected.

[EDIT: Due to recent complications involving PayPal and online fundraising efforts for Katrina victims, the links above will now take you directly to the Red Cross donation page. We will no longer be able to track progress of our monetary goal, but this will bypass the problems many sites have been having with PayPal. All previous donations made through our PayPal link will be immediately forwarded to the Red Cross.]

ARGFest New York City is Biggest Yet

argfestgroupthumb.jpgNew York saw bands of Alternate Reality Gamers invade their city last weekend, when ARGFest IV came to town. Historically a social gathering of fans of ARGs, this time around reached new heights in sheer numbers and cool events. Over 50 ARG aficionados from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain spent the weekend gaming, partying, attending sessions and generally enjoying one another. Many folks were meeting each other for the first time in real life, despite having known each other online for years.

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New Book “Beyond Reality: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming”

beyondreality.jpgA new book about Alternate Reality Gaming is set go go on sale on July 22nd. “Beyond Reality: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming” by John Gosney is the latest book to be released on the subject of ARGs, and discusses the history and implications of alternate reality games, along with numerous examples from the genre.

The publishers will be holding an online chat with the author on August 8, 2005 at 8:00 pm EDT, and inside sources tell us that there just may be more to this chat than meets the eye. Apparently there will be clues within the pages of the book, as well as this chat, that will reveal…something more. We did notice a Secure Login on the book’s homepage that doesn’t seem to be on pages for any other book. Hmmmm.

Information on purchasing Beyond Reality: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming, as well as info for the upcoming chat can be found here.

Update: Because of some technical glitches, the chat had to be moved. It will now take place this coming Sunday, August 14th, at 6:00 ET.

Email Mystery Announces “Group Read”

freya.jpgThe publishers of the highly praised email mystery The Daughters of Freya (review) have announced a unique “Group Read” for readers of ARGN, where everyone will read the mystery at the same time, and discuss it in an online forum as it happens. The idea is to create a shared interactive experience out of what is normally a solitary activity. The story itself – about a journalist investigating a Marin County sex cult – is told through emails exchanged among the characters. But instead of reading them in a book, readers get them as part of their regular email – 4 or 5 a day over the three weeks it takes for the mystery to unfold. The mystery introduces a new and innovative way to use the Internet as a storytelling tool, and has been getting a great response from readers and reviewers alike.

In some ways, these email mysteries are much like ARGs, only without the puzzles. So, we thought it would be fun to offer ARGN readers an opportunity to experience the story collectively in real-time, much like a typical alternate reality game. The folks at Email Mystery have been kind enough to extend a special promotional price of $3.99 for those who wish to take part. The Group Read will begin on August 1st, when the first installment of the mystery will be emailed to readers.

A forum will be set up for discussion of this Group Read as it happens , so watch ARGN for details on that. If you’d like to participate, you can register here. In addition, there is a free preview with the first three emails from the mystery available here.

EDIT: The discussion forum for Daughters of Freya has been set up here.

Live Phone-in Chat with H3ist Team: July 10th

heistfinale2.jpgThe Alternate Reality Gaming Network will host a live call-in phone chat with some of the folks behind the recent alternate reality game The Art of the H3ist, provided by the kind folks at AccuTalk. It will be open to callers both in the US and abroad, and will take place this Sunday, July 10th at 7:00pm Pacific/10:00pm Eastern. Our guests will include Mike Monello, Brian Cain, Brian Clark, Nicole Barré (Nisha), Ben Rock and Dave Szulborski (more as they are confirmed).

This phone chat will work very much like a call-in radio show, as callers will have a chance to talk directly to our guests, and ask whatever questions they like. If you’d like to participate, call (404) 920-6650, then enter the conference code 880772#. You’ll be prompted to state your name (or screen name in this case), then will be put on hold until the chat begins.

By default, you’ll be in listen-only mode. If you’d like to ask a question or make a comment, press *1. This will put you in the queue, which will be gone through in order. We’ll move international callers to the front of the queue. When it’s your turn, you’ll be ‘voiced’ and able to talk.

EDIT 7/12: You can download an mp3 file of the chat here (13.5MB).

“Art of the H3ist” Finale Set for Wednesday

heistfinale.jpgPlayers of Audi’s Art of the H3ist (as it’s now presenting itself) are preparing for what looks to be the culmination of the three month-long alternate reality game. Many players are converging on an event scheduled for this Wednesday, June 29th, to witness what goes down.

The Art of The H3ist unfolded in real time over the course of the last three months, its players experiencing a quality story of theft, love and betrayal through many diverse media: Print ads, billboards, television commercials, radio spots, Web Sites, live events, e-mails, videos, IRC chats, voice transcripts, machinima, puzzles, photos, scanned documents, and more.

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Sin2 Viral Site Discovered

legionpharma.jpgThose who are waiting for the sequel to Ritual Entertainment’s game Sin got a little surprise recently when trying to access the Sin2 website. The site,, suddenly began redirecting to Legion Pharmaceutical (

A very little digging revealed a small puzzle. Semi-Hidden text revealed “First is the key!” followed by an alphanumeric series: P12-66/P1-13/P2-3/P6-39/P3-9/P4-4/P5-8/P7-14/P8-45/P9-6/P10-12/P11-45.

That’s about it for now. To keep tabs on what’s solved/discovered and whether this leads to anything like an alternate reality game, follow this thread at Unfiction.

The Traveler Returns?

traveler2.gifIn December of 2004, we told you about some interesting web activity surrounding the then-upcoming novel The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. Links were found to multiple websites that looked very much like a new alternate reality game. Players scoured websites for the Evergreen Foundation, Resurrection Auto Parts, Hollis Martial Arts and Judith Strand, where thye found many hidden goodies, including memos about something escaping from a Genetic Research Center. Everything looked pretty promising, and further investigation led to……nothing. A dead end. A few cool sites that made for a nice internet marketing campaign, but that’s all.

Or was it?

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Super ARGFest-O-Con 4 : New York City, July 22-24, 2005

argfest4.jpgAfter successful ARGFest-O-Cons in Las Vegas, Orlando and Vancouver BC, we think it’s high time to invade the Big Apple! Meet other ARG-obsessed souls, eat, drink, and be merry at our 4th glorified ARGParty!

ARGFest-O-Con 4 looks to be the biggest gathering of ARG players and developers yet, with players from all over the US, Canada and Great Britain planning to attend. In addition, you’ll be able to meet some of the folks behind such games as The Art of the Heist, The Beast, Chasing the Wish, Lockjaw, Metacortechs, and Perplex City.

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Is There A Dr. Who Game Afoot?

wolf.jpgInfocult reports this morning on some apparent ARGishness going on over at the BBC, in relation to the Dr. Who television series. It seems there have been recent clues about a certain Bad Wolf showing up in the series, which has led viewers to a related website.

Interestingly, the disclaimer page reveals some (previously) hidden text:

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ARG Author Does Talk Radio

whitetinag.pngDave Szulborski, author of “This is Not a Game,” will be featured in an hour long live radio interview tomorrow night, June 9th at midnight on the show Beyond Strange and Mysterious. The show is broadcast on WSNR 620 AM from New York City and reaches New York, Pennsylvania, parts of Connecticut, and is also syndicated in Virginia.

Dave will be speaking about his experiences as an amateur and professional ARG creator, including his involvement with Audi’s Art of the Heist campaign. He’ll also be speaking about his book This Is Not A Game, the release of the hard cover edition, and upcoming books he will be releasing very soon. You can expect him to drop a few hints about his upcoming projects as well, including Project Game Light and a few other tantalizing surprises.

“Art of the Heist” Team Announces Roundtable

artofthegame.jpgImmersive Gaming has announced it will be sponsoring a special discussion event at the upcoming ARGFest in New York City. “The Art of the Game” will feature the team behind Audi’s “The Art of the Heist” in an open roundtable about the behind-the-scenes aspects of writing, developing and implementing an alternate reality game on a major scale. The discussion will take place at the Hotel Penn in New York City on Saturday, July 23, 2005 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.

In addition, there will be a live webchat during the event, during which virtual participants worldwide can ask questions of the team. For updates and further information, visit

Logan’s Run ARG?

Last night, numerous ARG community members received unsolicited phonecalls (cue Mystery ARG Theatre theme music). The voice on the other end of the line said something like, “the City of Domes is now accepting citizens,” then hung up.

After much discussion in the #unfiction chatroom, players discovered, which, based on keywords in the source code, seems to be laying the groundwork for some sort of game based on the 70’s sci-fi film Logan’s Run. Players who emailed the site received an autoresponse with a small puzzle that led to an AIM screen name.

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Scarlett Hits the Airwaves

scarlett.gifPerplex City’s Scarlett Kiteway appeared on a British radio talk show in the wee hours this morning. Scarlett was interviewed on the Mike Mendoza show, which is a general talk show that covers everything from current events to gadgets.

As far as we know, this is only the second time a fictional ARG character has been interviewed for broadcast (the first being Art of the Heist’s Virgil Tatum at E3). The interview with Scarlett was fun to listen to, and also revealed a few new facts about Perplex City, the game and the place.

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“Lost” Summer Online Game?

oceanic.jpgFans of the hit ABC TV series LOST, who have resigned themselves to the fact that it’s going to be a long summer before Season 2 begins in the fall, can take heart. We may just have found something to help you pass the time.

It seems that Oceanic Airlines has been unable to weather the financial difficulties it’s endured since Flight 815 disappeared. As a result, they’ve announced on their website that they have ceased operations, cancelling all flights.

But look a little closer. Things may not be quite as they seem at Oceanic Air. We won’t give anything away, but there are some very interesting tidbits to be found, if you know where to look.

ARG or Easter Egg hunt? Either way, if you love Lost, you’ll probably have some fun with this.

E3 Wrap Up: ARGs Hit the Airwaves…

…the Exhibit Floor, and Each Other

Now that E3 2005 has become history, we can step back and take a look at what a remarkable event it really was as far as Alternate Reality Games are concerned. While most of the world was mobbing the Xbox 360 and PSP exhibits, some were reporting that E3 was just more of the same from years gone by: First-Person Shooters, games aimed at young males, nothing new or original. Despite new and shiny things with amazing graphics and fluid rendering, one BBC reporter lamented that there was nothing really innovative this year.

But amid all of the spectacle, noise, swag and Booth Babes (not that there’s anything wrong with Booth Babes), those who were observant might have noticed something a little different going on. They might have noticed a trio of gamers surrupticiously following a smarmy-looking game designer, snapping candid photos and talking quickly into their phones. They may have been approched by a friendly Brit in a grey t-shirt, offering them a card with a puzzle on it. They may have noticed a sticker on a Playboy bunny’s tail, announcing a Lost Cube with a $200,000 reward. They probably were startled by a crowd circled around a road-weary hacker fighting with a couple of bodyguards. And oh, didn’t I see that game designer guy on VH-1 earlier in the day?

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E3 Report: Alternate Reality Games Bust Out

e3entrancethumb.jpgGreetings from sunny Los Angeles! This year’s E3 is proving to be a landmark occasion in the world of Alternate Reality Gaming. Not only is there a veritable ARG Development Team (Puppetmaster) Summit going on, with representatives from five different teams in attendance, but this whole ARG thing is creating quite a stir, especially on the exhibition floor.

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E3 Showcases Alternate Reality Gaming

E3.jpgWell, it’s that time of year! The 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles opened its doors this morning. This is where game developers, console manufacturers and anyone related to the electronic entertainment industry have a chance to showcase their newest and coolest products for all the world to see for the very first time. Next-gen consoles are definitely what everyone’s buzzing about this year, with new offerings by Xbox, Nintendo and Playstation at the forefront of virtually every conversation.

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Film to Feature Text-Messaging Hunt

crywolf.gifThe recent trailer for the upcoming thriller “Cry Wolf” seems to be promoting an accompanying text-messaging game of some sort. The film, scheduled for an August 2005 release, revolves around a series of murders that are foretold by someone using AIM®, giving warning about where the victims will be found.

At the end of the trailer, the following text appears:

“Use your cell phone to text your AIM® screen name to CWOLF (29653) and use AIM® on your phone to get in on the hunt!”

It looks like an interesting film, but we have no idea whether this will lead to anything beyond some spammy text messages, but time will tell. Watch for updates if this turns into something ARGish.

Surprise! OurColony Leads to Xbox 360

Xbox-360-Full.jpgJust in case you’ve been asleep for the last 24 hours, it was officially revealed yesterday that the OurColony quasi-Alternate Reality Game was a promotional lead up to the new Xbox 360, scheduled to hit the stores for the 2005 holiday season.

As the countdown timer on the OurColony site expired yesterday, the page changed to reveal a link to a video file, which began with a CG OurColony ant scurrying across the floor to stand at the foot of J. Allard, Corporate VP of Xbox, who proclaims, “You are The Colony. You’ve found your way to the center, and you’re in control. This experience revolves around you. Welcome….to Xbox 360.”

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BBC Announces Jamie Kane Beta

jamiekane.jpgThe BBC has announced today that it is accepting beta testers for its upcoming alternate reality game Jamie Kane. The game is aimed at a teenage audience and revolves around the search for a missing popstar.

Those who are familiar with alternate reality games may be a little surprised by the lack of stealth here, but Jamie Kane is treading into new territory in numerous ways. This game, while employing classic ARG elements, will be aimed at a primarily teenage market, so the plot and puzzles will be targeted accordingly. In addition, it won’t be played in real-time, so that players may begin at any time and all have the same experience. Nevertheless, Jamie Kane will employ numerous websites, emails, mobile phone alerts, videos and instant messaging to help players discover what happened to their favorite pop-star, Jamie Kane.

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Omnifam: Alias-Related Game?

omnifam.gifFans of the television series Alias have enjoyed supplemental online challenges since 2001, when the first Alias Web Puzzle appeared.

It seems that something may be starting up again. Players recently stumbled upon, which has been showing signs of life, although we haven’t been able to track down exactly how it was found in the first place. As a result, we can’t determine whether this is an ABC sanctioned game or a grassroots effort.

Regardless, if you’re an Alias fan, this may be for you, as quite an established following has developed for these Alias Web Puzzles over the years.

Discussion at Unfiction
Discussion at Joey’s Pizza Y! Group
Discussion at Alias Web Puzzle Y! Group
Chat in #omnifam (
Season 1 Web Puzzle FAQ
Season 2 Web Puzzle FAQ
Season 3 Web Puzzle FAQ

Ares Station Completes Its Mission

aresstation.jpgThe indie Alternate Reality Game Ares Station came to a close on May 5th, with an announcement on its trailhead page. Although nobody likes it when a game ends, those who played the two-month long ARG seemed to be extremely happy with the game overall.

Ares Station was designed by Indiana University Bloomington graduate students Nathan Mishler and Will Emigh as a Telecommunications thesis project. Ares Station represents about a year of work, and included excellent quality design and multimedia elements, as well as a very effective “stealth” launch.

Helmets off to Nathan, Will and the rest of the Ares Station crew for providing a quality Alternate Reality Gaming experience. You can read a transcript of the post-game chat with the Ares Team here.

“I Love Bees” Wins Webby Award

ilbreview.jpgIt was announced today that 2004’s runaway Alternate Reality Game hit “I Love Bees” won the 2005 Webby Award for Best Games-Related website. The Webby Awards are the internet equivalent of the Academy Awards.

A complete list of the winners can be accessed at the Webby website. Congratulations to the entire 4orty2wo Entertainment Team behind I Love Bees! This award is well-deserved.

ARGN Adds Features, Staff

argnsmall.jpgARGN has turned an important corner, recently. For the past six months, the genre of Alternate Reality Gaming has continued to gain mainstream recognition, in no small part due to games like I Love Bees and Regenesis. As a result, traffic here and at affiliate sites like Unfiction has continued to grow swiftly, which is a good problem to have. The proliferation of new and ongoing ARGs, continued media exposure, and becoming widely accepted as a bona-fide news source has suddenly made it pretty obvious that we’re not just a little fan-site any more.

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Zoe’s World, Aware Sequel Teaser

zoe.jpgFrom the “Something May Be Going On Here” file:

Out of the numerous, shall we say, interesting emails ARGN received this week came the following:

“The residents of “3rd” live along side us, and watch our every move but also keep their distance. The populous of “3rd” are there to protect us and watch over our interests. Occasionally holes (or leaks) are found in the boundary between dimensions and sometimes “3rd” is seen by us, but normally mistaken as paranormal activity.

The 5th dimension is a dangerous place, and houses the demons and evils in our lives. 5th is usually safely contained, however some problems are occurring and holes are appearing.

