“Psssst! Hey, you. Look at this!” Your head turns at the sound, only to find your eyes landing on some punk lifting up his shirt. Repulsed, you start to turn away and return to your daily machinations, hoping to some how erase the image of pasty tummy skin poking out at you, but something makes you look again. Is it your love for a human train-wreck, or your fascination with anyone willing to flash a complete stranger on the street? If you’re seeing the same thing I am, it’s neither of the above, but the inner-shirt code on a piece of EDOC Laundry.
Anticipated for months, the EDOC Laundry game rushed to the stage to belt out its ARG rock this week with a preview of the next season of clothing, two new websites, and more mystery swirling around its characters. Also new to EDOC Laundry is the unveiling of their eStore, where customers can purchase clothing online directly from EDOC. (Note: The stock is currently low, but a new shipment is expected in about 2 weeks. Backorders will be available on items expected to arrive soon. Check back often for updates. Also, despite earlier reports of tiny tiny fetally-sized shirts, the EDOC items have been resized to be more generous.) The shirts are beautifully made, the caution to detail in each print showing through with quality, and the designs are unique, striking and, speaking of the women’s articles I have, flattering. The preview of the Fall/Winter catalog appears to improve upon an already distinct brand, adding more depth to their offerings (zip hoodies, jackets, and sweaters for both sexes) and designs that are even more rich in detail. Rumors swirl around the future clothing offerings by EDOC, suggesting experiments with glowing dyes and messages that reveal themselves only after the shirt has spent a few turns in the laundry machine. Maybe if I’m lucky, my wish for flip-flop sandals that mark a coded footprint in the sand won’t be too far away from realization.
The game itself is introduced through the clothing line, each article unlocking a short video through an encoded passphrase found somewhere on the item. The key to discovering a passphrase is added to the underside of the front hem, spelling out “Nothing to Hide.” Each passphrase can be entered into the hidden section of the EDOC Laundry website, and a video plays, revealing a snippet of story.
Surrounding EDOC Laundry is a story depicting a rock n’ roll revision of the American Revolution. Instead of colonies fighting a monarchy, EDOC revolves around the band, Poor Richard, fighting against their record label, Hanover Media. Each band member is a representation of the figureheads of the birth of the United States as a nation: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benedict Arnold, Benjamin Franklin, Abigail Adams, Sally Hemmings, Samuel Adams, and James Madison. Together, they overcome rock obscurity to reach fame, only to have it snatched from their fingers by a series of unfortunate events – suicides, murders, blackmail – everything a good story requires, strung along staves of intriguing characters with recognizable sharps and flats that intricately mesh with the history surrounding the American Revolution, composing a game that plays like a symphony. It’s history, updated and smacked on its ass to be cool. The hours of boring history lectures in school were never like this – dark graphics, industrial rock music backgrounds, love, lust, and even a little master and slave.
Beyond the EDOC Laundry website are sites run by two characters: Hang Separately – a creation of Lyn’s, and Poor Richard Rocks – the creation of Jeff’s girlfriend, Sally. Making a further presence for Poor Richard on the web is the official Hanover Media site for the band, Poor Richard Band, as well as the MySpace and PureVolume domains for Poor Richard, all three of which have recently been overhauled and updated. Of particular interest, Hang Separately lists the videos Lyn has made and the videos players have so far unlocked, question marks filling the spaces for videos yet to come this clothing season. Matching up each question mark to a piece of clothing leaves behind 7 question marks that don’t correspond to an item of laundry, suggesting that there will be more required of the game’s players to solve the mystery of Poor Richard’s death than a few t-shirts.
The question remains, what did happen to Poor Richard? According to Lyn, the band dissolved in the aftermath of turmoil and disintegrated into accusations and people on the run. Yet, if this is supposed to parallel the American Revolution, shouldn’t Poor Richard have won this war? Or is what we have now merely the result of one battle with more to come as the game progresses? Perhaps we, the players, are to Poor Richard what the French were to the colonies – money, hope, and an ally in a time of desperation and need.
The expected run of EDOC Laundry takes us into 2008, which, perhaps unsurprisingly considering EDOC’s subject matter, is an election year for the U.S. Learning about the origins of the government through a medium such as this makes EDOC Laundry more than just a fun past-time, but also a political statement and a serious game with a message, targeting the audience of today’s politically disaffected, game-literate youth – get out, vote, and make a difference.
The mode of play, the accessibility of the story, a low barrier to entry for the story (you can watch the videos anytime and catch up with the guide and wiki), and the measured pace make EDOC Laundry a great introduction to ARGs, while remaining true to the core ARG audience, who, with ease, can be involved with EDOC while playing other games at the same time. Overall, EDOC Laundry is a welcomed, innovative addition to the ARG genre.
See you on the battlefield.