On March 26th, a new chapter in the Dark Knight alternate reality game began, as the cell phones that some had received inside a tasty, Joker-commissioned treat — phones that some figured may never ring again — sprang to life. A text message read: “Hey clown! Long time, no crime spree! Well, put on your floppy shoes and answer this question: are you ready to get to work?” For those brave enough to text back, answering in the affirmative, the reward was a second text: “Glad to see you’re still alive and kicking. I’ll be in touch before Poisson D’Avril”
A quick Google reveals “Poisson D’Avril” to be, literally, “April Fish” in French. Poisson D’Avril is also the French equivalent of April Fools. This gave the indication that something Jokerish was about to occur, prior to April Fools!
The phones went active again on March 30th, but this time, with a call from an actual person instead of a text message. The recipients were informed that they were one of 17 “clowns” remaining, and each were given a letter to remember and report to the rest of the “clowns” (for example, “‘E’ as in Elephant”). Sixteen other letters were given to the remaining clowns, which led to a new web site being discovered — Clown Travel Agency. The site was simple in design, with only a suitcase adorned with stickers from several worldwide destinations, and an envelope which stated “Departure Date: 4-01”.
Two days later, April 1st dawned and players the world over waited anxiously for the promised update, which came later in the day in the form of a new image on the web site of a now-open envelope. Upon clicking the paper inside, a note from the Joker was revealed, which read, “Ready to have a ball? A special bag of fun awaits the first to claim it, but you’d better strike fast, there’s no time to spare!” Hmmm… Anyone else notice something about the choice of words there? “Ball”, “strike”, “spare” – anyone in the mood for some bowling?
Clicking the note revealed a list of cities, twenty-eight in all, from all over the world – the United Kingdom, Brazil, France, Canada, and the United States, matching the stickers on the suitcase. At first, only the first few of the actual addresses were listed, along with instructions such as “Ask for ‘Twitchy’ at Reception” or a series of numbers that appeared to be a locker combination. Further investigation revealed that the drop sites were, as suspected, bowling alleys, and as the “bags of fun” were acquired, passport-like stamps appeared next to the drop sites on the list. Approximately every hour, a couple more drop sites and instructions were revealed.
Looking over the list to see if I could become involved in this one (I missed out on the cake drop, which was sad — I love cake!), I noticed there was a drop in Chula Vista, and my friend Google told me there was only one bowling alley there. It was towards the bottom of the list so I knew it would be several hours before the actual address and instructions would be revealed. However, discussion in both the chat channel and the Unforum thread were indicating that the drop sites were being discovered and staked out hours in advance. I found out, at 10:30AM PDT, that several people had already staked out the Chula Vista location, which meant that there was no reason for me to go there – someone else had already beaten me to the drop, even though the actual address and details of the drop were hours away. In the cities where there was only one bowling alley, determining the drop site was fairly easy. For cities with multiple possible drop sites, people were apparently calling bowling alleys and asking about the drops — if the person answering the phone said “I can’t talk about it”, they knew that was the location.
Given the popularity of the campaign, the collectibles were highly sought after by fans of the movie and players of the ARG alike. Unfortunately, amid the excitement of the day, reports of what some might consider to be unfair play trickled in. In Phoenix, the swag bag supposedly never made it into the locker, given instead to a friend of an employee of the alley before pickup details were even posted. In Kingston, MA, Unfiction administrator xnbomb reported that several people were in place at an alley, and at the expected time (3PM) the details were released. However, the person that got to the bag first literally grabbed it and ran without letting anyone else see or take pictures of the content. And, in Portland, the bag was apparently either picked up by someone working for a local radio program, or the person who obtained it gave it to the radio program — who promptly posted it for sale on eBay… for THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS! As of this writing, the eBay listing is still up, but has been dropped to a mere ten thousand dollars, with one bidder – and a note from the sellers that if the items don’t sell, they’ll drop the ball on the phone until it shatters.
Thankfully, there were many reports from lucky recipients who were in the sharing mood. From those reports, such as this post by dingleberry96 at the Unforums, we can see that the bags contained a bowling ball with a phone number engraved on it, a cell phone similar to the ones found in the cakes, another Joker card, and a note from the Joker imploring the recipient to call the number on the ball from the phone. Calling the number was the indicator that the drop had been picked up, and soon thereafter the location was stamped on the drop list on the web site.
Once all the drops had been acquired, the drop list “burned” and revealed another note from the Joker, instructing the “clowns” to go to www.acmesecuritysystems.com/delos and, using the password “needle”, disable an alarm system. Of course I played along, and after some initial difficulty in getting the site to load, I was greeted with a login screen asking for a name, phone number, and email address. Upon submitting, my phone number was called, whereupon I was supposed to say the password. However, before I could, the call was intercepted by none other than Lt. (Soon-to-be Commissioner?) Gordon, informing me that the jig was up — the poilce had my phone number, my computer’s IP address, and basically, ME — and I could either consider myself Gotham PD’s newest recruit or go to jail as a conspirator in a crime organization. Along with the phone call, the Acme Security Page displayed a banner stating that my identity had been captured and logged as evidence. Awesome! I’m now a member of , as Ecks51 so aptly put it, “the few, the corrupt, the Gotham PD”! Of course, two words come to mind – APRIL FOOLS!
So… in a meta sense, was this a way to move the story away from the Joker (bad guy) and more towards Harvey Dent/Commissioner Gordon (good guys?)? The waiting game begins again, as we anticipate the next time that the new Joker/Gordon phones ring again, and wonder about who will be on the other end when they do.