Time is limited, and the residents of our secret neighbour need our help.


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Cows With Guns

bovinethumb.jpgLike something out of The Far Side, pedestrians in Maryland were recently startled to see a trio of cows (ok, not real cows, but humans in cow suits) leap from a van and begin accosting passersby, handing out cowbells and other swag that seemed to be promoting a Cow Revolution website, If you haven’t visited this site yet, you need to go there. Now.

Prepare yourself for the upcoming cow revolution. Seems our bovine friends have had quite enough of our milking them for all they’re worth, among other indignities. But they’re not just mad, they’re planning on getting even, and claiming their right to greener pastures in the process. Bovine Unite includes links to a cow blog, cow forum, and numerous media files including videos of cows pumping iron and the Bovine National Anthem. All of this is in preparation for “C-Day” on May 5th, when their nefarious bovine plan will go into effect.

Speculation abounds, but whoever’s behind all this had done a good job hiding their tracks. Web denizens are pointing to everyone from Chick-Fil-A to PETA, but the fact that events seem to be localized solely to Maryland seem to indicate otherwise.

So, keep a close eye on any cows that live near you, and be sure to stop by on May 5th and tune in to the Cow News Networks between 8:45 and 9:00 PM (yeah, no timezone) for “further instructions.” We biped milkers are going to have to stick together to make it through this.

No, not an ARG. But pretty dang funny.

Discussion at Unfiction

More Awards for Alternate Reality Games

trophy.jpgRecognition for Alternate Reality Games is continuing to build with yet more media-related awards and nominations announced this week.

Regenesis Extended Reality won the FITC Design & Technology Award for Convergence. The FITC is one of Canada’s largest annual new media festivals. You can check out all of the winners at the FITC 2005 Awards website. In addition, ReGenesis Extended Reality was nominated for a Canada New Media Award for a Cross-Platform Project, which is arguably one of the top awards in Canada. The Canadian New Media Awards will honour individuals and companies in 19 categories on May 30th in Toronto. Congratulations, Xenophile Media!

If you missed Regenesis when it originally aired, it’s been announced that Season I will be shown on Canada’s Global Television Network this fall, effectively exposing the series to a much bigger Canadian audience. Additionally, Regenesis is scheduled to air on the Sci-Fi Channel in the UK this summer. Whether or not a replay of the extended reality game will occur in conjuntion remains a mystery at this point, however.

As we previously reported, I Love Bees is up for a 2005 Webby Award, although its run for a People’s Voice Award seems to be undeservedly out of reach at this point. The Webby Award winners will be announced at a gala celebration on June 6th at Gotham Hall in New York City, while the People’s Voice Award winners will be announced on May 3rd.

With all the mainstream recognition ARGs have been getting lately, we can surely look forward to seeing more and more of them in the very near future.

Virtuquest Announces ARG Corporate Edition 5.0

bcode.gifNorthwest internet design company VirtuQuest has announced their latest Alternate Reality Game, Corporate Edition 5.0: “Banque Suisse.” The rabbithole seems to consist solely of a barcode (pictured at left) and some French text.

VirtuQuest is a media company that specializes in tailor made Internet Adventures. They develop mid-size Alternate Reality Games as corporate team building activities, ad campaigns, or public games just for fun. Periodically, a corporate client will allow their game to be accessible and playable by the general public, and Corporate Edition 5.0 is just such a case. Outsiders are not privy to some information that is given to the client as part of the Corporate Edition package, but outside players have been known to be very resourceful in games past.

VirtuCube (a Virtuquest non-ARG game) remains unsolved after many months. Aimed at the serious puzzle solver, VirtuCube offers an as-yet-unclaimed $500 prize to the first to solve it.

Corporate 5.0 discussion
at Unfiction
VirtuCube discussion at Unfiction

Feed Me!! RSS and Alternate Reality Games

rss.jpgAlternate Reality Gamers are always looking for the best way to keep informed of what’s going on in their favorite game. Not everyone can surf the boards reading each and every post all day long (yes, some people actually have to work at work), so players are always looking for ways to stay as current as possible without having to sacrifice huge amounts of time. Historically, moderated lists or blogs that would email updates to players’ in-boxes were pretty much the standard vehicle for letting players know about game updates in a timely way.

Recently however, ARGs and their corresponding player-authored resources have begun taking advantage of RSS syndication, which is a way of pushing new content out to players, but surprisingly, this great vehicle is often going underutilized. So, we thought we’d offer a little primer for those of you who have always wondered what those little RSS buttons that show up on various websites are for.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication, and is a standard format for publishing and distributing regular updates around the web. Using this standard, website publishers can provide updates like the latest news headlines or blog postings to consumers who use RSS reader applications (or one of a growing number of online services) to collect and monitor their favorite feeds in one place (RSS content viewed in one of these readers, is often called a “feed”).

Major news websites such as Wired and news-oriented community sites such as Slashdot and Fark offer RSS feeds, but it’s not just for news. Almost anything that can be broken down into discrete items can be syndicated via RSS: the “recent changes” page of a wiki, new items for sale on, even recent postings or new topics in a forum. Once information about each item is in RSS format, a feedreader program can check the feed for changes and notify you when they occur.

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IGDA San Francisco Presents: I Love Bees, 4orty2wo

dvdbees.jpgOn April 26th, the International Game Developers Association will present “THINKING OUTSIDE THE (x)BOX (or “HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE BEES”) at 7:00 PM at the Metreon’s Action Theater in San Francisco (101 4th Street @ Mission).

Featured speakers will be Jordan Weisman, Sean Stewart and Jim Stewartson of 4orty2wo Entertainment, the team behind the Alternate Reality Game “I Love Bees.”

4orty2wo’s Alternate Reality Game became a phenomenon last year, sending thousands of players running to payphones around the world. The innovative Halo 2 prequel involving a seemingly innocent website of a Napa Valley beekeeper and a shipwrecked AI from the future received a Game Developers Choice Award for Innovation, was featured at GDC’s Experimental Gameplay Workshop, and became the latest and most successful example of the nascent Alternate Reality Games (ARG) genre.

But what place do ARGs have in the world (and future) of video games? What is their relation to one another? Are there lessons to be learned from ARG production that can impact the way video games are made?

Join Jordan Weisman, Sean Stewart, and Jim Stewartson of 4orty2wo Entertainment as they examine I Love Bees to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of ARGs, their intersection with traditional video games, and the future of this exciting new form of digital play.

This event is free and open to the public. For more info:

April ARG Announcements

redthumbnail.jpgARGN has been receiving an increasing amount of cryptic emails and/or packages, most likely as a result of the increased attention Alternate Reality Gaming has been getting lately. Most of the time, they’re simply spam or perhaps a hint that leads to someone’s stab at a work of interactive fiction, but every so often something will lead to a very worthwhile Alternate Reality Game. The trick is being able to sift through things (especially some of the emails…hmm, a Nigerian ARG??) to figure out what’s worth mentioning. So, without further adieu, submitted for your approval, as they say:

Yesterday morning, ARGN received a zip file (1.26 mb) of what looked like 7 colorful desktop wallpapers from someone calling themselves Your Friend (historyneverdies at Along with coded info along the top and bottom, they all seem to be pointing at a game that will start up in Winter 2005. Subsequent emails to the above address have yielded an additional image. Players have made progress in decoding things, and it seems the lower right characters all decode to the names of characters that were featured in Project Gateway, an ARG we reported on last September. So, it looks like we’re in for a sequel coming this winter. Of course, is that winter in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere??

todothumb.jpgAs if that wasn’t enough fun for one week, ARGN received a package just this morning. It was simply a To Do list, dated April 7, that listing such errands as going to the grocer, dry cleaner, and submitting an ad to the NY Post (see a larger version of the note by clicking the image at right). Apprently, the NY Post advertisement led to a rather extensive blog by an Alesha Periwinkle, whose fiancee has disappeared. If you look closely, you’ll see that all of the photos on the blog have been “deleted for reasons of national security.”

Quite notably, players have already received in-game phonecalls and text messages. Looks like a pretty promising (indie?) ARG is shaping up with this one.

desktops discussion at unfiction
ne1seenjames discussion at unfiction

Alternate Reality Gaming was the subject of a feature article in the May 2005 edition of PC Gamer Magazine in the UK. For those of you without access to the magazine, you can find some scans of the article (along with more comments by the author) over at the unfiction forums.

“I Love Bees” Nominated for Webby Award

ilbreview.jpgThe biggest Alternate Reality Game of the past year, “I Love Bees,” continues to gain major recognition with its just-announced nomination for a Webby Award! Time magazine and the New York Times call the Webbys “the Academy Awards of the Internet.”

“I Love Bees” is eligible to win two different awards in the “Games-related” category — the official games-related award, and the “People’s Voice” award… which YOU can vote for!

Obviously, we here at ARGN would love to see ILB win this, but to be honest, we’d actually like to see it win the People’s Voice award even more than the official award. We think it’d be really great to show the world that the ARG community’s voice is loud and strong and bigger and badder than anyone else’s… of course, we already know that because we heard you all singing over those payphones!! So let’s show the rest of the web what we can do.

Voting in the 2005 People’s Voice Awards runs TODAY through April 29. VOTE NOW! Here’s how:

  • Go to and click on the “Register now” button.
  • To ensure integrity of the vote, all voters must register. The process takes about 30 seconds (fill out the form). Then you’ll receive a voting link and password via email.

Note: Voters can choose to vote in just one, or some of, or all of the categories. It’s fine, for instance, to just vote in the “Games-related” category, which is the “I Love Bees” category.

Extra fun: There is an “instant poll” in voting that gives you the current standings for each site after you vote. We really need to get OUR votes in ASAP so that ILB looks like a contender, and so that other voters are more likely to spread the word. (Right now, ilovebees is in 3rd place out of 5… how long will it take ILB players to push it to #1? Hmmm… let’s find out!)

So what are you waiting for? Go vote!

“Our Colony” An ARG-ish Viral for the Next-Gen Xbox?

colonythumb.jpgRumors are flying this morning that the team-based puzzling site Our Colony is in fact a stealth campaign for the upcoming Xbox 2. Some are even going so far as to speculate that 4orty2wo Entertainment of I Love Bees fame is behind it all.

So far, Our Colony has been flying below the radar to a point. A cryptic email was received by an Unfiction member almost a month ago, and a small cadre of folks from there have been playing along in a team-based puzzly mission-style game. Some of the “rewards” have come in the form of screenshots of what can only be described as a sneak peek at new Xbox hardware.

The very first mission involved sending in pictures of the OurColony ant symbol in various locales. In addition, there’s a countdown timer on the site that will reach zero at 8pm PDT on Thursday, May 12. We’ll keep you posted on this, as it may not be too late to jump in and catch up.

at Unfiction
Lounge at OurColony (link fixed)
Chat in #ourcolony (

[ED. NOTE – 4:30pm PDT]: Despite the rampant speculation to the contrary, ARGN has confirmed that 4orty2wo Entertainment is not behind “Our Colony.”

Audi’s Art of the ARG

redaudithumb.jpgWith more and more evidence cropping up around the internet, it seems that the newly discovered ARG “The Art of the Heist” is most likely sponsored by Audi of America. Heist began with a bang on April 1st, with the supposed theft of a 2006 Audi A3 (VIN# WAUZZZ8P65A045963) right out of a New York City showroom, a fact that has created quite a stir on various car afficianado boards across the internet.

Today, Audi posted a special announcement on their US website, stating that “this is an ongoing INTERNAL investigation by Audi of America.” Add to that the fact that they’ve hired one of Heist’s characters to find the car, and the conclusion of who’s behind all this becomes pretty inescapable.

Audi’s doing things up right, that’s for sure. Advertisements for Virgil Tatum (whose website is the game’s main rabbithole) are showing up on too many websites to count, and while the game’s only been public for less than a week, interest in what’s going on seems to be growing at an exponential rate.

To remove any doubt about who’s backing Heist, it seems that the Financial Times let the cat out of the bag last week, with Aline van Duyn’s article about Audi’s foray into what she (mistakenly) refers to as Blog Advertising. From her article:

“If all goes according to plan, more than a million Americans will soon be gripped by the mystery of the missing car. The hunt for a stolen Audi A3 – a sporty hatchback that will hit US showrooms in May – will begin next week with a launch party in New York.

“At the event, the thriller’s first scenes will be shot, with pictures and clues about the theft then distributed on the internet.

“From there, participants in the chase will use interactive tools to choose alternative plot endings. How will the publicity be generated?

“With the latest weapon in the ad man’s arsenal – blog advertising. Blogs, web logs or journals, which cover topics from politics to parenting, have such enormous followings that marketing and advertising executives can no longer resist advertising in them.”

The article goes on to state what a vast, untapped resource blogs are for advertisers to buy space on, and that this whole Audi campaign is about getting bloggers to think of an A3 next time they want to buy a car.

We here at ARGN prefer to see this particular instance of “blog advertising” for what it really is: the tip of the ARG iceberg. Props to Audi for joining the ranks of those who realize the potential of Alternate Reality Gaming. In true automotive spirit (as it is in Alternate Reality Gaming), the ride’s the thing, so get behind the wheel, buckle yourself in, and get ready for a trip you won’t soon forget.

Discussion at Unfiction
Chat in #heist

Regenesis Nominated for FITC Award

regenesis.jpgIt was announced today that the Alternate Reality Game Regenesis: Extended Reality has been nominated for a Convergence Award by the FlashInTheCan Design & Technology Festival, which is one of Canada’s largest annual new media festivals. In addition, Regenesis qualifies in the People’s Choice Awards, which are based on voting by the general public. So, if you enjoyed Regenesis, feel free to hop on over there to make your opinions known.

Congratulations go out to Evan Jones and the Regenesis team on this! It’s so great to see more evidence that people are not only taking notice of ARGs, but recognize them as the excellent and innovative new vehicle that it is. The future’s looking better and better, as far as mainstream Alternate Reality Games are concerned.

Speaking of people taking note, The Guardian has published a great article on Perplex City (and Alternate Reality Gaming in general) today. Be sure to check it out.

“The Art of the Heist” Becomes Reality

audithumb.jpgThe new ARG that we reported on just a few days ago, The Art of the Heist, shocked players yesterday when it became a real world example of just that: A major heist in the middle of New York City!

Players found clues yesterday that there was going to be a party at a car dealership on Park Ave. at 7:00 pm last night, and made plans to meet up at what they anticipated to be some sort of in-game event. Once they arrived, however, they discovered that instead of a party, someone had apparently stolen an Audi show car! There was plastic over one of the doors, an area inside that showroom that was cordoned off with police tape, and security guards outside.

A woman with a clipboard handed out flyers, and there was a sign asking for further information, along with a phone number to report to. Calls to the number reportedly connected with Audi of America.

Since its beginning just a few days ago, The Art of the Heist has unloaded a boatload of material for players to digest, including acess to dozens and dozens of emails, videos, photos, documents, voicemail messages, and now a missing car. We have to say that this is the most explosive beginning to any Alternate Reality Game we’ve seen so far. Players have been busy developing resources and getting organized, as the links below will attest. Stay tuned for much more on this one.

Discussion at Unfiction
Chat in #heist

Photo courtesy of AngelAnger.

Rumors: Virgil, King of Code

king.jpgOur intrepid researchers at the Alternate Reality Gaming Network have turned up something interesting. Virgil is an erstwhile artist/game designer, as his website,, attests. He’s had quite an interesting history, along with some tragedy that caused him to take a break from games for a while.

But it seems Virgil is finally designing games again, and has begun with a project based on the life of a friend of his, Nisha Roberts. Nisha runs Last Resort Retrieval, a company that tracks down and recovers stolen artwork.

Some further investigation leads us to believe that this is indeed a rabbithole for a new ARG, unrelated to any currently running games. We’ll post updates as further details become available.

EDIT: Some more digging has revealed that this ARG is going by the name “The Art of the Heist.”

ARGs in Historical Perspective

radio.jpgAdrian Hon, one of the developers behind Perplex City, has somehow found time in his busy schedule to blog about Alternate Reality Gaming and how it fits into the historical scheme of things. His new entry, The Reality Artificers, places ARGs in the context of the long history of storytellers using framing devices to create more believable stories. It’s an incredibly well-researched and interesting read.

