On September 30th, Aconite is launching the story-driven puzzle game HoloVista, where players assume the role of a young artist documenting “an opulent building on orders from a mysterious architecture firm…[where] the house is getting to know you too, better than you know yourself.” The game’s trailer depicts a game of almost meditative exploration in the spirit of Myst. Given that context, it’s more than a little fitting that the past few weeks have introduced players to the world of HoloVista through an alternate reality game centered around Mesmer and Braid, the architecture firm at the center of the mystery.
During the trailer for HoloVista, a Mesmer & Braid offer letter addressed to Carmen flashes on screen, inviting her to join the company as a Junior Architect at the firm. Mesmer & Braid’s phone number is listed, instructing her to call to receive her first field assignment. Calling that number leads to a voicemail from the company directing players to the MesmerandBraid website to take a mandatory Collaborator Assessment that sorts anyone who interacts with the company into fancifully named personalities: Nookfinder, Arkadeer, Glowright, Egressquire, and Chronoservator. An artfully framed QR code later in the trailer leads players to the same assessment. Weeks prior, Steve Peters provided yet another route to the Assessment by hiding the phone number as a puzzle on his bookcase during a live interview with Constructed Adventures. Many routes, for many personalities.
Once employees were welcomed into the Mesmer and Braid fold, they received a password to access MesmerNet, the company’s Associate Portal featuring all the corporate documents employees never read. Employees (and players) are encouraged to express themselves through corporate-approved forms of expression, ranging from Casual Fridays at the remote office. Office shenanigans like defaced office signs posted by “sign pranksters”, of course, are highly discouraged and unbecoming of a professional workplace.
Office signage defacement notwithstanding, Mesmer and Braid’s corporate documents show that the architecture firm is a “fun” company, with a majestic African Grey Parrot that greets office visitors with a thanks “for joining us in our quest to build a perfect home.” The office provides employees with snacks, yoga sessions, massage rooms, and even pinball games. Casual Fridays have been instituted at all offices, and multidisciplinary project teams (“Mesmercels”) are self-organized and flexible. It’s also a company that is rumored to dabble in the occult, with a founder rumored to conjure buildings rather than build them.
While many of Mesmer and Braid’s files are publicly available to associates, a few are password protected – which is where blurbex49 comes into the picture. A Mesmernet notice from the executive team notes that TikTok user and urban exploration junkie blurbex49 stumbled across corporate assetsWhile using the Randonautica app, blurbex49 is led to the ruins of the Wanderlust Estate, a Mesmer company project commissioned by the company’s founder after his retirement. Repeat visits to the location uncovered a trove of information about Mesmer and the estate, including a cryptex that received over a million views on TikTok as people watched blurbex’s initial attempts at opening it.
Gameplay for the Mesmer and Braid alternate reality game is a healthy mix of corporate hijinks as players role-play corporate life at a company overly invested in seeming like a “cool” place to work alongside puzzle-solving as players pore through corporate documents, receipts, and corporate transcripts to piece together what happened at the Wanderlust Estate and why it burned down (as well as to reconstruct a glyph-based language hiding additional secrets). All of this, to set the stage for Carmen’s own investigations on behalf of the company, in the iOS game to follow. Arson notwithstanding, the game has been refreshingly light in tone so far, with exploration and discovery as the focus rather than the promise of immediate peril or the threat of cataclysmic apocalypse.
Rowan at WonderWeasels has written up a full guide on Mesmer and Braid that documents the game’s progress as it unfolds: players have congregated on the r/mesmerandbraid subreddit and a dedicated Discord server to work together to uncover the game’s secrets, in the lead-up to the iOS game’s release next week.