Author: Robbie Smith

Flynn Lives Reaches End of Line with Final Puzzles and Free Screenings

On December 8th, Flynn Lives treated players to a final live event as the alternate reality game promoting the upcoming release of Tron: Legacy came to a close. As the previously discovered Digital Pulse timer hit 00:00, the site updated with information about multiple transmissions that members of the Flynn Lives organization had discovered and believed to be connected to Kevin Flynn. Organization members identified sixteen cities within the United States from Kevin Flynn’s 1989 book tour that contained evidence concerning the signals. The hope was that, once secured, the evidence would fill in the missing pieces and allow the group to begin a side channel attack to contact the missing genius. Once the countdown reached zero, coordinates with directions to the locations of hidden evidence were posted every hour in groups of two, starting on the eastern seaboard and working west with each pairing, with each drop site marked by a TRON sticker initially seen on the fictional Flynn Lives message boards.

While the Digital Pulse page originally indicated that a team effort would be needed to complete the event prior to the end of the countdown, Flynn Lives organizers later clarified on their Facebook page that only one operative was needed in each city. International players were unable to participate on the ground, but provided online support to the stateside players as they scrambled to make the pick-up, as it was now apparent that it was a race to be first to the sites.

As reports began to filter in from the participating cities, the story began to emerge. Players who were fast and fortunate enough to get to the drop and find the sticker were greeted by a phone and tracking number. Upon calling the number, players reached a Flynn Lives representative who, after receiving the tracking number, informed the player to await a delivery. Within minutes, deliverymen, dressed in Dumont Shipping company attire, arrived at the various locations and delivered a manila envelope after getting a signed release from the player. The release had directions from Kevin Flynn himself, noting that the package was only to be retrieved by the first person to call in and report the tracking number. Judging by the note, the packages had been awaiting pick-up since 1989, shortly before Kevin’s disappearance.

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Flynn Lives Goes Through an Epiphany

The week following Thanksgiving is usually a slow one as folks readjust to their daily routine post-turkey and gravy, but Flynn Lives players found themselves back in the thick of things. After a week’s hiatus, presumably to give thanks for all the buzz fans have been creating, Flynn Lives was back with some flash today; a Flash-based puzzle, to be exact.

The main page for Flynn Lives updated with a link to a new puzzle, Gygax, which featured a cut-out pattern for a 3-dimensional Bit from the original Tron film as an homage to Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax’s love of multi-sided dice. Additional information in the read-only Flynn Lives discussion forums helped players crack the puzzle in no time and in turn discover flynnlives.com/epiphany. With a few additional twists and turns players found themselves staring into pulse of a count-down timer.

End Game has begun with flynnlives.com/digitalpulse, a a call to action to retrace Kevin Flynn’s steps during his final book tour. The site advises all Flynn Lives operatives to be prepared to hit the ground next Wednesday, at 11 am EST, in a final push to retrieve the remaining evidence and finally uncover what has happened to Kevin Flynn. A total of sixteen cities will take part in the final mission but the cities themselves have yet to be identified (excepting Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco which were named on the poster), a tactic reminiscent of the beginning of this viral and its first outing, Operation Zero Hour.

Flynn Lives is going out in style, so make sure you have your shoe laces tied and your GPS units handy, because when the time comes next week, Flynn Lives operatives will finally get the chance to find out what happened to Kevin Flynn: and that’s one ride you do not want to miss out on. Keep your finger on the digital pulse, and be ready to hit the ground running next Wednesday.

Flynn Lives: END OF LINE?

It has been a busy two months for Flynn Lives, which has been a nice change of pace for players who had been growing anxious for activity following the two month lull post San Diego Comic Con. In early October players noticed a new puzzle on the Flynn Lives Facebook page that, once cracked, led to tickets for a screening of twenty minutes from Tron: Legacy in IMAX 3D in theaters across the country for Tron Night, October 28th.

Ordinarily such a screening would be prize enough for most players but Flynn Lives did not stop there. Just days before the Tron Night screening, the Flynn Lives website updated, letting players know that the game was back with a vengeance and that the endgame had begun. Players began frantically searching the site for updates, and it was quickly discovered that Zack’s popular Arcade Aid puzzle game from months past had been updated with new titles of classic video games.

Players worked together and beat the updated game, earning new achievement badges within just a few short hours, but it was the message with the final achievement badge that left the forums buzzing. Titled End Game, the unlocked achievement let players know that something was coming in the mail soon from Flynn Lives.  A screening and swag? Players speculated that this was surely the Endgame hinted at on the Flynn Lives main page and as Tron Night came and went, everyone anxiously awaited their package, their final parting gift from Flynn Lives.