“…ARGs are not a new idea – they are simply the newest instance of an idea almost as old as storytelling itself – of storytellers constructing fictional realities, by deliberately mimicking the trusted information sources of media in order to create more realistic and affecting stories…

“…It is clear that storytellers throughout history have repeatedly and independently discovered that increasing the audience’s belief in a story can provide a more affecting and engaging experience. All of these artificers of fictional realities have used the same strategies: ancient Egyptian stories used fake letters; Welles used a fake news broadcast; the BBC used a fake live documentary; and ARGs use a network of fake news and personal websites…”

You can read The Reality Artificers in its entirety at

Still Life Prelude Begins

stillbridge.JPGIt seems that the Extended Reality Game that was announced to accompany Microids’ new adventure game Still Life has begun. A look at the website now reveals a link to Still Life Prelude, which leads to a brief introduction and then to Victoria McPherson’s Liberty 1.3 OS desktop (nicely provided by Lombartech).

There, the player will find tons of hints in the form of emails, to-do lists, links to other in-game sites, and even various crypto tools. From the intro:

“You will be playing Victoria McPherson…..and instead of watching her move through streets and corridors, you will be seeing what she sees every day as she works from her desk, investigating, gathering information and puzzling through clues in a race against time to prevent a killer from striking again. As you and Victoria do this together, you’ll have to deal with the Press, your supervisor, trouble with friends, and a mysterious ally.

“All of this is going to happen on Victoria’s desktop, through journal entries, news reports and email interaction. Remember: You’ll be Victoria’s eyes and hands, so you’ll be opening her journal every morning, responding to her email and piecing together the clues that will bring a killer to justice.”

Additionally, Still Life Prelude is aimed at a global audience, being made available in English, French, Italian and German.

This looks like it could be a lot of fun. Oh, and for those of you familiar with past ARGs, check out the Credits page for some familiar names.

Discussion at Unfiction.

War of the Worlds Latin Revelations

revelations.jpgA few weeks back, we reported on some mysterious posters and graffiti that was showing up around the country, all depicting the latin phrase, “Omnium Finis Imminet.” Word was that these could be the beginnings of a marketing campaign for the upcoming Spielberg adaptation of War of the Worlds, and this even seemed to be confirmed in a New York Times Article. This news caused many in the ARG community to clench various body parts in collective anticipation of another Spielberg-related Alternate Reality Game.

Paramount discounted these reports, however, and it was finally disclosed that these ads were for an upcoming NBC-TV series, Revelations. In addition, the New York Times subsequently published the following retraction:

“An article on Saturday about unusual subway advertisements included an erroneous identification from transit officials for the production whose ad featured a flock of birds with the phrase “Omnium Finis Imminet,” Latin for “The End of All Things Is Near.” It is an NBC television series called “Revelations,” not Steven Spielberg’s film version of “War of the Worlds.”

Well, it just goes to show you that you can’t always believe everything those pesky NYC Transit Officials tell you after all, let alone the New York Times! Alternate Reality Game? Nope. Stealth campaign gone terribly wrong? Absolutely!

“Perplex City” Launches

senteoped-wide-230.jpgAfter much anticipation, Perplex City launched today via their final advertisement in The Guardian, just as promised:

Cube stolen in Deadly Raid
January 16 2004 [267AC] – Iona Rodie

“from the Academy museum last night in a raid which left one security guard dead. Police cheif, Eoin Morgan, described the theft, which took place during the Annual Acadamy Ball as “highly organised and technologically sophisticated.” Fran Mendling, 42, was killed with a neuro-suppressant device, making it impossible to pinpoint the time of death. Academy spokesperson Valerian Reynolds revealed that security cameras and sensors were offline throughout the Ball. She”

We won’t spoil it for you, but be prepared for a nice deep rabbithole to explore. The Perplex City universe awaits!

Discussion at Unfiction
Chat in #syzygy
Perplex City Wiki

International Attention for ARGs

globe.jpgThe last few weeks has seen a marked increase in press coverage for Perplex City, most notably from sources outside the U.S. and England. PC is doing exceptionally well at gaining the attention of news sources around the world, furthering the visibility of Alternate Reality Games as a whole.

Just since the beginning of March, major articles have appeared at CNET (which was syndicated all over the place), Agent Portál (Hungary), La Voz de Galicia (Spain), the Contra Costa Times, and the Libération (France). This international coverage makes sense, as Alternate Reality Games are one of the few things that can truly be played by a worldwide audience. For a comprehensive listing of major ARG press coverage over the past few years, see our Press Page.

It was also noted that multiple film crews showed up at Abbey Road Studios this morning, presumably to catch what was going on with the Perplex City event. Couple that with the numerous recent interviews with members of the ARG community, and you can expect to see even more coverage in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Perplex City is proving itself to be the Game To Watch. If you’re new to the genre, we highly recommend it as the one to get involved with. While you may have to wait a few more days for things to really get going, we have a feeling it will definitely be worth the wait.

Perplex City Hits the Street

crossing.jpgPerplex City continued its journey “up the lift hill” in the form of a live meet with an ingame character in front of Abbey Road Studios in London today. Players watched events unfold on the streaming webcam of the scene, where players found clues planted around the intersection, and finally met up with someone named Dinah, who handed out envelopes filled with clues.

The initial clues indicated that a Dinah would be a little late, but would arrive before 1:00 pm, and that she would require a password, which was also hinted at. When Dinah did arrive, the dedicated London ARGers approached her with the password (which was “exchange”), whereupon she handed out envelopes that contained code-laden sheets and a Perplex City postcard. Breaking through the various codes, players revealed a log of emails between characters, with a little more backstory on Perplex City history.

All in all, this was a great way to kick things off, giving PC players a chance to meet each other in person right from the start, not to mention getting handed a clue from someone from the game. While we think Perplex City is just reaching to crest of the lift hill, we’re going to go ahead and change its status to Now Playing.

Discussion at Unfiction
Chat in #syzygy
Netninja Reference Pages
Player Video from Abbey Road | (mirror)


eye.jpgLast week, we reported on a greeting card we received here at ARGN. While we couldn’t make heads nor tails from the card, the intrepid folks at unfiction discovered a trail of similar greeting cards that looks like it does indeed lead to what looks like an Alternate Reality Game.

Players have found two websites so far: and, which in turn leads to a forum entitled Persistence. The story so far seems to involve eight characters who are on the run from someone/something. The story has involved some good puzzles, and the posts on the board are reminiscent of previous bands of hackers that have shown up in various games past.

While very intriguing so far, it’s still tough to say exactly what this is, or how deep it will go. Time will tell. YMMV.

Discussion at Unfiction.

GDC 2005 Spotlights Alternate Reality Games

gdca.gifAs Elan Lee took to the stage to accept the 2005 Innovation Award for I Love Bees at the Game Developers Choice Awards on Wednesday night, Alternate Reality Gaming stepped off of the sidelines and into the spotlight. Lee, on behalf of his team at 4orty2wo Entertainment, thanked the players, and made a special point of thanking Microsoft and Bungie for showing trust in their vision of producing an Alternate Reality Game that would promote the release of Halo 2. I Love Bees was one of three games presented with the Innovation Award this year, the other recipients being Katamari Damacy and Donkey Konga. During the presentation, a video teaser featuring various ILB website pages, photos of crewmemebers and soundbites from some of the live calls highlighted what a unique form of entertainment I Love Bees truly was.

The games that win the Innovation Award usually cause quite a stir at the Game Developers Conference, and this was no exception. There was definitely a resultant buzz going on the following day, with many attendees talking about what I Love Bees, Alternate Reality Gaming and Pervasive Games in general are all about. These questions were answered when I Love Bees was featured in a session on Experimental Gaming on Thursday, led by ILB Puppetmaster Jane McGonigal. Jane was able to talk at length about what I Love Bees entailed, and what the concept of Alternate Reality Gaming is, giving specifics about gameplay, community aspects, and the “This is Not a Game” philosophy. Jane is also one of the forces behind the current I Love Bees exhibit at UC Berkeley.

The Innovation Award and subsequent Experimental Gameplay presentation definitely got people’s attention, with many developers expressing deep interest in jumping on the ARG bandwagon. However, the folks at 4orty2wo Entertainment were tight-lipped about what projects they may be currently working on, for obvious reasons.

Complete List of 2005 Game Developers Choice Awards Winners

Dare to Look up to God

dare.jpgWell, it seems there’s never any shortage of strange things received in the mail around here at the ARGN ultralounge. Today, we received a cryptic greeting card, which is not unusual, being the popular folks we are. At first we thought it was just another birthday card, but the greeting was a little……odd:

“Dare to look up to God,” it advised. Erm, OK. Either someone was very concerned about my eternal well being, or it was….A CLUE! Looking closer, the background revealed faint text and a series of tables with number on them. Inside, it was simply an unsigned page with the text, “Do You Dare?”

Well, yes we do, as a matter of fact, so the ARGN staff leapt into action and promptly went off to the internet anagram server, which led us to Good Polkadot Route, which of course led us to, which led to……….nothing.

OK, seeing as we’re getting ready to head out to the Game Developers Conference, things were promptly turned over to the fine folks at Unfiction to chew on. So far, nobody’s solved anything, but there’s no telling where these things may lead. After all, we didn’t think much of that bear full of honey last summer, and look where it took us.

So, chalk this up as another mystery ARGN delivery, for what it’s worth. YMMV.

Discussion at Unfiction.

In other news, stayed tuned throughout the week for reports from the Game Developers Conference 2005 in San Francisco. Folks are about to take major notice of Alternate Reality Gaming, and we will be there to report on all the fun!

Ares Station Launches

aresstation.jpgIf you’ve been looking for something to do while waiting for Perplex City to get going, your search may be over. An alert reader sent the following email to the ARGN tipline this morning:

Subject: 49276D20696E76697369626C652E

I walk through the plastic halls. I see you on your blue planet so far away. Your whispers, once a week bursts, tell me you think my home is your salvation.

Rejoice! Rejoice! You will use us, downtrodden miners and sterile scientists, as a stepping stone to the great beyond.

You don’t see us as people at all. You should be ashamed.

Just like her.

Orbital Colony? Something else? A little soon to tell for sure, but it looks like there are multiple websites/blogs from the year 2083 A.D. to tear apart in the meantime. We’ll keep you posted as things progress.

Discussion on Unfiction.

ARG Gaining Media Attention

hackerth.jpgDespite the absence of a ‘big’ game currently in play, the past few weeks have revealed a sudden increase in the interest the press is showing to Alternate Reality Gaming. Combine this with the announcements of upcoming ARGs and the I Love Bees team’s soon-to-be-bestowed 2005 Innovation Award, and you’ve got some major momentum toward the general public discovering this cutting edge, innovative form of entertainment.

Those in the marketing field have been catching on to the potential of Alternate Reality Gaming for some time, as evidenced by a recent blurb in TrendCentral, a leading newsletter about marketing trends. Now, thanks to recent successes such as I Love Bees and Regenesis, the mainstream press seems to be paying attention as well.

In the past week, Alternate Reality Games have caught the interest of CNET News, The Age, and Earlier articles have also appeared in The New York Times, Wired and The Times Online to name just a few. Watch for upcoming articles in other major news providers as well.

So, with all of the sudden attention, what’s next for Alternate Reality Gaming? While we can’t say much about what we’ve heard or how much we know for sure, we can say this much: Buckle your seatbelts and prepare to kiss your free time goodbye!

NOTE: If you’re an ARG veteran, be sure to look for a little Easter Egg in the above CNET News article. 😉

The End of the World, Rumors, and Grassroots Startups

th_SanJose1.jpgSeems there’s lots of stuff simmering right now in the ARG world. The problem is, nothing seems to be quite breaking the surface yet. While some point to major mainstream projects, there are numerous instances of grassroots efforts struggling to launch and get attention.

Perplex City seems to be in its final stages of development, as well as getting a good amount of press. No hint yet on when the official launch will be, but a recent email and video indicate that it’s got to be getting close. Meanwhile, players are still waiting and watching for the announced Still Life Extended Reality Game to show further signs of life.

On the rumor front, there are reports cropping up about strange sightings of graffiti, posters and television bumpers all with the same slogan in Latin: “Omnium Finis Imminet,” which loosely translates to “The end of all things is near.” Popular wisdom is that this is a viral effort leading into the upcoming Spielberg adaptation of War of the Worlds or some SciFi miniseries. The photos of the graffiti do seem to be photoshopped, and are better in quality and composition than your average amateur would take, so there does seem to be something going on here.

Meanwhile, there are quite a few grassroots projects attempting to gain momentum. These include Project Ashcroft, Synagoga, Entrapment, and Albrecht Wasser. As with any indie game, play at your own risk, as your mileage may vary.

MSN’s New Search Engine Launches “Search Opera”

cy.jpgIn a move that, upon further reflection, makes perfect sense, MSN has launched a stealth “search opera” to help promote their new search engine. A search opera, according to Sean Stewart (author behind The Beast and I Love Bees), is just another term for an Alternate Reality Game. In this instance, having a search opera to accompany a search engine launch seems to be a pretty good fit! Sean has summed it up this way:

“Essentially, a search opera is a story treated as a scavenger hunt and a jigsaw puzzle rolled into one. What’s particularly nice about the search opera is that for a decade now people have been looking for a way to use the internet as an artistic medium. The net wants to be interactive, and it wants to be social. A search opera allows a collective audience to have an artistic experience while searching and gossiping and decoding and speculating: in short, while doing the things that the net was really born to do.”

The MSN Search Opera (ARG) centers around a guy named Cy and his conspiracy website. Following the links on Cy’s site and clues garnered by entering specific keywords into the MSN search engine yields videos (some of which are pretty funny), more characters, their journals, and a story that will develop over upcoming weeks.

And yes, I admit that I’ve already downloaded and assembled a hypnodragon of my very own, which my daughter thinks is gleefully amazing.

Discussion on unfiction.

“I Love Bees” and Elan Lee to Receive 2005 Innovation Award

ilbreview.jpgInside word comes to us today that “I Love Bees” and lead designer Elan Lee will receive a 2005 Innovation Award from the International Game Developers Association, to be announced at the upcoming Game Developers Choice Awards in March. The Innovation award is a special creative/design award given to standouts in innovation every year. Previous games that have won this award include Counter-Strike, Rez and Black + White. As this is a largely console/PC focused organization, we think it’s great for a game like ILB to be recognized.

The award will be presented at the 5th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards on March 9, 2005 at a ceremony during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. For a list of the other nominees, check out the IGDA website.

Congratulations go out from ARGN to Elan Lee and his ILB team, for a job well done and recognition of what a cool thing Alternate Reality Games are!

JMX2 is Coming! has announced JMX2, the followup to the Jaded Media eXperience series of cunningly clever puzzles known as JMX, which took place back in 2002.

This six stage series of puzzles took players months to complete, and spawned discussion areas on Unfiction and YahooGroups. For those interested in a little puzzle history, an archive of the original JMX has been made available for your puzzling enjoyment.

JMX2 is set to commence in 2005, and registration will not be required to play this time around. However, you can submit your email address in order to be informed of the launch. Be forewarned, though. JMX2 is not an Alternate Reality Game, and will not be for the feint of heart, as it’s aimed at very serious puzzlers.

at YahooGroups

Deaddrop Announces Puzzle Winner

puzzle.jpgOur friends over at Deaddrop have announced that there has been a winner in their ARG Puzzle Contest. Actually, one winner with two runners-up.

Rather than just post the winners, they have decided to instead post a puzzle trail, in true ARG fashion. This trail is comprised of the remainder of the puzzle submissions, and the ultimate solve will reveal who won. So, if you’re looking for a nice distraction, join in on the fun and help discover the winners.

The top puzzles will be featured in an upcoming ARG, with full credits to be posted at that time.

Puzzle trail Discussion at Unfiction.
Chat in #ddtrail (

Still Life Extended Reality Game Announced

Adventure Gamers reports that Microids is creating an online Alternate Reality Game to promote their upcoming murder-mystery adventure Still Life, which is due to be released on April 14, 2005.

Microids is calling their game an Extended Reality Experience, and it will encompass multiple websites, centering around the characters from Still Life, along with some created specifically for the ARG. The story will evolve through various media as players follow hints provided by the alternate reality itself, and the marketing materials surrounding the game.

Clues are to begin appearing on the network of ingame websites soon. Keep an eye on the Still Life website (and ARGN) for further developments.

[EDIT: An apparent trailhead has been found. Check out]

UPDATE: Lenny’s Xanga Meltdown

meltdown.jpgWe’re sorry to report that Lenny’s Xanga has come to a premature end. Actually, it seems it didn’t really ever get started, at least not officially. According to a post on unfiction by Matthew Addison, the game’s head puppetmaster, Lenny’s Xanga was “made public about 6 months before its intended launch date by a disgruntled former member of the production team.”


[EDIT: To avoid further confusion, we have removed a late article that promoted this game attempt.]

