skullgroup2.jpgTed Allen might be the only person protecting this world from death and destruction. Then again, he might be the person who will bring about our doom. I’m not talking about that suave Queer Eye co-host Ted Allen, although I do consider his cuisine to be earth-shatteringly delicious. No, I’m talking about the character in Doom Skull (alternatively titled Thirteen Crystal Skulls), a grassroots alternate reality game that has gathered a dedicated following over the last two months.

Doom Skull follows the search for thirteen legendary crystal skulls from outer space that may be responsible for the destruction of Atlantis. With the aid of “The Chosen” — four people cursed with the ability to communicate with the skulls — players prove their worthiness to each skull by solving a variety of puzzles. So far, they’ve successfully collected seven of the thirteen skulls. But now, Ted Allen is warning the masses that helping the skulls will lead to a cataclysm of epic proportions, so the players must decide how to proceed.

Exploring the Doom Skull universe is like taking a romp through an alternate reality gaming tutorial. Each skull has its own unique method of communication, ranging from Britskull‘s steganographic images, to Skyskull‘s pig latin, to Goldenskull‘s chessboard cipher. Not all puzzles are “traditional” ARG fare, though. Skyskull had the players work on a jigsaw puzzle, Goldenskull sent a crossword puzzle, and Roseskull had participants collecting image files from past websites, characters, and other players. Since each skull seems to have a distinct personality, these often lighthearted challenges help complement the overall character of the game.

The rich and varied personalities of the Thirteen Skulls and Four Chosen make this game a treat, although players may get tired of visiting a new social networking site for every character and skull. The game’s best feature by far, however, is the puppetmaster staff, which has been highly responsive to player comments — both in-game and on the unfiction forums — and is not afraid to offer the occasional nudge to point puzzlers in the right direction.

With five skulls remaining to be claimed and Ted Allen constantly seeking to undermine efforts to collect the skulls, Doom Skull is still worth checking out. The main site offers a concise and thorough summary of the story and puzzles so far in chapter form, so the barrier to entry on this game is quite low. Be sure to check out the websites for The Chosen: I especially like Amanda’s blog, written by a deaf high school student who shares my devastation over the Chicago Bears’ recent SuperBowl loss.

Click Here for the Doom Skull main page, including a story summary and contact information for the Chosen.
Click Here to join the discussion at the unfiction forums.
Join the IRC channel in #DoomSkull at