PAX East was held in Boston this weekend, and conference attendees that took the time to dig through their conference swag bags discovered cardboard cut-outs of a futuristic controller. If rumor is to be believed, this innocuous controller serves as the trailhead to 42 Entertainment’s newest alternate reality game for the film Real Steel. Each controller was labeled with an alphanumeric code and the url WWW.WRB.COM. At the time, the website displayed the controller alongside four progress bars. Inputting codes from PAX caused the progress bars to slowly fill up until earlier tonight, when the history of World Robot Boxing was revealed.
The history of robot boxing is charged with clashing personalities. The sport was born at Raiden’s Koma Club in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. Raiden carefully cultivated the bot boxing community, offering scrap from fights in the club to help local designers get their start in the industry. Quickly, Kizu, an up-and-coming designer backed by Cold Siren Industries, dominated the fights with his bot Backslash. Kizu split from the Koma Club to found the World Robot Boxing League with billionaire Nate Matheson before abandoning Cold Siren Industries to create the next champion, Gamma.
Kizu did not get to enjoy his championship long before Gamma was defeated by the Lemkovas, a family of Russian oligarchs, and their bot called Rubicon. Partnering with former rival Tak Mashido, the Lemkovas created the current reigning champion and unstoppable juggernaut known as Zeus. But while the era of Kizu appears to be over, the figure depicted on the controller given away at PAX bears a striking resemblance to Gamma, and the “G2” logo can be found on Gamma’s blueprints, so his work may resurface again.
It is at this point, presumably, that former boxer Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) steps into the ring with the Real Steel film. According to IMDB’s description of the plot, Kenton “thinks he’s found a champion in a discarded robot.” The Hero Complex blog hints that you might see director Shawn Levy and Hugh Jackman “using this particular campaign to communicate with fans in some special ways.”
Stylistically, World Robot Boxing is reminiscent of many of 42 Entertainment’s previous campaigns. In 2007, the Why So Serious alternate reality game launched when a handful of Joker playing cards were discovered at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles with the message “I Believe in Harvey Dent Too.” Players had to unlock an image of the Joker pixel-by-pixel in order to proceed. And the badge management system from Flynn Lives appears to have made a return, with users who entered codes to unlock the World Robot Boxing site rewarded with badges. It also appears as though the practice of mailing players free items related to the campaign will continue, as players who completed tonight’s puzzles were asked to provide their contact information for a potential mailing.
World Robot Boxing has so far offered a scintillating glimpse into a world where sports evolve into a race to engineer the perfect mechanical monster. As a former fan of BattleBots, the brief history of the World Robot Boxing League provided in this alternate reality game leaves me with a desire for more. For now, I’ll settle for the film’s source material, Richard Matheson’s short story (and Twilight Zone episode) Steel. But hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of this world of battling bots soon, before the film’s premiere in October.