ARG-Parties Announced

argfest_logo_4.jpgOne of the by-products of Alternate Reality Games is the communities that they create and foster, and the sometimes longlasting friendships that can result. Consequently, ARG fans have been busy recently setting up various player meets in the upcoming months. Witness another ARG-Fest-O-Con and now a Hivemeet that are being planned as a way for online players to get together to party and re-live some of the games’ fun in real life.

Following on the heels of successful ARG-Fests in Las Vegas, Orlando and Vancouver BC, players are currently organizing ARGFest NYC, which will take place on July 22-24, 2005 in New York City, and have created a wiki to help coordinate events, accomodations, etc. Discussion of plans and ideas for ARGFest NYC can be found in this thread on unfiction.

For those of you who gave your lives to chasing down Axons a few months back, some midwest Beekeepers are currently planning the first ever Ilovebees Hivemeet in Chicago on May 13-15, 2005. The website they’ve created will help organize events, accommodations and travel plans. In addition, folks are discussing Hivemeet Chicago plans in this unfiction thread.

These meets are player sponsored and organized, so keep in mind that there are no “official” events planned, although if history is any indication, you can expect some realworld ARG-ish fun to drop in on you in one form or another. Watch the respective websites for updated news and information on these events.

Ring 2 Web Weirdness

ring2.jpgWell, you had to know it was going to happen. After all of the cool online stuff that went on a few years back with the release of The Ring, there was bound to be something new and macabre in store for us this time around with the upcoming release of The Ring 2, which is scheduled to open in the U.S. on March 18th.

If you thought things were twisted last time around, just wait. We won’t spoil any of the creepy fun for you, but if The Ring gave you nightmares, you may want to avoid and Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

ARG? Potentially.

Disturbing? Definitely.

Discussion at unfiction
Discussion at she-is-here
The Ring 2 Official Site

Biding Time With Immersive Fiction

gaelph.jpgWhat’s becoming known as Immersive Fiction seems to be gaining popularity of late. While not really ARGs per se, works of immersive fiction often have enough ARG-ish elements to them to merit a second look, as they might definitely feed the need for those of you waiting around for the “next big game,” (and you know who you are!).

Web-based episodic entertainment is nothing new. There are websites and communities such as EpiGuide dedicated to the genre, and while websoaps and the like have been around for quite a while, some of these episodics have made an effort to become more interactive/immersive.

Past examples of this include Online Caroline, in which you ‘make friends’ with Caroline, a Bridget Jones-ish character who gets caught up in a humorous nefarious plot. The narrative takes the form of emails and pre-recorded webcam vignettes that utilize information you’ve provided about yourself or opinions you’ve given Caroline. She’ll even bug you if you don’t stop by the site for a few days. This database driven personalization made Online Caroline very unique, and resulted in the reader feeling intricately involved in the story. As far as we know, you can still experience Online Caroline for yourself, which takes a minimum of 24 days to play out, and is free.

Looking for something new? A few current examples of Immersive Fiction include Gaelph and The Daughters of Freya. Gaelph is the story of a little girl who, by consequence of some ancient prophesies and circumstance, is exiled from her childhood home. So far, the story has provided some ARG-ish puzzles for the readers to solve in order to continue the story. Gaelph takes place in real time over the next few weeks/months, and is free. (discussion at Unfiction)

The Daughters of Freya by Michael Betcherman and David Diamond is a unique new mystery novel told through emails exchanged between characters in the story delivered straight to your inbox, just as if the they had copied you on the emails they’re sending to each other. The story revolves around Samantha Dempsey, an investigative journalist who gets an assignment to do an article on a Silicon Valley sex-cult, and as with any good mystery, includes sex, murder and intrigue.

Readers receive a few emails at random times every day over the three weeks that it takes for the mystery to unfold. The Daughters of Freya is $7.49, but you can receive the first 3 emails for free.

Sharp’s Urns ARG Announces Winner

Sharp’s promotional ARG, Legend of the Sacred Urns, announced a winner tonight in their alternate reality treasure hunt. As posted on the Steinitz Puzzlers Forum, the Contest Grand Prize Winner was Ohio’s Ken Floss. Ken was the first to submit a correct answer identifying the location of the third sacred urn back on Dec. 1st. There were also six sweepstakes winners drawn at random from those who submitted entries.

Beginning back on September 15th, a series of Sharp TV ads featuring an orange Karmann Ghia crashing into a swimming pool directed observant viewers to, which led to the Steinitz Puzzlers site. There, players learned about fictional eccentric treasure hunter Dagobert Steinitz and the three urns he’d hidden for other adventurers to find. The game led to various blogs and websites where players were able to find clues pointing them to the final urn’s location.

For being the first to submit the correct location, Ken will receive a Sharp Home Entertainment System, consisting of a Sharp 45-inch Aquos LCD TV, a Sharp digital video player and Surround Sound amplification system.

Urns was produced by Mike Monello (the producer of “The Blair Witch Project”) and Brian Clark of GMD Studios in Orlando.


lenny.jpgLenn James is a student in Sacramento. Lenn likes DDR, anime, Kevin Smith flicks, X-Box, films, and alternative music. Lenn is 21-ish years old. Lenn finally jumped on the bandwagon and started a blog.

Oh, and Lenn just received a crazy email. Something about a lost sister, type-C7.6 FW0553 communication hardware and foreign port probes. Hmmmm.


neurocam2.jpgAfter almost a month of digging around by ARGN staffers and players alike, the mystery of what exactly is going on at is no closer to being revealed than it was a month ago.

Despite replies to curious players in various countries besides Australia, our best guess is that Neurocam is some sort of art student project. Plus, to confirm our suspicions about what Neurocam is not, their site was recently updated with the following:

neurocam is not a psychology experiment
neurocam is not a terrorist training organisation
neurocam is not a corporate team-building exercise
neurocam is not a security company
neurocam is not a joke
neurocam is not an ARG…”

So, there you have it.

Regenesis Post-Game Puppetmaster Chat: January 31, 2005

regenesis.JPGThe Production team behind the Alternate Reality Game for the recent Canadian TV series Regenesis will be featured in an upcoming moderated IRC chat on Monday, January 31st, 2005 at 5:00pm Pacific/8:00pm Eastern. They will be fielding questions and giving a behind the scenes look at the world that’s been consuming them for the past 15 weeks.

Regenesis’ final episode will air January 23rd, bringing the accompanying ARG portion to a conclusion as well. The Regenesis Extended Reality, as it was called, was developed by a team at Xenophile Media, and was groundbreaking in that it was the most extensive Alternate Reality Game that has been officially tied to a television series to date.

Regenesis was a biotech thriller produced for Canada’s The Movie Network/Movie Central that premiered on October 24th. Players of the Extended Reality received emails from the game during the show’s airings, and gathered together on ingame boards at to figure out the nefarious goings on at the North American Biotechnology Advisory Commision (NORBAC).

The chat will be moderated (attendees will only be able to speak while asking questions) and is scheduled to last about an hour and a half.

When: January 31st, 2005 at 5:00pm Pacific/8:00pm Eastern
Where: #regenesis on (browser-based access here)

Book Release: “This Is Not A Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming”

tinag.jpgA new book is scheduled to hit the shelves that will really have a big impact on Alternate Reality Gaming. This Is Not A Game: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming by Dave Szulborski will be available in e-book and print-on-demand format in mid-January 2005 and in a traditional print version in February 2005. An MP3 book “on tape” will also be available. For a limited time, the first 2 chapters of this book are available to download for free!

Dave is the creator of several successful and critically acclaimed Alternate Reality Games including Chasing The Wish and Urban Hunt. From the book’s website:

Some of the founders and leading lights of the newest and hottest trend in entertainment announced today that they have joined forces to produce the first ever how-to book on the subject. Titled This is Not a Game, the new book promises to be a how-to resource for the casual game developer and media strategists alike who wish to explore the genre of Alternate Reality Gaming also called immersive gaming….

…While Alternate Reality Gaming has been around for several years, the recent phenomenal success of the online game “I Love Bees“, produced by Microsoft and Bungie to promote the release of the much anticipated video game Halo 2, has brought thousands of new participants into the genre and launched Immersive Gaming into the mainstream consciousness once and for all. ARG/immersive gaming has been featured in media venues such as CNN, Trendcentral, BBC, New York Times and countless other sources as of late.

This is Not a Game provides a concise and easy-to-understand explanation of the alternate reality game and why so many major marketing and entertainment companies are now turning to immersive gaming and marketing efforts to promote their biggest product releases. Tracing the roots of the genre back to the earliest days of online interactive fiction up through the most recent alternate reality games, This is Not a Game allows anyone, regardless of their level of knowledge and experience with the Internet or online gaming, to jump right in and become fully immersed in this exciting and engaging new form of entertainment.

The new book will also contain contributions from author and media theorist Joseph Matheny, ARGN founder Steve Peters, professional stage illusionist Ben Mack with website and cover design by cutting edge gaming artist Denny Unger of Worldworks Games.

Keep an eye on for future announcements and details as they become available.

Deaddrop Puzzle Contest

puzzle.jpgDeaddrop today has announced its Best Alternate Reality Game Puzzle contest. The best puzzle will be used in an upcoming ARG, and the winner will also be invited to participate behind the scenes in that ARG.

Deaddrop will accept submissions for this puzzle contest through the end of January. The winner will be announced on Deaddrop, but you won’t see the puzzle until it shows up in a game.

For rules and submission procedures, refer to the post on the Deaddrop site.

PM Chat: Legend of the Sacred Urns

There will be a post-game chat with the puppetmasters behind the recently concluded Sharp promotional game, dubbed “Legend of the Sacred Urns.” It will be tonight at 9:00 pm EST in #steinitz on chat-solutions. For those of you without a chat client, you can access the channel here.

If you followed along, now’s your chance to talk directly to those who were behind this well-done ARG promotion.

ARGN Announce List Subscription Back On Line

argntopic.jpgWe’ve finished our upgrade to the ARGN Announce List backend, so you’re once again free to subscribe.

This is a very low-traffic email list, reserved for notifications of new games and major announcements only. If you want to be sure not to miss getting in on the ground floor of the next big ARG, this is your best bet.

If you’ve subscribed previously, there’s no need to re-subscribe.

Slumberil: Matrix Online ARG?

slumberil.jpgThe highly anticipated game The Matrix Online is scheduled to be released this spring. Beta testers of the game noticed a billboard advertising a sleep-aid product called Slumberil, and subsequently discovered

Call us jaded, but we’ve gotten our hopes up before, hoping that a game-related site is an ARG trailhead, but then being disappointed to find out that it’s merely an atmospheric site, nothing more (as in recent game-related sites for the Myst and Grand Theft Auto series’). Nevertheless, a little digging reveals a juicy login page, a mailing list signup, and mysterious emails from someone named pandora.

The fact that there’s a spring release of Matrix Online increases the likelihood that this will turn into ARG goodness, but we’ll have to wait and see for now.

Discussion at Unfiction.
Chat in #slumberil

ARG: The Traveler

traveller2.jpgAn alert member of Unfiction has stumbled upon The Evergreen Foundation, an organization that is “united and driven, not just by civic responsibility, but also by a moral imperative to contribute to the peaceful continuance of a society that is free from fear,” by developing technologies to increase the effectiveness of information gathering and surveillance.

Sound a little nefarious? Well, it should. Seems that if you dig a little into the site’s extranet, you’ll discover that something has escaped from their Genetic Health Care Center in Palmdale, and it looks like it’s killing local animals. A little further digging around reveals immediate links to other websites, including Resurrection Auto Parts (Serving Travellers Everywhere), Hollis Martial Arts, and the personal webpage of an industrial designer and motivational speaker named Judith Strand. On her site, she mentions having made the recent aquaintance of a “man who travels great distances to find a larger truth.”

All of this seems to be related to an upcoming novel, “The Traveler” by John Twelve Hawks. Whether this turns out to be a little backstory to the novel or an actual Alternate Reality Game remains to be seen, but geez. An evil genetic research company, an escaped test subject, a world spanning multiple websites……it’s got all the classic pieces (although the direct links at the bottom of the Random House page are a little non-subtle). Let’s just watch and see how they are played.

Discussion at Unfiction

Neurocam: Australia’s Latest Mystery

neurocam2.jpgIf you’ve been driving around Melbourne Australia lately, you may have noticed billboards telling you to “get out of your mind,” and pointing to Apparently, those who sign up on the website have been given missions of varying degrees of complexity to complete, such as delivering a locked briefcase to a complete stranger. Failure to complete their mission will ostensibly result in serious consequences. Nobody seems to know who’s behind it, or what it’s promoting, if anything. Metafilter denizens are already comparing it with Fight Club, The Game, Mayday Mystery and The Beast.

A little poking around the Neurocam website reveals very little, but that in and of itself seems a little ARGish to us. Checking the site registration reveals that is the only site hosted on its server, and is registered to what appears to be a bogus address in Beverly Hills. In addition, an unprotected directory on the site reveals some rather interesting images. [EDIT: Seems someone’s been watching us. The images in question were removed soon after this article was published. You can now find them here.]

So, is it an ARG? Marketing tool? Cult recruitment technique? Drug running front? Hoax? We’ll keep an eye on this, but for now will file it under Undetermined.

Discussion at Unfiction

Perplex City Ramping Up

click for larger imagePerplex City has been reaching out and touching real world locations in the form of an intriguing postcard that has been found in airports, Starbucks, and on college campuses around the world (North Carolina, Cambridge UK and Balogna Italy, so far). A message on the back is yet another communique from someone calling themselves Sente, asking for help in finding a missing cube. The postcard includes references to the Perplex City Academy, Academy tours, a gift shop, and the game’s trailhead website at Upon closer scrutiny, the postcard has revealed some hidden messages as well, but we’ll leave that for your own discovery.

Word is that Perplex City will be launching in early 2005, so it seems this is their cool way of starting to get the word out. We’ll be watching this one carefully for developments.

at Unfiction
Chat in #syzygy
Netninja Reference Pages

ARG: PandoraNext

pandoranext.jpgDeaddrop reports that PandoraNext will be launching on December 22nd. Word is that this will have some sort of multi-team player element to it, so it will be very interesting to see where it will go.

This will actually be a re-launch of the game, as it originally got started back in October, but was put on hold after just 2 1/2 weeks due to various timing and gameplay issues. These will have been addressed this time around, so it looks like everything will be more robust. Players have already gotten an initial response by emailing [email protected].

Discussion at Unfiction
Chat in #pandoranext

ARGN Chat Client Back On Line

IRClogo.jpgAs part of the ongoing server upgrades, etc. going on around here, we’ve gotten the ARGN IRC chat applet back on line. This is a browser-based IRC client that can be used in lieu of installing a dedicated IRC application on your computer, similar to the applet over at unfiction. This latest version enables connection to multiple channels at once, among other cool things.

So, if you’ve never stopped in to say hello, now’s a perfect time. Simply let the applet load, choose a channel and a nickname and hit the connect button. There’s usually something happening in #unfiction (the general ARG chat area), but there are also dedicated channels for the various games going on.

Ilovebees-Inspired Artwork to Raise Money for Charity

melissa.jpgArtist Charles Allen Harris has announced that he will donate 50% of sales on his prints, to Child’s Play, the Penny Arcade Led Gamer Charity. Notably, one of his prints was inspired by the recent Ilovebees ARG, entitled Melissa-The Operator.

So, if you’ve got a Beekeeper on your Christmas list, pick up a Melissa print and help a great charity at the same time. 🙂

ARG: Daemon Works

dw.jpgDaemon Works, which bills itself as a new Alternate Reality Game, has been gaining momentum since its launch on October 31st. While it may or may not be your typical ARG, it does seem to be living up to its claim of being a “website puzzle intended to be solved collaboratively.”

As far as we can tell, there is a compelling series of challenges being revealed, along with a plot involving a missing girl named Jill and the town of Idunn, CT. Hmmm, Idunn and its links to the quest for immortality (sounds….familiar, somehow). Overall, the player seems to be being led through a series of puzzles by a mysterious figure, reminiscent of the game Missing. Who is behind all this? What happened to Jill? Stop by the forums below and help solve the mystery!

Discussion on Unfiction

Project MU Anniversary Tribute and Book Release

marcusdirectory.jpgOctober 1st marked the one-year anniversary of Project MU, a grassroots ARG that was based in the Matrix universe. To commemorate the occasion, some of the more dedicated players created an anniverary puzzle trail that took folks on a trip down memory lane, complete with some pretty tough puzzles.