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LEGO: We Come in Pieces

LEGOTwo weeks ago a set of mysterious signals from deep space led to a startling discovery. On November 7th a group of Scientific Researchers from the Bradford Rant Institute of Cosmic Kinesis (B.R.I.C.K.)  were the first to intercept and decode the signals, which  contained detailed coordinates. Following the coordinates, the researchers soon found themselves within Legoland: Billund where they located a tiny crash site, complete with an alien pod lodged in the brick-filled crater. The pod contained an extraterrestrial visitor short on words but high on bricks. Piecing together the mystery, the researchers soon realized that other signals from deep space represented the future landing sites of six additional space-faring pods, providing quite the rabbit hole for a nice LEGO ARG.

Players have already been treated to some code-cracking, LEGO-style, along with the promise of more coveted pods scheduled for dispersal around the world, presumably near Legoland sites. The second pod is still transmitting coordinates and has yet to land, but it would seem our newest visitor will be touching down somewhere near the site of the future Legoland: Fort Worth amusement park. Undoubtedly, B.R.I.C.K. will have no short supply of North American assistants when the final set of signals for the second visitor are transmitted and triangulated.

So what does it all mean? Who are these mysterious visitors and what brings them to Earth? The game took off a week ago following a mysterious tweet from Brian Johnson. Brian’s Twitter bioraphy includes an interesting tid-bit, noting that he is the producer of the upcoming massively multiplayer online (MMO) title LEGO Universe. Digging a little deeper using this newfound information, an article detailing the arrival of the afore-mentioned pod in Legoland: Billund was discovered on the LEGO Universe main page, further eliminating any doubt as to the purpose of the tiny pods.

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Breathe With Me

breatheLast December, ARGNet announced plans for an upcoming game courtesy of Expanding Universe that promised to draw players into the underground club scene. The idea of a London-based murder mystery spanning several nightclubs piqued the interest of the ARG community, while the way Expanding Universe planned to incorporate and immerse players into that mystery drew national and international attention.

The game is set to run for two weeks with multiple live events in London and three 15 minute videos. Breathe offers players the chance to not only interact with characters in real time, but also to help shape the narrative itself. Those brave enough to attend the live dance events will get the chance to socialize with the in-game characters and in all likelihood become characters themselves: possibly even accomplices to the unsolved crime. 

This past August, players who signed up for the game at the Breathe homepage learned that the months of waiting were almost at an end when they received e-mail invitations to a masked ball, “A Night of Xcess,” a live event set to kick off the first episode of Breathe. Intrepid players next discovered Pleasure Principled, which included the dress code for the event, a list of performers attending, and instructions on how to buy tickets to the ball.

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Special Delivery

Something In the SeaFans of 2K Games’ viral campaign, Something in the Sea had a strange encounter this past Saturday. Several players reported that they had received a mysterious telegram from the game’s hero, Mark Meltzer, advising them to be on the lookout for a package from him within the next day. The telegram itself was more than enough to excite the fans of the game, but what stood out the most to all the recipients was the deliveryman who knocked upon their door.

Mark avoided such popular delivery services as UPS, Fedex or even USPS and instead sent his parcels via Speedy Brothers. An apparent transplant from the sixties, the Speedy Brothers deliverymen made their deliveries on vintage bicycles and in full costume. One thoughtful player had the presence of mind to capture a picture of one of the rare and elusive deliverymen dropping off his telegram.

Players fortunate enough to receive the telegrams soon found themselves in possession of a splicer mask–one of the decorative masks seen in Bioshock 1 adorning the maddened splicers who attacked and harassed players throughout the game. Mark has continued his investigation into the disappearance of his daughter, Cindy, and he recently uncovered a warehouse full of Rapture artifacts. Players admired his find from afar until, unexpectedly, they found themselves in possession of the very same artifacts with a request for help from Mark.

While Bioshock 2 looms on the horizon, 2K Games is still pulling players in with an ever-evolving story and continued real world interaction. The success of Bioshock 2 remains to be seen, but the buzz and excitement 2K Games is building up around their product is readily apparent. Several video games have used viral marketing in the past but Something in the Sea continues to distance and set itself apart from those previous campaigns. The weekend deliveries made by the Speedy Brothers widen that gap and raise the bar for future campaigns.

A special thank you to Precarious from the 2K Games message boards for allowing the use of her photographs.

Is There Something in the Sea?

Something In the SeaIn March of this year posters began showing up on the east coast warning of an undersea threat. The posters ended with a URL that led the curious to Something in the Sea: and for the past six months, the rabbit hole has wound deeper and deeper.

While the website originally only displayed a map detailing an unseen researcher’s efforts to track seemingly random kidnapping cases from around the world, the site has since evolved. Players have found themselves silent observers to Mark Meltzer’s search for his missing daughter Cindy. Mark’s very research into the missing girls led to his own daughter’s kidnapping and the collapse of his marriage, causing his obsession to take on a more personal nature as he searches frantically for any information that might lead him to his daughter.

