As yet another entry in the serious gaming genre, Ready For The Big Chill asks a “chilling” question: would you be ready in the event of a catastrophic event such as the eruption of a super-volcano or an asteroid impact that blocked the sun, throwing the world into a new Ice Age?

Several ARG and Unfiction community members received a dark and cryptic envelope with the words “Nobody Knows It Yet” stamped on the outside. Inside, an equally cryptic card adds, “…But It Has Already Started” one one side, printed on top of what appears to be a block of ice. On the other side, the silhouette of a screaming figure frames the url for a Facebook page, The game’s Facebook page then leads to The Big Chill’s main site.

The presently unnamed group behind The Big Chill have formed an “idea-community” to generate survival ideas from the players through the help of an eclectic group of characters including vulcanologists, geologists, a video director, and a certified conspiracy theorist, who are all monitoring and reporting on world geologic events that could lead to such a catastrophe. Many of the characters have Twitter feeds, Facebook accounts, blogs, YouTube channels, and other avenues of communication with players.

Currently, the game’s main character, Magda, is doing research for her doctorate in Moquegua, Peru at the supposedly extinct Huaynaputina volcano. To her surprise, she has found many vents and dead animals nearby which are indicators of an active volcano. In a conversation with her commercial director/videographer boyfriend, Tom Zambaux, she reveals another disturbing fact: Huaynaputina is “60 times bigger” than the volcano in Guatemala where they met, and “[i]ts magma chamber could be the size of Manhattan.” Magda is assisted in her research by Alfredo, a geologist working for the Vulcanologic Observatory.

Other characters have been busy as well: Phil Miyungu, a geologist/vulcanologist working with the Vulcanologic Observatory in Mbeya, Tanzania, is investigating another inactive volcano, Mt. Rungwe. The area surrounding the volcano has been experiencing a flurry of recent earthquakes, which are often precursors to a volcanic eruption. Another vulcanologist, Fibriyani Tarigan from the Pusat Vulkanologi in Surabaya, Indonesia, has been tweeting about volcanic activity around the world, past and present. Then there’s the resident conspiracy theorist, Aaron, who left college and the study of Physics when he was 22 to study the occult, parapsychology, mysticism, and prophecies. On his blog, Prophesies of Armageddon, he has been observing and commenting on all the chatter surrounding the recent volcanic and geologic activity, especially surrounding Huaynaputina which “is mentioned in the Incan prophecies of Mosoq as ‘the one who will bring on the end to civilization.'” Aaron references ancient prophesies from the Mayans, Egyptions, and Incans, and has a premonition that the activity at the Huaynaputina volcano is a precursor to a major eruption, and the possible onset of The Big Chill.

The story is just getting started, and there’s plenty to read and catch up on. Discussion is underway at the Unfiction forums.