The trail was finally completed today, and led to a nice credits page and a link to an online book that chronicles the Project MU experience for those who may have missed it. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of the players and puppetmasters alike, and was obviously a labor of love to compile. If you’ve got some spare time, grab a cup of coffee and sit down for an entertaining read.

Mad props go out to giskard, wishi, xnbomb and yanka for a job well done. If anyone wants to recruit some pm’s for a future ARG, you know where to look! 🙂

ARGN Site Migration

Please excuse any site hiccups you may have encountered over the past few days. ARGN is migrating to its new server, along with all of the acommpanying necessary upgrades, etc. etc. yada yada. The site admins over at unfiction have been working hard as well, reinstalling virtually everything due to some new phpBB forum security exploits.

So, if you’re seeing this, all is well. The old ARGN forum archive will be restored soon, but everything else should be working correctly. If you run into any problems, let us know. We now return you to your regularly scheduled ARGing.

EDIT 11/29: The server migration is completed with the addition of the Forum Archive. We’ve also turned on comments, so we’ll see how that goes.

Sable & Shuck: Realworld Reward in Store?

jon.jpgWe wrote earlier about a website called Sable & Shuck, which seems to be part of some sort of viral, immersive, ARG-ish promotion for Stella Artois. A series of sites revealed a story straight out of an old Twilight Zone episode, involving deals with the devil and an obsessed hero named Jon Harker trying to get to the bottom of it all.

Recently, the discovery of an additional website called Help Me Find Jon ( has upped the ante, both literally and figuratively. It seems Harker has disappeared in the midst of his investigation of the strange goings on involving a mysterious man in black, and his sister Brigid is asking for help in finding him. Notably, she’s offering a reward of £10,946 for his whereabouts. You can register and submit your answer, so it looks like if you solve the mystery, you win the reward. Is it real? Well, as Brigid says, “You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.”

Unforum Discussion

Live Phone-in Chat with IloveBees Actors

accutalk.jpgThe Alternate Reality Gaming Network will host a live call-in phone chat with some of the voice actors featured in the Ilovebees Alternate Reality game, hosted by the kind folks at AccuTalk. It will be open to callers both in the US and abroad, and will take place this Saturday, November 13th at 12:00 noon Pacific/3:00pm Eastern. On hand will be Kristen Rutherford (Durga/Melissa/Sleeping Princess) and more from the cast (stay tuned).

This phone chat will work very much like a call-in radio show, as callers will have a chance to talk directly to the actors, and ask whatever questions they like. Watch this unfiction thread for more details as they become available.

EDIT 11/10: more details…
If you’d like to participate, call (404) 920-6610, then enter the conference code 516230#. You’ll be prompted to state your name (or screen name in this case), then will be put on hold until the chat begins at noon.

By default, you’ll be in listen-only mode. If you’d like to ask a question or make a comment, press *1. This will put you in the queue, which will be gone through in order. We’ll move overseas callers to the front of the queue. When it’s your turn, you’ll be ‘voiced’ and able to talk.

EDIT 11/13:
The chat went well. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here is a recording for your listening pleasure:

ilbphonechat (7.47 MB)

Halo2 ILoveBees Game Ends With a Bang

dvdbees.jpgNovember 4th brought the final chapter to the 16-week Alternate Reality Game that became known as I Love Bees. A promotional game for Bungie’s eagerly anticipated game Halo2, Ilovebees caught the attention of thousands of gamers and media alike over the past few months. The journey culminated on November 4th, with a live event in four cities attended by hundreds of players (San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Austin). At this event, referred to in-game as a Combat Training Exercise, players got an exclusive chance to play Halo2 before its release on November 9th, and received a commemorative DVD and Ilovebees lanyard. What’s more, the lucky players in San Francisco got a chance to meet some of the Ilovebees Puppetmasters.

Ilovebees was developed by a team headed by Elan Lee and Sean Stewart, who headed up the first real Alternate Reality Game, The Beast, in 2001. Since then, they teamed up to form 4orty2wo Entertainment, and began production of Ilovebees in February. Ilovebees, which launched on July 16th, told the story of an A.I. from the future named Melissa who crash landed on a website server here in 2004. syringe.jpgOver the 16 weeks of the game, players completed a series of web-based puzzles and realworld challenges to reveal a compelling story that formed a prequel to Halo2, following its characters through the weeks leading up to the invasion of Earth by an evil race of aliens known as the Covenant. The story was revealed in over 6 hours of audio drama using some of the best voice talent and post-production in Hollywood.

Ilovebees broke new ground in its innovative use of real world distributed puzzles, stellar writing and sheer numbers of players. At it’s culmination, the ilovebees site received as many as 500,00 unique visitors per day, making it by far the most followed Alternate Reality Game to date.

A post-game chat is scheduled with the Ilovebees Puppetmasters on November 7th at 2:00 pm Pacific Standard Time. You can have a chance to ask questions and get the inside scoop on what went on behind the game by stopping by #apocalypso on (browser based access).

A Deal With….Who, Exactly?

ss2.jpgSubmitted for your approval: A mysterious Futures Trading Company that seems to provide luxury goods and services in exchange for……your soul!!

Sable & Shuck and it’s associated websites were discovered last month, and a few folks received an email from them yesterday (um, Halloween), reviving interest in figuring out exactly what’s going on here. It seems that S&S deals in providing clients with their every desire in exchange for their soul. If you sign up to receive further info, you’ll get this email reply:

You have elected to begin negotiations with Sable & Shuck, a company that provides commodities of supreme quality and worth, in return for human souls that meet our criteria*.

We will resume contact at midnight. If you do not wish to pursue negotiations for any reason whatsoever, simply click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this page and you will never hear from us again.

*Transactions can only take place after a contract is signed by both parties.

The email is signed by S&S’s “Director of Acquisitions,” who is also listed on their site as Director of Procurement and Director of Punitive Measures(!) among other things. Well, we’ll see what happens at midnight, then.

Digging around takes you to various sites: Trident Air, Inferno Cargo, Marlowe the Hornchurch Star, and finally to the site of the story’s protagonist (we think), He Walks Among Us.

As far as we can tell, this online world seems to be related to Stella Artois, but beyond that, we really have no idea what this is or how deep it goes. In the meantime, I think I’ll book a trip to Valhalla and see what happens.

Diversion: Virtucube

vcube.jpgVirtuquest, one of our favorite ARG production houses, has launched Virtucube on October 31st. While not an ARG, it bills itself as a “multi-layered/challenging diversion” for those who may be looking for something puzzly to do.

A unique feature to virtucube is that, while it can be solved without any clues, Virtuquest will be randomly giving away one of a set of unique clues with the purchase of any Virtuquest T-shirt. So, you get a shirt and a clue, which you can keep to yourself or share with others.

Why would you keep it to yourself, you may ask. Well, it seems there’s a $500 prize for the first player to solve the Virtucube puzzles. It’s interesting to note that, to guard against flash decompiling or hacking to solve the cube, any potential winner will need to answer 6 virtucube-related questions to verify that the solve was legitimate.


New ARG: Anne Fisher is Missing

FISHERTH.jpgARGN received what at first looked like a typical “Have you seen this person?” flyer in the mail the other day, but a closer look revealed the rabbithole for a new Alternate Reality Game. Smiling at us is the picture of a young woman named Anne Fisher, who went missing on October 1st.

Upon closer inspection, we find links to a few websites (click on the picture for a fullsize version of the entire postcard). Andrew Gray is a private investigator who works in Tranquil Valley. He is apparently actively looking for Anne Fisher, and you can email him with any tips you may have. In addition, the postcard has been printed by American Regional Graphics, which is a very authentic looking graphics company.

So, it looks like we have a pretty straight ahead mystery getting started here, at least so far. Where is Anne Fisher? Who was she? Did she run away, or was something more sinister involved??

Chat-#mystery on (you must have a chat client such as mIRC installed for this link to work)

New ARG: Legend of the Sacred Urns

urns.jpgWell, it seems we here at ARGN have been asleep at the wheel for the past few weeks. A new Alternate Reality type game has begun and we almost missed it!

Billed as a form of interactive fiction or viral narrative puzzle, The Legend of the Sacred Urns is pretty transparently a marketing tool for Sharp’s Aquos line of LCD TV’s. But once you get past the initial site, you soon forget about that, as you’re immersed in a nice Alternate Reality world of treasure hunters and the mysterious findings of a guy named Dagobert Steinitz.

According to the developers, the game launched on September 15th, and is scheduled to run through the end of the year. The main trailheads are, which you may have seen on the TV commercials (you know, the one where the orange Karmann Ghia crashes into the pool), and These sites lead to numerous more websites, and the game has included a variety of elements, including the aforementioned television commercials, print, telephone, and even an art gallery. They’ve set up their own forum as a player area, which includes a nice FAQ to get you started.

We haven’t had a chance to delve into this very far, but then again, that’s your job! We have turned up almost a dozen websites and some cool puzzles, though. So, whether you’re new to ARG or finishing one and jonesing for more, the Legend of the Sacred Urns may be just the ticket.

Here are some links to get you going:


Steinitz forums
Unfiction forums
Quickstart FAQ

In addition, since there doesn’t seem to be one yet, we’ve set up an IRC channel for your chat needs:
#steinitz on (you must have a chat client installed for this link to work)

Ilovebees Players Get Access to Probable Halo2 Preview

bee2.jpgPlayers of Ilovebees yesterday were given what looks like a chance to preview Halo2 Multiplayer 5 days before it’s officially released. In a series of dramatic events that led to the “death” of one of the beloved AI characters in the game, players 17 and older earned the right to attend a special “training exercise utilizing squad-oriented combat simulation LIVEware.”

This event is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 4, from 18:00 – 21:00 Pacific time at the following coordinates:

40.743071 -073.976763 (New York City)
42.040240 -088.035197 (Chicago)
30.266632 -097.744710 (Austin)
37.784568 -122.404169 (San Francisco)

So, after three months, it looks like Halo2 fans are finally being given what they’ve been yearning for: a chance to preview Halo2. In addition to the chance to play the game, many Beekeepers are looking forward to the chance to get to meet each other in person, as many have only interacted with each other on line. Some players have announced that they will be driving as much as 8 hours to take part.

The ARG seems to be winding down, but it still remains to be seen how much fun the PMs have in store for us. Stay tuned.

Metroid Prime ARGishness

channel51.jpgWe aren’t sure if it’s the door to an Alternate Reality Game or just some stealthy viral hype, but Nintendo has put up a couple of very well done websites that seem to be part of the Metroid Prime universe. What with the upcoming release of Nintendo’s Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on November 15th, this is pretty obviously a marketing hook for the game.

Channel 51 is an Art Bell wannabee site looking into all things spooky, mysterious and conspiratorial. The site comes complete with grainy pictures video footage of things like Chupacabras and Species X, along with info about The Rossler Transmission, which is a pretty obvious tie-in to MP2E.

Orbis Labs is linked to from Channel 51, and bills itself as a “Precision Defense & Weapons Technology” company. Along with schematics and test videos of their Battle Sphere weapon, you’ll find a nice juicy Government Offical Login. Other links, such as one to UFO Magazine, appear to be out-of-game (if there is a game here), but you never know.

Don’t know if this will turn out to be an ARG Rabbithole, but it will provide an entertaining read at the very least. We’ll keep you posted of any ARG developments here. For now, we’ll file it under Something To Keep an Eye On.

Project Syzygy Stirring?

perplex.jpgThere have been some recent changes at the Project Syzygy site showing signs that something may be happening. Despite announcements of 2005 being the launch of this new free Alternate Reality Game, a recent update at Project Syzygy reveals that “projectsyzygy is now complete.”

A new link reveals and a mysterious memo. It seems some sort of McGuffin in the form of a Cube has been stolen and must be found. According the the memo, there will be a “substantial reward” for whomever may find it. Plus, you can enter your email to be contacted “when the time is right.”

Hmmmm. Preview? Launch? Reward?? Time will tell.


asu1thumb.jpgAlternate Reality continues to spill over into the real world, as was evident during the Presidential Debate last night. Players of ilovebees (the Halo2 related Alternate Reality Game) at Arizona State University took advantage of the occasion to promote themselves and their game in the form of a huge bee-infested banner.

On numerous occassions during CNN’s coverage, a large ASU Beekeepers banner appeared behind the commentators. The banner could clearly be seen during Wolf Blitzer Reports, as well as Larry King Live. In addition, viewers reported seeing the banner on MSNBC as well. This marks the first time an Alternate Reality Game has invaded political history, as far as we know (unless of course certain important people have been lurking on the boards). Unfortunately, the ASU Beekeepers’ shouts of “I love bees!” couldn’t be heard above the other chants from the crowd.

asu2thumb.jpgThe ASU Beekeepers team faced a few challenges during the days leading up to the debate, as it was a little scary running around campus answering phones while the Secret Service was doing security sweeps of the area. Nevertheless, Team ASU came through and completed most of their phone answering for the day. For those not familiar with the Ilovebees game, a big part of the interaction right now involves being at certain payphones at specific times in order to give a correct answer for a challenge/response. Doing so successfully helps to unlock pieces of audio files on the ilovebees website, revealing more of the story.

Mad props go out to the ASU Beekeepers for making the news! We know Melissa would be proud of you! For more information about the Ilovebees ARG, follow the links above.

Photo Credits: GBrian and G3k

New ARG: Regenesis

regenesis.JPGOne of our Canadian friends received a hand-delivered package today. It consisted of a newsletter about an alarming outbreak of a disease in northern Ontario, and a grid of letters, which led to a couple very interesting sites:

Norbac is the North American Biotechnology Advisory Commission, an organization that investigates biotech issues and questionable practices.

Science Sucks looks to be a grassroots site fighting to free scientific knowledge from vested interests like government and corporations. The site includes a poll, forums, and a page of links. We’ll leave it to you to find out where the links may lead.

A little more research revealed this press release announcing a new television series on Canada’s Movie Central/The Movie Network:

“ReGenesis is a new, 13-part one-hour original Movie Central/The Movie Network dramatic series about the North American Biotechnology Advisory Commission (NorBAC), an organization formed to investigate questionable advances in biotechnology.”

Regenesis premieres on Movie Central on Sunday, October 24 at 9 p.m.

Normally, a site or two tied to a film or tv series isn’t that remarkable, but the fact that there are mysterious packages being sent to select individuals around Canada make us suspect that this is indeed a new rabbithole for a Regenesis-related ARG. Happy Hunting!

Unforums Discussion
ScienceSucks Discussion
Chat (#regenesis at

ARGs Becoming a Trend?

g4techcapthumb.jpgThe genre of Alternate Reality Games (or Immersive Media, Pervasive Gaming, etc.) may finally be making inroads into the mainstream. Not only is computer/platform gaming media paying attention, such as in the recent story about Ilovebees broadcast on G4TechTV, but marketers are being urged to take notice as well.

Recently, TrendCentral ran a story in their newsletter pointing out the viability of these sort of games, “as their diverse media format seems conducive for brand integration and promotions.” Trendcentral is one of the leading resources for marketing firms and advertising agencies, helping them keep their finger on the pulse of up-and-coming trends in the marketing/promotional field. This makes a lot of sense, as some of the most successful Alternate Reality Games to date have in fact been promotional tools.

While many may criticize promotional ARGs as a cheap marketing ploy, most of those who have played along with such games as A.I.’s The Beast or BMW’s Uncap the Ride will be the first to tell you that when done right, they are highly entertaining, addictive, challenging and ultimately very satisfying in and of themselves. Let’s hope the trend continues.

What is Project Gateway??

gateway.jpgA few mysterious websites have cropped up that are causing some ARG’ers to scratch their heads. Things seem rather game-like, but frankly it’s may just be a little early to be able to tell exactly what’s going on. We submit it here for your consideration (cue Rod Serling in the corner along with obligatory creepy music).

This site provides the trailhead, a literal gateway into a realm of clues and locked up cells. The page beckons: “CC32 Gateway – Insert Front Door Key To Continue,” and somehow this site has led to two others: Project Gateway and 32nd Notes. Beyond that, we really can’t tell you much, beyond the fact that a certain amount of caution is advised, due to every ingame site so far being hosted on a free webserver of some kind. As always, proceed at your own risk.

Discussion at Unfiction

phoneboxsmall.jpgIn Ilovebees news, players continue to strive for the 777 connected axons mark, having succeeded in answering 728 of the 777 needed phonecalls to proceed to the next step in the game, whatever that holds in store. Notably, the game’s first non-U.S. phone has been revealed in London, enabling British “Beekeepers” to get involved with this live interaction for the first time. With only 49 phonecalls left to go, we should find out what the next chapter in the ilovebees saga is within the next few days.