As time has gone on and Mark’s search has become more desperate, he has even reached out to players for help. Those who have been willing to write to Mark and offer their assistance have found themselves receiving strange packages in the mail containing children’s drawings or vinyl records that hint at strange monsters and unknown cities. Earlier this month, players around the world who ventured out to specific beaches that Mark indicated would hold a clue to his search discovered champagne bottles full of propaganda from that same mysterious city, buried in the sand as the sun rose on the adventurers who attended the event.

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Purity Towers: Funnel Productions’ Crown Jewel

Purity Towers LogoHave you ever wanted to be Luke Skywalker, a rebel fighting for the cause of the oppressed? How about a master spy, the kind who prefers his martinis shaken, not stirred? If either of these roles tempts you, Funnel Productions has an ARG with your name on it.

Purity Towers offers players a chance to enter a world once tormented by dragons. The People’s Proscript Party and the Grotians, enemies who were brought together by the dragon wars, find themselves suddenly at odds again after decades of peace: and a rebellion of epic proportions is brewing. Add to this interesting plot the fact that players are given the opportunity to pick their role and which side they wish to play for, acting as everything from rebel saboteurs to party reconnoiters, and you will find a rare jewel of a game.

Head to Purity Towers and help the players shape the revolution…but keep an eye out for dragons!

Skynet Research: Resist or be Terminated

skynet_4panelThis past Tuesday, Twitter birds that were following Skynet Research got several frantic messages advising them to ignore the “audio interference” on the Skynet homepage. Skynet, apparently afraid that the Twitter-verse would not get the word out fast enough, followed up with a mass e-mail warning visitors of “technical difficulties” that had created said audio interference while reassuring all that the problem would soon be fixed. Skynet also pointed out that the rumors circulating on resistorbeterminated.com were false and should be disregarded.

Skynet’s calming efforts had quite the opposite effect as visitors flooded both sites, discovering that the audio interference was no interference at all, but rather a distorted message. Upon slowing down the audio, players made a startling discovery: — the audio was, in fact, a message from a military unit named Recon Unit Strider Three reporting in and requesting extraction after coming under fire during a recon mission on Skynet “Tech Com Units.”

Audio interference indeed.

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Skynet Research’s Glowing Gift

skynetswag_01Remember Skynet Research? On Friday the 13th the mysterious Terminator site went live, and users who had previously signed up for updates returned to find a fully functional website with company bios, contact information, testimonials and outreach efforts. There was also a robotic community page that detailed Skynet’s Enhancement Module 101, a product guaranteed to improve the functionality of any robot. Of course, being a proper ARGamer I requested a module with little hope of anything actually happening, but then the whispers started over on the Unfiction forums, where some members claimed they had actually gotten an Enhancement Module in the mail. Incredulous, I went about my business until today, when I found a small box in the mail from Skynet Research.

Tucked inside the box was the Enhancement Module in all its glory. While in all actuality it is just a piece of flickering plastic, I still found myself upset I didn’t have a robot to attach it to. The paperwork seemed to hint at the fact that Skynet would take over any robot that was “enhanced” and I dearly wanted to see the carnage that would follow from such a hostile takeover.

All Enhancement Modules aside, the accompanying paperwork included proof without a doubt that Skynet Research is an ARG for the Terminator: Salvation film that will hit theaters on May 22nd, a date the installation sheet reiterated for its readers. While the puppetmasters acknowledged that the module was a “Thank you” for playing along, they still encouraged players to take part in the ARG and submit user-created videos detailing their newly enhanced robots.

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Mir-12: Viral Marketing for Singularity?

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Once again, YouTube has led to a rabbit hole that seems to go deeper and deeper with each day. A video was uploaded to the site, supposedly a Russian news clip reporting on an assassination attempt on a scientist, as well as the the subsequent shooting of the would-be killer. The newscast points viewers towards an organization named Mir-12, which is believed to be behind the attack. Upon visiting the Mir-12 website, players discovered a blog documenting the actions of Mir-12, a “global community” attempting to uncover a Russian conspiracy concerning an island where Soviet weapons testing took place during the height of World War II.

Mir-12’s founder, an American student, roundly denied any knowledge of the scientist prior to January 16th, the date of the incident documented in the video, and states that the assassin, Natasha Norvikov, was nothing more than a friend helping to uncover the truth behind the mysterious island and the Russian government cover-up. Researching Natasha, players have found more information on the active young woman who had accounts on Flickr and Facebook. Mir-12’s most recent update includes a link to Natasha’s photography work, also discovered and submitted to the site by players.

So, what does it all mean? As one intrepid blogger has already uncovered, Mir-12 seems to be a viral marketing campaign for the upcoming Activision video game Singularity. Some research into Mir-12’s Twitter account shows that certain followers of the Mir-12 Twitter-feed were employees of the DDB Ad Agency, and DDB has worked with Activision in the past. This discovery, coupled with the Singularity trailers, make the coincidences in plot seem much less… coincidental.
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Skynet Research Wants You!

