Images of the Reddit expedition to Hawaii 2 courtesy of Pewwer42
Shortly after Christmas, a group of Redditors met up, planning on making the trek to an uninhabited island near Lake Saint George Park in Maine. Previous expeditions to the island confirmed the presence of a wooden shed containing a massive safe at the southern tip of the island: but without the six digit passcode to unlock it, the safe’s contents remained a mystery. Finally, after almost a month of poring over websites, YouTube videos, and physical mailings, community members felt fairly confident they had the passcode that would unveil the safe’s contents.
All this, because of a bit of Holiday Bullshit.
A Little Bullshit Backstory
For this year’s Black Friday promotion, Cards Against Humanity made headlines by removing their popular card game from the market, and replacing it with Black Friday Bullshit – for $6, the company would mail its customers literal bullshit in a box. No more, and no less. At the same time, the company was promoting a separate dose of bullshit for the holidays. While the Black Friday Bullshit promotion was perfectly clear in what it was offering, Cards Against Humanity’s Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa promotion at HolidayBullshit.com provided almost no guidance about what it would deliver: only that, for $15, the company would send ten mailings containing…just about anything.
Fans of the company had some idea of what they might expect by using the previous year’s Holiday Bullshit mailings as guidance: a handful of exclusive and personalized Cards Against Humanity cards, a miniaturized prototype of a game, a few comics, maybe a charitable donation to a worthy cause. But for the most part, $15 purchased the ability to find a surprise waiting in the mailbox for a few days…alongside access to an expansive puzzle hunt that promised to be bigger than the last.
Hidden within the storied halls of the Upper Wolverhampton Library in Victorian-era England, a musty book lies in wait, ready to entrap the first hapless souls to peer into its pages. While Colleen and Samuel Quaice fall victim to The Maze of Games, it’s up to you, the reader, to lead the two children home by solving a series of puzzles presented by the book’s enigmatic skeletal guardian, the Gatekeeper.
The Maze of Games is a full-length puzzle novel that follows the adventures of the Quaice siblings as they make their way through the Gatekeeper’s labyrinth. While traditional Choose Your Own Adventure novels direct readers through branching narratives through a series of choices, The Maze of Games‘s “solve your own adventure” format directs readers through the experience through the same series of puzzles facing the Quaices. Solving the puzzle unlocks the page number of the next narrative installment. Illustrated by Magic: The Gathering illustrator Pete Venters, the book is designed to look and feel like a book from the Victorian Era.
The puzzle adventure’s author Mike Selinker launched a Kickstarter campaign for The Maze of Games last month seeking $16,000 to fund the project. To date, the project has drawn in over $109,000 in pledges, with an ebook/iDevice edition available to $20 donors and a hardcover edition available for $50. As an added perk, Selinker has arranged for the Gatekeeper to lock a series of famous puzzle designers in cages until they agree to contribute a Victorian-era puzzle to the Conundrucopia, a bonus set of puzzles in The Maze of Games. At set Kickstarter milestones, the puzzle designers are set free from their cages and put to work. The list of confirmed puzzlers is an impressive one that reflects the variety of puzzles contained outside the Conundrucopia. Innovators in the space including ambigram pioneer Scott Kim, 74-time Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings, Perplex City puzzle designer Eric Harshbarger, Puzzazz founder Roy Leban, and Duck Konundrum inventor Dan Katz have all spent their time locked up by the Gatekeeper, with more to follow.
As previously reported on ARGNet, Wired magazine and Lone Shark Games have created a special “Underworld Exposed” issue to delight and confound puzzle-solvers and would-be thieves eager to join the nefarious Ring of Dishonor, a special place for the craftiest of puzzlers. Frustrated by the secret ciphers hidden in the magazine, available both in print and on the iPad, I cornered master puzzle-maker and president of Lone Shark Games, Mike Selinker.
Let’s see if he’ll crack under the interrogation lamp:
In this month’s Wired, Lone Shark Games is presenting a unique challenge to puzzlers, techies, and . . . thugs? Promising “A Guided Tour of the Dark Side,” this special “Underworld Exposed” issue includes fascinating articles about real-world crime and other things hidden from plain sight. Along these lines, the magazine, available both in print and for the iPad, contains secret codes that, when deciphered, will provide an email address. When contacted at a certain time and date, Decode will confer upon you a most dubious honor and a place in the ultra-secret puzzling society, the Ring of Dishonor.
The Ring of Dishonor is a darker, scarier version of Decode’s regularly featured Ring of Honor puzzles. How do you get started on your criminal puzzle-solving career? Check out this trailhead puzzle, involving the now-extinct language used by Chinese women to communicate without being watched. Using this puzzle as a launching pad, nine other secret languages are being revealed in quiz form at Decode to supplement the print magazine (iPad readers have all the secret languages available already). Somehow, through the magazine, these secret languages will bring enthusiastic seekers “behind the door,” so to speak, if they’ve got the puzzle-solving chops to figure it all out.
On Monday night, Lone Shark Games, Evan Ratliff, and Repo Men runner Usman Akeju joined the ARGNetcast to talk about their cross-country hunt for four runners carrying artiforgs from the Union. Yesterday, Repo Men hunter Geneva Conventional caught both Usman Akeju and Ciji Thorton at Seabrook Roller Skating Rink in Lanham, Maryland. Prior to his capture, Usman visited his mother’s house, prompting Lone Shark Games President Mike Selinker to quip, “It proves what I’ve been saying for years: Nothing good can come from bringing a girl over to your mom’s house.”
MovieViral’s most recent RepoCast features an interview with Geneva Conventional along with Lone Shark Games’ Creative Director Teeuwynn Woodruff and hunters Shinma22, fubarcrew, BiggKat77, semisweetCJ, and eviltikimonkey describing Ciji and Usman’s capture, as well as their efforts to catch the other two runners. Additionally, the Repo Men website has released an official statement announcing the capture, raising a number of questions:
How could two runners be so blind (especially as Thornton had a top-of-the-line Ocurity eye) as to miss someone sneaking up on both of them? Didn’t they have a feeling deep inside (perhaps in Usman’s Nephrolux kidney) that they could both be caught doing one of their individual Groundswell tasks? Will Groundswell loosen its restrictions on the other two runners, Alex Gamble and Will LaFerriere—or will the noose tighten even more?
Ciji Thorton is a 26-year old woman with an artificial eye.
Will LaFerriere is a 27-year old former military man with an artificial heart.
Alex Gamble is a 22-year old female with an artificial liver.
And Usman Akeju is a 27-year old software consultant with an artificial kidney.
For the next month, three simple words can cost these four runners $7,500. Any registered hunter in the country can repossess the runner’s artiforg (artificial organ) by getting within speaking distance of them, uttering a three word phrase, receiving their codeword, collecting their artiforg, and calling their Union rep using the runner’s phone. Promoting the upcoming release of the movie Repo Men, this alternate reality game will test the abilities of Ciji, Will, Alex, and Usman to remain undetected against an onslaught of investigative skills from “bounty hunters” nationwide.