In the meantime, ARGN has set up a repository for all of the audio files found so far. It’s a great way to get quickly caught up on the major plot of the game, and you can access it here.

Unfiction Ilovebees Forums

Netninja Wiki
Fireflies Wiki
Plot Timeline

Ilovebees Suddenly Seeking 777

axon hunter thumb.jpgIt’s been a trying week or so for the Ilovebees ARG. After having axons piled on top of more axons, the players are starting to feel a bit abused, and momentum seems to be waning. Although the folks behind the game are revealing some stellar content in the form of audio clips, the pacing overall is proving to be a challenge for even the most optimistic.

According to Dana’s latest blog entry, players are being encouraged to press on toward the 777 live axons mark. The problem is, the phones seem to be being answered less and less often, which is quite a contrast from two weeks ago when there were as many as 30-40 people at some phones. Sadly, at this rate, it may be weeks before we find out what happens when 777 axons go hot. Currently, we’re at 496 out of 777. That’s a lot of phones left to answer!

On the plus side, the story that’s being revealed continues to intrigue. A new snippet is released each time a codeset goes active, and players have assembled them into a narrative that reveals not only a confirmed tie-in with the Halo universe, but a tale of chatternet hackers, geek love, nefarious kidnappings and blackmail. ARGN has assembled a repository of the audio story so far, and will add more as it is revealed.

Finally, as a little off-topic diversion from the endless answering of phones, ARGN is sponsoring an Axon-Hunter Photoshop Contest. Only a couple days left to get your entries in.

Graphic Credit: jamesi

SEN5241 (THX1138)


Roughly a month and a half after konamouse and many in the THX 1138 fan
community received the first emails from OMM, the SEN5241 (aka SubCity Central)
ARG has ended. OMM has fallen, all are free and ARG players have walked away
with another quality bit of entertainment under their belts.

For those of you who didn’t play along, Subcity Central was set in the world of
THX-1138, an early film by George Lucas. In the THX-1138 world, people live in
an oppressive, drug-controlled society. They aren’t allowed to think for
themselves, love or even have sex. They don’t even have names, but instead
SubjecteID’s like SEN5421. Players helped bring down OMM by sabotaging many of
the systems that kept the people under OMM’s thumb. The players produced
defective police robots, altered the community’s drugs and broke the hold OMM
held over the people. Without drug clouded minds and police to control them, the
people rose up against OMM and gained their freedom. Yay!

Continue reading

This Week in ARG: Ilovebees on G4TechTV; Orbital Colony Trailer

godsplansmall.jpgThe PMs-in-training over at Orbital Colony have released a trailer for their upcoming ARG. The quality is impressive, and seems to give us the promise of a very intriguing, well-done Alternate Reality Game.

Orbital Colony announced a launch in the Summer of 2004, but no firm date has been set, yet. So keep your eyes open, or better yet, subscribe to the ARGN Announce List (in the sidebar at right) to keep tabs on what’s going on.

techtv.jpgIn other news, Ilovebees and ARGN were both featured on a recent episode of Pulse on G4TechTV. This episode will be re-airing all week, but if you can’t catch it on TV, it’s been made available online.

VIDEO: Windows Media-HI|Windows Media-LO

ILoveBees Breaks Into the “Real World”

The Berkeley Extreme TeamAugust 24, 2004. It all began at 6:07 am PDT. Payphones from coast to coast began to ring. A twelve-hour wave of carefully planned phone calls began to sweep the country, and Halo fans, Beekeepers, the Media and the just plain curious were there to try to intercept them.

This morning, we got to find out what was in store for those who were following the events of Dana and the rogue AI attacking her aunt’s website. While many were expecting Halo 2 demo disks, what they got instead was one of the largest, most complicated distributed interactions in ARG history. Hundreds of people around the country descended upon over 200 locales, working as a team to answer phone calls correctly, in order to unlock a series of audio clues.

Burbank Axon LocationWhile we don’t have the space here to go into the story itself (for that, check the links below), here’s how the whole thing worked: Players were presented with a web page that listed 30 blocks of seven GPS coordinates, which turned out to represent payphones around the country. Each location had a specific time attached, and each block of seven locations had a common password. As the phones started ringing at the exact corresponding time, players realized that they must respond correctly to the voice on the other end in order for something to happen. It was determined that players needed to provide the nickname for the AI that was calling them, plus the password listed for their location. If successful, the web-page immediately updated, indicating success. Two successful responses per group of seven then resulted in an audio file being unlocked. Players successfully unlocked 22 of 30 files the first day, with another chance to unlock the remaining ones every 24 hours. These audio files, when assembled, are revealing a fascinating story.

And this is only the beginning!

Forums and IRC channels broke all records today. The main chat room, #beekeepers, peaked at over 300 users at one point. In addition, the press is taking notice of what’s going on. Word is that G4TechTV’s Pulse will be airing a story about ilovebees this Friday, so stay tuned.

Here’s a video of one event in Georgia. (6.7 MB)

Unfiction Ilovebees Forums

Plot Timeline

Photo credits
Berkeley: Stitch
Burbank: MrBabyMan

This Week in ARGs: Flash Mobs of Beekeepers??

map2.jpgBusy week in the Alternate Reality Gaming world. Here’s a summary of what’s been going on:

Well, the ilovebees puppetmasters are nothing if not prompt. Once their countdown to metastasizing was complete, updated at 9am Pacific on Tuesday the 10th, marking the beginning of Phase 3. The site now contained a lot of embedded HTML text, embedded text in images, some new creepy sounds and a list of 220 coordinates.

The text, when defragmented, continues to reveal more and more about the AI (Melissa) and her origins, in addition to captured conversation from the ship she was apparently installed on. It seems that now Melissa is trying to find a way to break out of her box and become “wide awake and physical.” What this means, nobody knows, but it seems she’s making progress.

The sound files reveal a changeling child, which seems to be her finding her voice and trying it out. Now it seems she’s determined to transmit something to 210 discreet locations in the U.S., [EDIT: Updated the link to stay current] and by the looks of the timer, it seems that this will occur on Tuesday, August 24th, at 6:07 am local time, when the timer indicates Melissa will become “wide awake and physical.”

The jury’s still out on what this all means. Players aren’t sure if this indicates that some real world event is going to happen all over the country, or if it’s just a puzzle of some kind that needs to be solved. Either way, you can bet countless ARG’ers will be showing up in the wee hours of the morning at the various locales, looking for geocaches or waiting for dancing robots in bee costumes. There’s no telling what might happen, so feel free to join in, and bring your camera! We’ll post the best pics here, if you send them in.

[Edit: In addition, we’ve created a toll-free hotline for those of you at the various locations to use to report your findings, should you not have immediate web access. Feel free to call (866) xxx-xxxx [EDIT 8/25: number now offline] to record your findings. We’ll forward your report to the unfiction forums right away.]

Wiki Guide

Urban Hunt-
Meanwhile, the folks over at Urban Hunt have been advancing a very compelling story. Secret documents/maps from the failed Reality TV Show Dread House have turned up, so it seems it may not all be an urban myth after all. There’s definitely a secret here, and things are still just getting started.

What happened to the contestants and the crew? Did they just disappear, or did something even more sinister occur? And what do dreams have to do with all this?

Check out The Guide for this if you want to get up to speed, as it’s very well done.


so, y0ut hink ur l33t???????????????

mezonic.jpgYou were bruteforcing passwords in preschool. You taught Kevin Mitnick everything he knew. You’ve telnetted to port 139 on countless computers and typed PWNED, crashing them into oblivion. Nothing’s a challenge any more. What’s left to do??

How about hack a presidential election? OK, maybe not a good idea, but a new book entitled The The Mezonic Agenda: Hacking the Presidency lets you take a stab at it without the risk of unfortunate consequences. The novel, which is to be available soon, lets the reader interact with the book and accompanying CD, decrypt its contents, and ultimately control the fate of a mock US Presidential Election. According to the Mazonic Agenda website, players can attempt to vote for themselves as the winning candidate during a simulated election to be held in early 2005. Would-be presidents must use their hacking skills to manipulate the results of the Mezonic mock election. The winner will receive a free pass to the BlackHat 2005 conference in Las Vegas, plus a library of security books.

Think you’re up for the challenge? You can download the software without the book, but having the book will give you a leg up, as you’ll gain insights on how to use the software to your best advantage.

In addition, there will be several warm-up hacks for you to cut your teeth on. Each solve will reveal clues and provide insight into the skills needed to enter the contest. New puzzles will be posted every few weeks.

Ilovebees Moderated Announcement List

We’ve had a lot of requests for this, so ARGN is going to maintain Moderated Announcement Lists for various ARGs in play. The first will be for I Love Bees. If it proves to be a success, we’ll add more lists for other games.

If you’d like to stay current on only the major events in the game, this list is for you. It will be similar in function to the moderated lists on Yahoo or the moderated blog, only the updates will arrive via email. Only updates, new puzzles, solves, and stuff deemed important will be sent on this list, making it as absolutely low-noise as possible.

Sign up using the form below. You can unsubscribe at any time.

[Edit: This list will effectively mirror the existing Netninja Bee Blog, sending any updates to your email inbox.]


Ilovebees: The Beast is Back?

danathumb.jpgWhat began as a mysterious Fedex package of honey, has become one of the most intriguing and highly anticipated (for some) events on the ‘net in quite a while. At first, when ARGN received the honey (filled with letters that spelled I LOVE BEES, leading to a little over a week ago, we thought it was a new grassroots ARG starting up, but when it was discovered that the address made an appearance in the recent Halo 2 trailer, we realized this may be much bigger than originally anticipated.

We were right. Since the trailer hit the web on Friday, the entire cyberscape is abuzz, trying to figure out what’s going on. The story has been picked up on computer gaming sites such as IGN, GameSpot, and even Slashdot. Thousands of posts on innumerable boards are clamoring to figure out what is going on.

What is confounding some is exciting others who recognize this as a new Alternate Reality Game. Those in the know are even proclaiming this to be the followup to the ARG that started it all: The Beast, which was a promotional game for Spielberg’s film A.I. back in 2001. The Beast spawned Cloudmakers, an online smart mob of over 7000 who rabidly followed, solved, and obsessed over who killed Evan Chan. The Beast was a viral promotion like no other, and was an amazing event for those who were involved.

So, what is going on here with How does it relate to the Halo 2 universe?? Well, is an amateurish website for Margaret’s Honey that’s being hacked by someone…..or something. Margaret’s niece, Dana, is the webmaster, and the site points to her blog, where she is asking for help dealing with the virus or whatever it is that is screwing up her aunt’s site. Players have emailed her, and Dana has actually replied to some players personally, thanking them for their advice. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that the various images on the site were corrupted with text phrases, which when assembled correctly formed a rather bizarre narrative about a Queen and a Widow.

On July 27th, one of the mysterious countdowns on the site expired, resulting in an update with more hacking goodness, and scaring the crap out of Dana. It seems whatever is taking over her aunt’s site is now actually threatening her.

So, what does Halo 2 have to do with all of this? Well, a great Story So Far explains things pretty well, even though it is a lot of speculation at this point. [EDIT: The Guide is also a great place to start, as it’s a chronological narrative of what’s been going on, and is kept very up to date.]

The ARG community has done an absolutely amazing job so far, organizing information and using tools that were unavailable just a few years ago to create an information and dissemination system the likes of which have never been seen before. If they’re right, this is just the beginning of what is sure to be an amazing ride. Stay tuned.

Here are some links to get you on your way:

I Love Bees Guide
I Love Bees Wiki Guide
I Love Bees Trail
Bee Quicklinks
Moderated Blog

Here are some forums discussing I Love Bees:

IRC Chat:
#ilovebees Link to Halo 2 Release Confirmed

bee.jpgIt looks like (aka SPiDeR) is definitely tied in with the upcoming Halo 2 release for XBox. Check out the trailer for the game being shown in theaters around the US:
Super Hi-Rez version (64mb) | Regular version

Watch the end. It’s there. So, we know there’s something major going on here, and know that there’s a countdown of sorts in progress. Watch for something big within a few days. With Microsoft and Bungie behind this, who knows how deep this rabbithole will go!

Unfiction Forums

Urban Hunt: It’s not what you Think

urban.jpgMajor find by Yanka on unfiction. Seems there’s a new reality TV show in pre-production entitled Urban Hunt. According to the website (, Urban Hunt will center around a group of contestants that will criss-cross the United States in pursuit of a cash prize of up to $500,000. Bonus Missions will include the use of a team of ‘online advisors’ comprised of home viewers, who will help contestants’ missions.

Also on the site, you can apply to become a contestant and/or an online advisor. Sounds like fun. A cool urban scavenger hunt/online reality show……..

…..or is it?

If you apply to be an online advisor, you receive an autoresponse confirming the receipt of your application. Interestingly enough, though, there seems to be a puzzle hidden in the message. Is it a test to see if you can pass muster? Or is it something else?

We won’t ruin it for you, but this is definitely some sort of ARG-like rabbithole. The puzzle leads to more sites which reveal a dark secret of a reality show gone very, very wrong. This isn’t a reality show, it’s a game. And it looks like they’ve even pulled the wool over on some media outlets.

Props go out to Yanka for finding this.

Busy week in the ARG world. When it rains, it pours.

Trailhead: Urban Hunt
Discussion: Unfiction

Two More ARG Leads

manchurian.jpgHoly crap, what a busy day it’s been! First, we find orbitalcolony, then along comes a Fedex package leading to with its mysteryious AI virus. Now we have two more good solid ARG leads to add for your investigation.

thx.jpgFirst comes a tip from the trailer for the upcoming remake of The Manchurian Candidate. Seems the evil company portrayed in the film has an online presence: What’s interesting about this (very well done) corporate site is that it has a password protected Limited Partners Extranet. In addition, there’s a Voice Recognition Game which may provide some fun, and a Kyocera phone, if you’re lucky.

Finally, Konamouse at unfiction alerted us to, which very well looks like it may be a tie-in to the upcoming DVD release of the classic George Lucas film THX-1138.

Well, that’s about it for one day. Happy hunting!

A Honey of a Rabbithole

bear.jpgARGN got a very odd Fedex package just now. It was from Margaret’s Honey, ostensibly in San Francisco, and contained the honey-filled bear to the left.

Lo and behold, in the honey were 9 cutout alphabet letters. I’ve heard of alphabet soup, but alphabet honey?? Ahem….Anyway, the letters in question were: o-i-v-e-e-s-b-l-e. Anagramming the letters gives us, among other things, I LOVE BEES.

So…… Strange way to start an ARG, but that’s what it looks like. Things are not what they appear to be at

Stealth launch. I love it. 🙂

Two rabbitholes in one day……….weird.

[EDIT: We’ve dubbed this game SPiDeR for now (System Peril Distributed Reflex from the text on the site). A lot better than calling the game I Love Bees. Also, it should be noted that there are indications that this game may be part of another current game, but we don’t have enough information yet. We shall see.]

For Sale: Asteroid

asteroid.jpgSeems there is an asteroid for sale on eBay. As I’m sure the link won’t always work, here is the accompanying text:

This is a once in a lifetime offer!

I am the exclusive owner of all the Asteroids in our solar system (By virtue of international law). I wish to sell some of them to you, the public! Take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity. Make your purchase for a loved one or as a completely novel gift!.

I am offering Asteroid 4179 Toutatis for sale! Dont miss out on this wonderfull chance of a lifetime!

Asteroid 4179 Toutatis was named after a Celtic/Gallic god whose name is often invoked in the well known comic book series “The Adventures of Asterix,” set in ancient Gaul. Toutatis is the protector of Asterix and his compatriots, who fear nothing except that someday the sky may fall on their heads.

It is one of the largest known “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids” (PHA) that approaches our planet on a Near Earth Orbit (NEO). Close encounters with Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter constantly alter the shape of the asteroid’s path as it loops through the solar system every 3.98 years. On October 31st. 2000 the asteroid passed less than 29 lunar distances from Earth.

Continue reading

The Mystery of El Centro

elcentro.jpgEl Centro is creating quite a stir, lately. What is it? When is it? Who’s behind it? What’s going on, exactly??

While billing itself as a ‘Living Novel’ on its website, El Centro seems to be, well, different. The FAQ page doesn’t really seem to come clean about what’s going on, choosing instead to be rather murky and disturbing. In addition to the FAQ, the site offers Soundtrack music (try popping one of these babies on late at night with just the glow of your monitor lighting the house), a Library with a small selection of odd titles, a listing of Tools for the player, plus an RSS feed to keep current on what’s going on.