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A recent trailhead discovery could prove very exciting for Terminator fans as it appears to be the beginning of a viral marketing campaign for the upcoming Terminator: Salvation film. Skynet Research has little more than a message claiming that “Skynet Research is Coming,” and registration for e-mail updates but the legitimacy of the site as more than a fan creation is helped by the privacy policy, which links to the website of non other than Warner Bros., the production company behind the Terminator films. There are still three months before Terminator: Salvation hits the big screen on May 22nd, which is plenty of time to give fans a chance to take part in John Connor’s resistance.

Hopefully, more comes of this web site, and when it does, ARGNet will provide updates, so keep watching this site for details.

CommanderVideo: We Barely Knew Ye

commandervideo_01Four days before Christmas, fans of alternate reality games got an early present. A member on the Unfiction forums noticed a strange new video and from there, it seemed that a new ARG had begun. The video, an eerie clip that showed a group of German explorers discovering and being attacked by a partially buried television, got the attention of the message board members who looked towards commandervideo.com for answers.

At the apparent trailhead web site, the rabbit hole wound further down as players began getting correspondence from a being named CommanderVideo, a professed alien life form approaching earth and in need of help. Just as it appeared that the puppet masters were prepared to reveal to gamers the reason for the viral campaign and the ARG that grew out of it, a player found a scan of a recently released Nintendo Power article that did the job for them.

While the Internet gives life to ARGs, it also has the power to take that life away, and the scanned article contributed to this game’s premature end. The Nintendo Power article killed the ARG as it exposed the game CommanderVideo was marketing, Bit.Trip: Beat, and this left players upset and frustrated. The players were not alone in their disappointment as Gaijin Games, the game’s creators, were also frustrated with the premature reveal. With the game effectively over, players questioned what went wrong.

Alex Neuse, the CEO of Gaijin Games, was kind enough to answer those questions and discus the promising ARG, its abrupt demise, and the upcoming release of Bit.Trip: Beat for ARGNet.

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The Creepy Luny Inn

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Taking no break following Transition Village, Funnel Productions released the first episode of “The Myth of the Seeker” today on www.creepylunyinn.com. Funnel’s latest project, the CLN website is home to an online radio drama that promises to give listeners a chance to take part in each episode by voting via Twitter for what they think should be in the upcoming broadcast.

Transition Village players will also get a nice Easter Egg if they follow the Sponsors link at CLN where they will find a certain recently revived character running a successful business.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

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If Warner Bros. can reconcile with Fox in time, you will be able to see The Watchmen in theaters come March 6th. In the meantime, fans can tide themselves over with The New Frontiersman, the online home of Rorschach’s favorite newspaper by the same name.

Whether the site will be home to a full alternate reality game or just a handful of sneak peeks is unknown at this time, but New Frontiersman is due to go live early this week when the evidence seal seen on the homepage is broken and should provide fans with a nice treat either way. Join Rorschach and delve into the conspiracy as it happens.

The Family That Games Together

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“I got it Robbie! I got it,” My mother screamed into my ear. As she excitedly described her prize, my cell phone let out a monotone cry and the line went dead. Next came a knock on my cubicle wall. Looking up, I saw my boss standing in the doorway.

“Robbie, can I speak with you for a second?”

“Sure thing,” I said, stuffing my phone into my pocket, hanging up on my mother as she was calling back, “No problem.”

…..

My mom loves scavenger hunts. There always seemed to be a particular thrill in it for her–the chase, the race against time, the competitive nature of the event. Although she has always loved hunts, mom has always had one problem: her inability to win. Despite years of playing, she had never walked away as the victor, carrying the spoils of war in her triumphant hands.

Perhaps you now understand my hesitation to call her when I learned of Project Abraham‘s last hurrah. As 42 Entertainment wrapped up their immersive viral campaign for the Resistance 2 video game release, they had planned the ultimate ARG event–the coveted Dead Drop. All around the nation twenty satchels were hidden, their coordinates released over a five-day period to anxious players who then scrambled to be the first to reach them.

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A Nice Place to Visit, but…

village_stock.jpgLooking for a haunting thriller to keep your mind occupied? Transition Village, a world that exists between the realm of the living and the dead, calls upon its players to help wayward ghosts settle past accounts and finally find peace. Funnel Production’s newest alternate reality game is a text-based adventure that requires code breaking, imagination, and teamwork.

Getting into the game is a challenge–there are only five “houses” available, and players have to join a waiting list before playing–but once your number is called the fun begins. To join the adventure simply e-mail [email protected] with the subject heading “Request to Enter Village,” and you will soon receive a summons to a village like no other.