halo3.jpgThe gears of the Universe spin further and further apart.
Ever greater grows the gulf between souls,
And distance gives false hope of safety
But for the grim tidings this messenger bears:

The enemy is almost upon us…

…slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, perhaps.

The lines above were taken from an email sent out as part of what appears to be an ARG (or at least a promotion that takes a few pages from the ARG playbook) designed to lead in to the launch of the third installment of the wildly popular Halo game series.

It all began on Monday, June 11th, when an entity calling itself Adjutant Reflex began posting cryptic messages on the Bungie forum. From there, the trail lead to an alien-awareness site called Society of the Ancients (SOTA), as well as one entitled “Transmission Log,” which contains a countdown slated to end this Thursday. SOTA members have since staged live protests in New York, Vancouver, San Francisco and London, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with a symbol that seems to figure significantly in the unfolding story. Elements in the game link directly to the Halo 3 site, so it appears that the campaign is not hewing as firmly to the “This Is Not A Game” aesthetic as its predecessor, 2004’s ilovebees, but there appears to be the beginning of a rich storyline that may illuminate some of the unanswered questions in the Halo mythology.

Halo fans have been speculating rampantly (pun intended, of course), and the launch of the game has also served as an informal reunion for a lot of beekeepers (participants in ilovebees). The identity of the company responsible for the game has been a hot topic of discussion, with 42 Entertainment — creators of ilovebees — among the most popular suspects.

However, in an exclusive statement to the panel on the ARG Netcast, 42 Entertainment’s Vice President of Experience Design, Elan Lee, announced that the campaign was not a 42 project, and Steve Peters of 42 also replied to an email sent yesterday with a similar statement. Bungie Studios, makers of the Halo series, has used ARG-like elements to promote their games before, beginning with 1999’s Cortana Letters, so it’s possible they are doing it in-house. Regardless of who the creators are, with live events, Forerunner poetry to interpret, mysterious locked servers on the Halo 3 site, and the mysterious Adjutant Reflex at large, it promises to be an exciting ride!

Join the discussion at the Unfiction forums, visit thebruce’s wiki to get caught up, or chat with other players in #halo on irc.chat-solutions.org.

Thanks to the denizens of #halo for their invaluable help in summarizing the action thus far.