Oddly, a small Game Status entry currently reads “Pause,” but the FAQ seems contradictory:

How will I know when play has begun?
You won’t. Not really. However, you may register here at a later date to possibly be notified that play has begun. Or not.

That, combined with a little digging on the site, leads one to believe that there is perhaps something already afoot at El Centro. From exploding $20 bills to building a better doughnut, there’s definitely more here than immediately meets the eye. No idea what it is, yet, but it’s definitely worth a look.

“Missing: Since January” Released

missing.jpgOK, all you Majestic fans. It looks like someone has finally stepped up to the plate and given the “game that plays you” genre another shot. French developer Lexis Numerique and The Adventure Company have released Missing: Since January (formerly released in Europe as “Memoriam”).

MSJ is the story of a journalist who is investigating a series of murders, which are being committed by a serial-killer known as The Phoenix. When he and his girlfriend suddenly disappear, a disturbing CD shows up at his publisher’s office. Not knowing what to do, they enlist the public’s help in finding out what happened.

Interactivity in the game reaches out and touches you in a way that, while quite common in grassroots ARGs, is a first for a mainstream published game. Many emails to ingame characters are handled by real people, and responded to in a realistic way, as opposed to autoresponders. As time goes on, players attract the attention of both the authorities and The Phoenix himself. This, according to GameSpy, is where “the line between reality and a game gets disturbingly thin.”

Continue reading

Letter to the Editor – “I, Puppetmaster”

letter.jpgARGN has received a good number of opinions about our recent opinion piece entitled “I, Puppetmaster.” Here’s one:

There has been much discussion on the article “I, Puppetmaster” and I would like to take a moment to add my opinion to some of the assertions made by that article. Please note I said “opinions,” which in no way reflect the opinions of ARGN or any other ARG related site. I am only offering a different point of view.

The author of “I, Puppetmaster” put forth that:
In a not-so-perfect ARG universe PMs are often challenged to keep their identities secret but are seduced by the interaction with players to reveal themselves. It’s not difficult to seduce PMs, especially if they don’t have a corporate shield to hide behind and don’t have a lot of experience being published and appreciated for their creativity.

What sets the anonymous PMs apart from the PMs who can’t resist identifying themselves and interacting directly with players? Why are the anonymous PMs able to retain their discipline and professionalism while others succumb to socializing with players and taking their bows (in some cases) before the game has even begun?

Continue reading

2nd Anniversary Puzzle Trail Completed

teddy.jpgAfter three days of intense puzzle solving, a select few intrepid ARG’ers completed the 10 puzzles that comprised ARGN’s 2nd Anniversary Puzzle Trail. Dozens of players speculated, researched and contributed solutions to the puzzle series that culminated with tribute puzzles to Chasing the Wish, The Beast, Lockjaw, and finally Push, NV.

Puzzles were contributed by former puppetmasters, who were coaxed out of retirement to resurrect some old favorites. Special thanks go out to Scott Rossi (Plexata), Bill Shaw (Acheron), Jonathan Waite (JMX), Dave Szulborski (Chasing the Wish), Dan Carver (The Beast) and Derek Jensen (Lockjaw) for providing quality, fun, and sometimes nostalgic challenges.

To show our appreciation, we’re awarding prizes to the first players to have completed the trail, which required emailing a specific address here at ARGN. In order, the first three to cross the finish line:

  • 1st Place – Omnie
  • 2nd Place – JustinCase
  • 3rd Place – Danman_d

Omnie will receive her choice of any item at the ARGN store, plus a $20 gift certificate, while JustinCase and Danman_d will each receive an ultra-cool ARGN sticker to adorn their favorite CPU. Congratulations go out to everyone who played. Maybe we should make this an annual event. Let us know your thoughts at [email protected].

Finally, for those of you who were following along, the trail consisted of 10 puzzles:

  • Puzzle 1 (The Beast)
  • Puzzle 2 (Lockjaw)
  • Puzzle 3 (Plexata)
  • Puzzle 4 (Metacortechs)
  • Puzzle 5 (Metacortechs) [user: malvolio / pass: innerdolphin]
  • Puzzle 6 (Acheron)
  • Puzzle 7 (JMX)
  • Puzzle 8 (Chasing the Wish)
  • Puzzle 9 (The Beast)
  • Puzzle 10 (Lockjaw)

All the spec and solves can be found in this Unfiction thread. Great job, everyone!

ARGN Marks 2nd Anniversary

klooThis month marks the Alternate Reality Gaming Network’s Second Anniversary!

It’s amazing to think it‘s been two years, already. What began as a single message board has become a network of multiple sites dedicated to the promotion and growth of Alternate Reality Gaming as a genre. This last year has seen successful ARGs come to completion, two ARG-Fest-O-Cons in Las Vegas and Orlando, and solid growth of the community. Thanks go out to ARG Planet, Cloudmakers, DeadDrop, Martha’s Boarding House, MetaUrchins, Unfiction, Varin and Jamesi for helping to build the biggest and best community of ARG afficianados around!

Now, it wouldn’t be an anniversary without some sort of celebration now, would it? So, we here at ARGN have been working on a little way to say thanks for all of your great support, and hopefully give you a little fun in the process. The result is a little walk down memory lane, if you will. We wanted to give those of you who’ve been around a while a little a bit of nostalgia, and those who are new to all this a little taste of what you may have missed. Consider it an homage trail.

Plus, there’s a little bonus: SWAG!! The first one to reach the end of our little trip down memory lane will receive their choice of any item available at the ARGN CafePress Store, along with a $20 gift certificate. Two runners-up will receive a spiffy ARGN Sticker (I know, try to contain yourselves).

“So, how do I get started,” you ask? Well now, that’s a really good question. 😉

[Edit: Discussion, hints and spoilers can be found in this discussion thread over at Unfiction.]

Mythos Agency

questionmark.jpgARGN received a cryptic email today from the “Mythos Agency.”
Since the email requested that we forward it to whomever we
thought would be interested, we offer it here for your investigation.

Please keep in mind that we can’t vouch for Mythos Agency’s credibility at this point, but it does look rather interesting:

To Whom it May Concern,

You have been invited to join the Mythos Agency. As an agent of the Mythos Agency, your job will be to investigate cases assigned to you and your fellow agents. We have been watching you for some time now and we believe that you have what it takes to make it to the next level.

As you work on cases, you will [be] observed and points will be assigned to you based upon your performance. You will not be alerted to the status of these points unless you make it to the next level. Please keep in mind, that though you will need to work with your fellow agents at times, you will always be in competition with them for points, so watch your back.

To that end, you will need to create an alias for yourself in order to partic[i]pate. This alias must include a name, E-mail Address, and AOL Instant Messenger Screen Name. These items will be used both in your search for information and in communication with your fellow agents. Your alias may be more complete than this, but must at least have the afore mentioned items. To clarify the above, whether you do so publicly or discreetly, you will ONLY communicate with your peers via this alias.

Finally, we trust your judgement, so if you feel that someone else would be well suited for this position, feel free to forward this letter to them as well, but do not forget… the more agents present, the more competition that you will have.

To Join the Mythos Group, go to:

After joining, please post your alias information, but not your real name, to the group. The first case should be posted shortly, or as soon as several other agents join the group.

Congratulations on Your New Assignment and Good Luck!
Mr. Myth

[Edit: There is already an initial assignment up on the site, Case #0, which has to do with tracking down the John Kerry/Jane Fonda photo hoax. OK, I admit it, I was curious enough to actually install AIM. :/ ]

MayDay Mystery: ARG in Real Life?

mdm.jpgA single post on the unfiction forums has opened the door to a fascinating story dating back some 20 years.

At the University of Arizona, a series of ads has been placed in the school’s newspaper, the Arizona Wildcat. These ads have shown up every year around May 1st for the last 20 years or so, and seem to be cryptic puzzles relating to some sort of secret counterculture organization. Bryan Hance, the former webmaster of the Wildcat, noticed the ads, and has been trying to track down what’s been going on ever since. He is chronicling his findings at

The story is summed up in an article at the Northwest Explorer. Is this real? Is a secret organization communicating and recruiting new members using this technique, or is someone merely spending lots of time and money on what amounts to be just a huge intellectual puzzle?

Related Articles: Arizona Wildcat
Discussion: Unfiction Forums
Google: Search Results

AWARE To Launch June 15th

Word comes to us that AWARE is poised to go live on June 15th. Pushing the envelope of ‘established’ ARG boundaries, AWARE has already been causing a flurry during its pre-game phase.

So far, some innovative ideas have caught players off guard. From fellow players on Unfiction being kidnapped (thus proving to be in-game characters) to the game’s fictional company advertising for jobs on a realworld jobs website, AWARE looks like it may have many surprising turns in store. In addition, the use of these techniques has provided fodder for much animated meta-discussion among players.

It’s seems that AWARE has finally established its universe and the rules that will govern it. The game has it’s own in-game message board so players will have less of a problem knowing who’s real and who’s not, thereby avoiding some of the suspicion and paranoia that seemed to be setting in at first.

It will be interesting to see where this game goes, what with the geo-political climate of the world right now. It’s seems to be clear that players will need to choose sides somehow, and may have to live with serious (in-game) consequences for their decision.

Discussion: Unfiction’s AWARE Forum

Super ARG Fest-O-Con 3 : The Attack on Vancouver, July 16-18, 2004

canada.jpgAfter successful ARGFest-O-Cons in Las Vegas and Orlando, we’re invading Canada next. Meet other ARG obsessed souls, eat, drink, and be merry at our 3rd glorified ARGParty!

Past events have proved to be a lot of fun for everyone. Planned events currently include a day trip to Vancouver Island and general carousing. Be prepared for the unexpected, which may take the form of a realworld puzzle, scavenger hunt, or…….who knows??

To get up to speed on plans, hotels, transportation, etc., visit the ARGFest-O-Con 3 discussion at Unfiction.

Godsend Comes to Grovers Mill

godsend.jpgThe Godsend Institute has created quite the uproar over the past few weeks. The site, which was part of a promotional campaign for the upcoming movie, was mistaken to be real by many visitors. As a result, everyone from devout Christians to liberal columnists got all in a tizzy, showing outrage and even starting an online petition. Apparently folks forgot that human cloning is illegal in the United States.

Well, these folks gotta be feeling pretty silly right now, as they realized that they’d fallen for a fake site. Harkens back to the days when a trusting audience panicked thinking that martians had landed in New Jersey.

As a result of the uproar, Lions Gate Films added a popup that points to the official movie website, hopefully making it plainer to the gullible masses that yes, this is only a movie.

Two thumbs up to Lions Gate for proving again that any kind of publicity is good publicity! Now, the question is, is the film any good???

Men of Metal: BMW Scores With Another Viral Promotion

metal thumb.jpg
Ready for the ultimate car conversion? Stop by this site and check out Colin Mayhew’s “Vehicle to autonomous biped robot conversion for the Mini Cooper r50.”

This site, and an accompanying book have caused quite a stir on the internet over the past few weeks. Hoax? Fact? Who knows?

Well, those of us who have been around ARGs recognized this at once as another of BMW’s viral marketing campaigns, following their successful Uncap the Ride campaign of 2003. The videos on the site are pretty fun to watch, and the book excerpt is very well done. While it’s not an ARG, it’s another fine example of viral marketing done right. Even the New York Times has taken notice.

Acheron Earns Pick of the Month

pick200403.gifIt’s just come to our attention that the recently concluded ARG Acheron was honored by being selected as EpiGuide’s April 2004 Pick of the Month.

Congratulations go out to the Acheron PM Team! Well done!

A Little Upgrade

We’re in the midst of upgrading the backend of the site, so please be patient as we work out the little glitches that are sure to crop up. The good news is that once this is complete, updates should come more frequently. 🙂


AWARE Goes Live

AWARE is currently in a live pregame. If you’d like to jump in and get up to speed, a new Wiki Guide is being maintained by the players here. In addition, there is now an AWARE Forum set up at Unfiction, along with an IRC chat channel: #ruaware on AWARE is picking up steam and looks to be a very innovative ARG, already having had an established player at Unfiction turn out to be an in-game character, or so it seems.

In other news, there have been some interesting sites discovered lately. Stop by the Godsend Institute and take a look at the fine job done in creating a very realistic site, complete with a real address and phone number, and no obvious disclaimer, although there is one there if you look hard enough for it.  The promotional departments in Hollywood are getting so close, but not taking things any further, which is disappointing.

Also, if you’re a fan of Cyan/Ubisoft’s URU: Ages Beyond Myst, you’ll probably find an interesting distraction while you wait for the next expansion pack. There is a Guide for this mini-game here.

ARGN welcomes two new affiliate sites: and Metaurchins is an online book project about the Project MU (Metacortechs) ARG, currently being worked on by numerous players. A very interesting read so far. is a very nice site dedicated to gaming in general, and includes quite a bit about Alternate Reality Games. Be sure to check them both out.

Project Syzygy Announced

This comes to us from one of the Grand Masters of ARGs himself, Adrian Hon: Project Syzygy. Billing itself as a “new type of immersive game, one that will change everything,” PS will be a cross between Masquerade, The Beast, Pattern Recognition, Rubik’s Cube, The Matrix, Eternity, The DaVinci Code, Nokia Game, The Game, and Majestic (whew!), PS promises to be a ride like none other, at least in our opinion.

The teaser page already has a couple puzzles for the curious, and you can sign up to be informed of the launch. For those of you who are inclined, you can also apply to be a part of the development team.  Project Syzygy is scheduled to launch in late 2004. Looking forward to it!

For further discussion, go to the Unfiction Forums.

JMX, Acheron Wrap Up

Two major ARG events finished up over the last week or so. The 6 level hardcore puzzle competition JMX was finally solved. JMX spanned months and provided countless hours of fun and frustration for the players. A final chatlog can be found here.

In addition, the time-travel ARG Acheron came to a conclusion this last week. If you played or were following, you may be interested in the PM post-game chat log, a copy of which is posted here. Acheron was plagued by many behind-the-scenes challenges, but the PM team withstood everything that was thrown their way, plugging on to give their players a great ARG experience.

From the rumor mill comes a pointer to two sites: and We haven’t been able to check into these at all yet, but wanted to pass the info along. If anyone can make any sense of these sites, let us know.

Also, word comes to us that Aware is slated for a mid-summer launch and a spring pre-game. Folks are also keeping an eye on, which is connected to the upcoming movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Nothing conclusive there yet at all, but who knows?

A Blow for Myst Fans, Plus New Rumors

Uru: LiveOn February 4th, UbiSoft/Cyan announced the premature demise of the multiplayer portion of their most recent addition to the Myst franchise, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst. The online version, which was in an open beta ‘prologue’ had attracted thousands of diehard Myst fans who eagerly logged on to explore the virtual 3D world of D’ni together. A thriving community was built over the holidays and into the new year, and the official launch was looked forward to with much anticipation. Unfortunately, the player base proved to be inadequate to support the ongoing development, and after what surely must have been a painful decision, the plug was pulled on February 9th at midnight PST.

Cyan had done an amazing job in creating the most realistic alternate reality yet, made up of 3D worlds, cities and neighborhoods that were beautiful to explore, and added the capability of interacting live in the same space with other players from around the world. Think of the multiplayer version of your favorite 1st-person shooter game and take away the weapons and gore, add cooperative interaction, chat and intelligent puzzles, and you’ll get an idea of what it was like.

Well, at least what the potential was. The mourning players went through at the end of Uru: Live was visceral, with many gathering in their neighborhoods to be with friends as the clock counted down to midnight. Players wanted to be together at the end of the world, so to speak, and spent their last minutes partying, taking group photos and reminiscing. All is not lost, however, as Cyan announced it will be releasing much of the content developed for Uru: Live as single-player expansion packs. To get an idea, we’ve archived some DivX videos of Uru: Live before it was killed.

In other news, a rumored rabbithole has seemingly been found for a possible upcoming ARG (geez, can we be any more non-commital?). An anonymous tipster pointed us to the Amboy Monthly, and we’re told this will become a trailhead site for an ARG in development entitled Aware. Stay tuned for this one, as it looks very promising.

Completed ARGs and Hopeful Possibilites

The ARGN staff had a great winter break, but now it’s time to get back to business. A lot has happened in the past few months, so let’s get up to speed, shall we?

Acheron has been progressing. The time-travel related ARG has a very nice Guide up and kept current, so be sure to check things out.

A Matrix-related game caused a buzz and ran for 8 weeks beginning on October 1st of last year. As we were part of the development team, we just didn’t feel right about shilling it here, but hey, now that it’s over I guess it’s okay. Codenamed Project MU, this ARG was a fan-fictionesque game taking place in the Matrix universe, but not directly involving any actual characters from the movie. The trailhead was at MetaCortex, the company that Neo worked for as Thomas Anderson at the beginning of the first movie.

