Image from the Rocket Poppeteer twitter account
Details about the project code-named Super 8, a new film by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, are still ensconced in mystery. And while the movie’s viral campaign offers scintillating tastes of what the film may eventually offer, putting those pieces together is a daunting task, made even more difficult thanks to recent updates. What do vintage Rocket Poppeteers brand popsicles have to do with an antiquated PDP-11 simulator, and how does a collector of rare and unique fish figure into things? While this article will have few answers to these seemingly outrageous questions, it will provide some context for this alternate reality game as it circuitously provides a preview of things to come in the upcoming film.
Last May when ARGNet first covered the Super 8 alternate reality game, players were waiting patiently for a PDP-11 simulator designed by “D. Morris” at the Scariest Thing I Ever Saw website to finish downloading a file. Once the file transfer completed, players could print out two newspaper clippings bearing an advertisement for Rocket Poppeteers brand popsicles, along with some oddly placed redactions. Lining up the two articles and cutting out the redactions reveals a message that Super8News interprets as “No certainty if alive, [it/they] may be after us, we go underground.” Both Rocket Poppeteers spokesman “Coop” Cooper and PDP-11 programmer “D. Morris” have been linked to Dan Morris and Gordon Cooper, real people who play prominent roles in alien conspiracy theories.
The Rocket Poppeteers advertisement served as more than the vehicle for an ominous message. Some players attempted to become a Rocket Poppeteer by mailing the newspaper clipping in to the listed address, and subsequently received a letter welcoming them into the Rocket Poppeteers Astronaut Program. At Comic-Con, the Rocket Poppeteer twitter account reported locations where conference attendees could visit an ice cream truck for popsicles and t-shirts from friendly ice cream men (and women) decked out in old-fashioned apparel. The Rocket Poppeteers website has opened up for online registration, so it’s not too late to get in on the popsicle-related fun, however it relates to the upcoming Super 8 film.
Editor’s Note: for information on events since this article’s publication, check out ARGNet’s follow-up article on the Super 8 alternate reality game.
Over the past few weeks, rumors have been floating around about Super 8, a new movie by JJ Abrams. Many speculated the film would be the newest installment in the Cloverfield universe. Abrams is going to extreme measures to maintain the mystique of this new project, sending the film’s trailers to theaters in canisters that required special codes to open. Despite these security measures, a “bootleg copy” of the trailer was posted on YouTube prior to the trailer’s release during select Iron Man 2 screenings at last night’s midnight showings.
Hidden within the trailer was the phrase “THESCARIESTTHINGIEVERSAW,” leading astute followers to the website ScariestThingIEverSaw.com, which accesses a “PDP-11 Simulator” operating on a remote desktop. The simulator was developed by “D. Morris” on February 5, 1977, and executes an as-yet-unknown operation that takes days to load.
Very little is known about Super 8 or its related viral experience, although MovieViral.com has provided a succinct summary of what little information is available. Abrams has gone on the record clarifying that the film “has nothing whatsoever to do with Cloverfield,” but has remained silent on any further details regarding the project. Abrams has a proven track record of building buzz around his projects through interactive experiences that attract dedicated followings (including viral campaigns for Star Trek, Fringe, Cloverfield, LOST, and Alias) so this newest installment might be worth exploring. Abrams’ alternate reality games have been inconsistent at times, considering the cancellation of LOST‘s Dharma Initiative ARG and the Fringe ARG devolving into a series of glyph ciphers hidden in each episode. However, the highs seem to be overpowering the occassional low. Two LOST alternate reality games have won a Primetime Emmy for Interactive Media – Fiction, and WIRED’s puzzle-filled “mystery issue” guest-edited by Abrams won an Ellie for best special-topic issue. Furthermore, Abrams’ most recent alternate reality game Alert Vulcan demonstrated that he is still willing to go the extra mile to provide an immersive transmedia experience that crosses over into the real world, so this may very well turn into the scariest thing I ever saw.
UPDATE 05/08/2010: the original leaked trailer has been deleted from YouTube.