According to The Guardian, this was “the most successful ARG ever, with around 12,000 players and visits
logged from 118 different countries.” Admittedly, not all of these players were actively involved throughout the run, but the response definitely exceeded expectations.

Project MU employed many of the classic ARG techniques of blurring reality with the game world, utilizing emails, IM’s with ingame characters and even a Halloween night phone call that went out to almost 1,000 players.

From our viewpoint now looking back, Project MU really set a precedent for a new form of fan-fiction. While not endorsed by the film’s producers, they had no problem with it whatsoever as long as it wasn’t connected with a commercial enterprise and didn’t “degrade their intellectual property.” In case you missed it, you can find discussion and links to all of the pertinent sites at Unfiction.

In other news, Hidden Alliance has been showing signs of………. something. Hidden Alliance is an ARG that has, as far as we know, been in development since 2002. We’re not quite sure what, if anything, is going on, but the situation is being monitored at Unfiction.

In addition, there have been quite a few instances of possible ARGs that have so far become dead ends. It was thought something was afoot that was related to the Stephen King Dark Tower series of novels, but it turned out to apparently be a small fan-based site. Other possibities that went nowhere over the past few months included Paycheck, RYT Hospital, IRobotNow, Lacuna Inc., Hunt for Riddick, a Harry Potter site, and even a Doom site.

So, currently, Acheron’s you’re best bet as far as live games go, but you could always wait a few weeks……

The ARGs of Summer

Well, it’s been a while since we’ve been able to post any news, as there just hasn’t been a lot of news going on. The summer has been pretty quiet, as far as new announcements and events go.

Chasing the Wish kept throngs of players occupied, and finished up two days ago on August 27th, much to the bittersweet delight of fans. Although the story of Chasing the Wish has wrapped up, word is there are still quite a few loose ends leaving players hanging and chasing the wish of a sequel.

Literally on the heels of the Chasing the Wish finale, Acheron began showing signs of life, showing that the folks behind this game seemingly were indeed waiting for Chasing the Wish to finish up. The known introductory site pages have been updated, and it seems momentum is building for a proper launch any time soon.

In addition to saying farewell to CTW and hello to Acheron, ARGN and Unfiction have announced an East Coast version of their Super ARG-Fest-O-Con. This time, ARG afficianados will be gathering in Orlando, FL on November 7-9, 2003. There are already many fun things planned, along with a few things that I’d tell you, but I’d get killed for. For more information, see this thread.

That’s about it, well, that we know of. Remember, if you hear rumors of something, or find something suspicious, drop us a line! Hope you all had a great summer!

ARGN’s First Anniversary

A year ago this month, the ARGN site was launched. What started as a makeshift forum to cover when Yahoo Groups went down has become the premiere network of independent Alternate Reality Gaming sites. Combined with affiliates Unfiction, Cloudmakers, DeadDrop, ARG Planet and Martha’s Boarding House, ARGN sites have a combined membership of almost 10,000 people from around the globe!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. After beginning by providing player forums for Search4E, ARGN’s forums went on to grow and survive a shill controversy, huge traffic from being featured on the Push Nevada site, and even a Denial of Service attack (we must be doing something right!). Since June of 2002, ARGN has received over 22 million hits.

Over the last year, ARGN has hosted PM chats, interviewed folks behind the gaming scenes, and has been featured in numerous publications, such as the New York Times and Slashdot.

So it’s been quite a busy year, thanks to all of you. And the best is yet to come! We have some very cool things planned for this next year, things you definitely won’t want to miss, so stay tuned!

Thanks a lot, everyone! Here’s to another great year

Something Strange in Smallville?

We’ve been hearing persistent rumors of something going on over at the official Smallville television series site. We got this tip from an alert ARGN reader (who is also a former Cloudmaker):

Regardless of whether or not you follow the show, you can find clues to the game on this page in the Smallville Ledger. There, the text all but explains it’s a game. Other material includes the Chloe Chronicles, web content of one of the show’s characters investigating some mystery. These videos are available on the WB’s website. In  those videos, there’s a common thread which may link up all of these to a game much like the Beast.

We’re still undecided about this, but it seems to be definitely worth checking out.

Website:Smallville Ledger
Discussion: Unfiction’s News and Rumors Forum

Acheron Pre-Game PM Chat on May 28th

The folks behind the upcoming ARG Acheron ( have announced a PM chat to talk about their upcoming game, scheduled to launch this summer. Acheron PM William Walrath will be in attendance as a representative to answer any question and give us a preview of what’s in store.

This moderated chat will take place on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 at 9:00 pm EDT / 6:00 pm PDT in #acheron on For browser-based access, java IRC applets can be found at or

Stop by Acheron for more information, and watch the forums at Unfiction for further details.

She’s a Flight Risk

An interesting article in Wired on May 7th tells of an interesting blog (aflightrisk) by Isabella V, a supposed heiress on the run from her family. “On March 2, 2003, at 4:12 p.m., I disappeared,” the journal starts. “My name is Isabella V. I’m twenty-something, and I am an international fugitive.”

Discussion as to whether this is all a hoax is approaching a fever pitch. There are many blogs and boards discussing this whole thing, and even Isabella herself has posted in various places outside of her blog to plead her case.  Most of the current speculation and discussion can be found in the comments at the flightrisk blog, and at The Agonist.

So, is flightrisk an ARG? A Hoax? A viral marketing campaign for a novel? It is interesting that the Wired article mentions The Beast, so it really makes one wonder. ARG or not, Isabella seems to be screaming “This is not a game!”

Blog 1:
Blog 2:
Discussion: Unfiction’s News and Rumors, The Agonist Bulletin Board

Teleport, Anyone?

The other day, we received a couple very odd emails, along with a subsequent package in the mail. The contents of the package and the corresponding website have become a somewhat serious obsession around here, as we just don’t know what to make of what we’ve found.

The email simply said “TELEPORT is a multidimensional transport system powered by a network of consciousness exploration units, or trips,” and gave a web-address: We then received a subsequent email offering to send us one of these ‘trips’ to explore. A few days later, a ‘trip package‘ arrived which consisted of several cards, a plastic holder, something that can best be described as a refrigerator magnet, and a lanyard, but no instructions. Odd, indeed. We have absolutely no clue what this is about or where it’s heading, but it certainly is intriguing. We’ve been playing around with these cards, scrutinizing the patterns to no avail. The only clues we can find are in the meta tags of the Redcore website, which include keywords such as astral projection, teleportation, and (most notably) Alternate Reality Gaming.

Redkore’s site includes forums, some info, and a store where trip packages can be purchased for $19.95. A press release states in part: “…TELEPORT is powered by a network of 18 consciousness exploration units, or trips. Trips work by attuning the intellectual, imaginative and intuitive centers of the user’s consciousness. While each person comes to understand a trip in a unique manner, one of TELEPORT’s most intriguing qualities is that each trip generates an objective portal which is the same for everyone. This means that people can use a particular trip to engage group transports, exploring wild landscapes together even when they might be separated by significant time or distance in the physical world. Of course, TELEPORT works just as well for individuals who like to fly alone.

Definitely a big WTF? factor here. Who knows where Teleport will lead, but we’ll keep you posted.

Discussion: unfiction’s Teleport forum

ARGFest-o-Con Provides Fun, Mystery, and a Name for a Game

About a dozen denizens of the ARG world converged on Las Vegas this weekend for a semi-casual get together. This was the first time that we know of where players and even producers of various games have done anything like this, and it was great to get to meet people who were only previously known by their online personas.

Attenders expected surprises, and they weren’t disappointed, as they suddenly found themselves in the middle of a new game launch! Upon checking in to their hotels, a few folks were given packages from Stephen Lake, who is a fictional character in the ARG that had been dubbed L3. Players were sent on a scavenger hunt around Las Vegas that included a round of drinks courtesy of Mr. Lake, a search of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and a trip to the Hard Rock Hotel.

Ultimately, they ended up with a package containing a note and about twenty mini-CDs. The clues on the disks led to the discovery of Acheron. Acheron, to which L3 was a apparently teaser, will be launched this summer. Full Story…

The main event of ARGFest-o-Con was a party at a secret location somewhere in Las Vegas. In order to find the place, partyers first needed to meet a “man in a white hat” who would then give them instructions on how to complete a mini-quest, which ended up at the location of the party. One puzzle solve would lead to the next clue, and so on, and the first to reach the destination won a small prize.

The winner of this mini-scavenger hunt, called “Martha’s Mystery Tour” was Unfiction member DanmanD (pictured at right) who received an official ARGN T-Shirt and free dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, which was,  incidentally, the secret destination. Not only was DanmanD the youngest person in attendance, but in my book he also gets the Most Dedicated ARG’er Award, and his father Peter gets the Most Dedicated Dad Award, for accompanying his son on the 12-hour bus ride to get to Las Vegas!

Unfiction member Diandra was also presented with an ARGN T-shirt for being the first to complete the online portion of the journey. CabalAgent23, the man behind Chasing the Wish then surprised us all with  commemorative CTW shirts, mugs and even frisbees! The evening culminated with a limo ride (courtesy of

Diandra) to the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. Congratulations to DanmanD, and thanks to everyone who attended and made ARGFest-o-Con an unqualified success!

A complete walkthrough of Martha’s Mystery tour is posted here.

Cloudmakers Turns Two

CloudmakerLandmark day! Two years ago this very day, the premiere Alternate Reality community, the Cloudmakers, was founded. Little did they know what they were in for! Three months, over 7000 members and a ride we’ll never forget, thanks to all of the tireless moderators and mysterious puppetmasters.

You can still stop by the Cloudmakers Yahoo Group to see where it all happened. Read The Guide, browse The Trail, visit Jeanine Salla, Evan Chan, and re-live a little ARG history. Nothing since has approached the amazing mystery and awe felt as players stumbled upon an extensive alternate reality world set in the future.

To the Cloudmakers Moderators and to the folks behind the game, especially Elan Lee and Sean Stewart, we say thanks again! We lift our glasses to you all

ARGFest-o-Con April 25-27 in Las Vegas

Well, you’ve heard of Fark Parties and Cloudmakers Parties (well okay, maybe you haven’t), so we’re pleased to announce our very own ARG Party: ARGFest-o-Con 2003.

In reality, the party itself will be on the evening of April 26th, but most folks are making a weekend out of it. The festivities will begin at 5:00 pm in front of the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. In order to find out where to go from there, attendees must solve an online puzzle to obtain specific instructions (or just cheat and read the discussion/solve here).

ARGN’s and Unfiction’s sitemasters will be in attendance, as well as one or more Puppetmasters, plus perhaps a few surprises. If you’ve been looking for a chance to get away, come join us in Las Vegas and meet some fellow Alternate Reality Gaming afficianados.

If you think you can make it, drop us a line and prepare yourself for some fun, some sun, and just maybe something unexpected.

Search4e Calls Off Search?

Search4e has seeminly joined the list of failed Alternate Reality Games, as an email was sent out this morning to players seemingly cancelling the game. The email states, in part, “It is with deep regret that True Crime Books announces that it is ending all formal ties with the Ed Sobian case….This decision was not taken lightly.” Continuing with their attempts at making player communications look to be a part of the search4e world, it seems the producers are announcing the cancellation of the search for Ed Sobian.

The troubled game was suspended for a while at the end of 2002, while new sponsorship/financing was sought. Once it restarted, the producers seemed unable to regain momentum, and compounded their problems by making decisions that further limited their player base. We are still awaiting final confirmation of the death of search4e, at which time it will be added to the list of ARG meltdowns.

Push NV Spinoff ARG “NoahBoddy” Cancelled Mid-Game

Another ARG bites the dust. According to a wordy announcement on, “…the current game must be brought to a definitive close.” This cancellation was attributed to lack
of sponsorship and funding.

There is still plenty of action out there for Alternate Reality Gamers, however. Current live games include:Chasing the Wish, Time Hunt and the JMX Experience, with L3 and Ark II possibilities in develpment.

Alternate Reality Gaming in the New York Times

The March 6th, 2003 edition of the New York Times included an article by Charles Herold on Alternate Reality Gaming that features the history of the genre presented very comprehensively, along with links to Cloudmakers, Unfiction, DeadDrop and ARGN.

The article traces the history of ARGs and mentions The Beast, Lockjaw, Uncap the Ride, Alias, and Push NV, among others.

Team Noah Boddy Interview

Sin_Vraal has scored an exclusive interview with the folks behind the Push NV spinoff ARG Noah Boddy. Turns out he needed a little assistance from some of his friends, though.

Read his story and interview at DeadDrop (Part 1), Unfiction (Part 2) and here (Part 3).

TerraQuest Tanks Prematurely

Players of the MindQuest game Terraquest were shocked to discover that the game is being discontinued due to lack of an adequate player base. According to a statement posted today at, “there is simply not enough participation in the experience to keep this version of TerraQuest going.”

Registered players will be refunded any money spent on registration or express clues. In addition, there was indeed still a winner of the initial $25,000. Congratulations go out to Roland Spencer of San Diego, CA for solving the first (and unfortunately only) game period.

This marks yet another online game meeting an untimely death. We can now add TerraQuest to the likes of Push NV, Majestic, and Search4e.

BMW “Uncap the Ride” End-game in Las Vegas

The recent BMWFilms experience wrapped up with over 200 players descending upon Las Vegas to meet a mysterious man in a black warmup suit. The result: Someone went home with a brand new BMW Z4!  Read the Unfiction article here.

Interview with TerraQuest Creator

Keith Griffin,CEO of MindQuest Entertainment, was kind enough to answer some questions about his newly launched game TerraQuest. Check out the exclusive interview at Unfiction by clicking here.

Push NV Chat Rescheduled for Dec. 8th

We’ve resolved the connectivity issues with Doug TenNapel, and have rescheduled the live chat for this Sunday, December 8, 2002 at 4:00 pm EST/1:00 pm PST.

Once again, the chat will be held in #unfiction on the Chat-Solutions network ( For those of you without an IRC client, #unfiction can be accessed via a browser-based java applet here ( Check in the Unfiction Push NV forum for more details and chat guidelines

Push Chat Postponed

Sadly, Doug TenNapel was unable to attend last night’s live chat in #unfiction. Depite the fact the guest of honor couldn’t be there, there was a great turnout and some great conversation that continued into the early morning.

We apologize for things not going as planned, and are working hard to reschedule the chat with Mr. TenNapel. Please check back here for more details as soon as we have them.

Push NV Producer Chat Announced

ARGN and Unfiction are pleased to host a live chat with Doug TenNapel, the consulting producer who wrote/designed all of the puzzle material for Push Nevada, on Sunday, Dec. 1st at 8:00 pm EST / 5:00 pm PST. Join us live as we get our chance to talk to Mr. TenNapel about all the behind-the-scenes aspects of the Push NV mystery.

Before working on Push NV, Doug TenNapel got his start in television as an animator for the cartoon version of “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” Later, he got into video games and created both the “Earthworm Jim” game and subsequent television show. His upcoming TV effort, entitled “Gear,” is based on his graphic novel of the same name, published by Fireman Press. Mr. TenNapel has dozens of comic book, video game, animation, and television credits, and he also wrote, directed, and played a part in the 2000 movie Mothman.

The chat will be held in #unfiction on the Chat-Solutions network ( For those of you without an IRC client, #unfiction can be accessed via a browser-based java applet here ( Please try to arrive a little early. This will be a moderated chat. Chat and question guidelines will be posted shortly. Check back here or in the Unfiction Push NV forum for more details as they become available.

A New Look, A New Mission

ARGN is sporting a new look, as well as a new purpose. The Alternate Reality Gaming Network is becoming just that: a true network of independent sites contributing to Alternate Reality Gaming. More than just a simple webring, ARGN will always point you to quality, complementary places to go if you’re looking for info related to this growing genre.

ARGN will become the hub for this new affiliation of sites, a place where you will always be able to find a listing of interesting places to go, as well as an archive of ARGs gone by.

In addition, you can find a web-based chat applet with a listing of cool channels to join to talk in real time with other players, and we are sponsoring a mailing list whereby you can always stay informed of news and announcements of new and suspected ARGs.

ARGN makes the L.A. Times

ARGN was mentioned in a recent L.A. Times Article about viral marketing on the internet.

If you’re looking for the original discussions
mentioned in the article, go here and here. Since these forums have recently had to
close, go here for further discussion on the topic.

Forums Closed

Our Forums section is now closed, effectively functioning as
an archive of past discussions and discoveries.