Comic-Con has served as the launch platform for more than a few alternate reality games in the past. At the San Diego convention, Why So Serious held its first live event promoting The Dark Knight at the convention in San Diego, using attendees as the Joker’s patsies by getting them to don the criminal’s signature clown make-up and stage minor crimes. Showtime kicked off its Dexter-themed ARG with a scavenger hunt leading to a grisly kill room, while Disney’s Flynn Lives campaign transformed a nearby warehouse into the End of Line Club from Tron: Legacy. While most of these affairs have been major events centered around entertainment properties, Google appears to have shaken up that trend by slipping their Comic-Con launch of the Niantic Project under the radar, only to have it resurface in force this month.
On July 12th, self-proclaimed “ghost comic book artist” Tycho started working the crowds at San Diego Comic-Con near Artist’s Alley, handing out flyers inspired by his inexplicable visions, dominated by scenes of global landmarks and enigmatic encrypted messages about parasitic “Shapers.” As crazy as Tycho seems, the folks at Niantic seem interested in his ramblings.
These visions drove Tycho to confront Flint Dille about hidden messages regarding extra-dimensional portals implanted for decades in Buck Rogers stories, before security threw him out of the convention. A few weeks later, a university professor teaching his students about visualizing portals with cell phone cameras was escorted away from his inattentive audience, but that was largely the end…until earlier this month, when mystery blogger P.A. Chapeau started updating his virtual conspiracy theory corkboard at NianticProject.com.
When it was first announced, Dexter Game On appeared to be nothing more than a fun adventure through the streets of San Diego during Comic-Con, hopefully leading to either Dexter swag or DVDs. However, once players reached the last SCVNGR location, a “kill room” was found containing what appeared to be evidence of torture and murder . . . and several cleverly hidden clues written on the room’s mirrors that lead to the Sleep Superbly site. Upon first entering the room, visitors were shown an introduction video by Dee Pratt, an FBI agent who also goes by the name Serial Huntress, explaining her unique method of crowdsourcing to catch serial killers – the latest one being the “Infinity Killer.” Pratt suspects the Infinity Killer is responsible for the kill room and the murder that apparently occurred within, as the room bears his hallmark, the infinity symbol, on one of the mirrors.
Since then, a lot of activity has occurred, including weekly updates from Serial Huntress on her website; information on the Infinity Killer on the SleepSuberbly site; and even more sites and Twitter feeds . . . and a number of puzzles to solve. To get involved in the hunt, check out the game thread on Unfiction. For a quick summary of the game so far, refer to this excellent post.
When Stephen Sondheim wrote Send in the Clowns, chances are good that he didn’t expect anyone to take him at his word. However, for 140 lucky participants, Friday morning at Comic-Con included a chance to become one of the Joker’s gang. If you haven’t met the Joker, perhaps it’d be best if you brushed up on your vigilante hero folklore. As it turns out, the Caped Crusader wasn’t around to stop the mob from taking over the streets of San Diego, moving effortlessly from location to location, many being aided by associates with Internet access, in an audition to fill one of the coveted slots in the Joker’s army. As it turns out, however, the luckiest of the lucky became real unlucky, real quick. Okay, not really — but it makes for a good comic book ending.
Now that I’ve thoroughly confused those of you that haven’t been following along with the happenings at whysoserious.com, let’s backtrack a bit. First, there were a number of uncommon dollar bills making the rounds at the Con last night, leading to the discovery of a creepy looking web site and a countdown. Next came the end of the countdown earlier today (10 am PDT) and a clue for the throngs of people ready for something big to happen. Once the game was on, it was a race that required a coordinated effort between those on the ground and people on the ‘net (unless you carried a Wifi-enabled device with you along the way) that took players to eight different checkpoints over 100 minutes of game play.
A quick update, for those following along at home: The countdown on whysoserious.com has ended, and a large group of participants have begun to play along with what appears to be a treasure hunt/puzzle trail. Those active on the ground need to either have Internet access, or help from friends that are able to solve online clues. A toll-free number (1-800-395-9646) was given to players at the Con, which leads to the next step in the trail (audio can be heard here). You can watch progress and play along at the following web sites:
Trailhead (you need the code from the audio delivered through the 800 number) Surveillance Wannabes (not sure what this is for yet, although chances are it will be a leaderboard of some kind)
Stay tuned — there will be more to come, including a summary of the day’s events, later on ARGNet.
Comic-Con 2007 has arrived, and our roving reporter Celina Beach is at the event, ready for the action to start. This year’s event includes attendees many alternate reality gaming fans will be keeping tabs on, including J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse of the hit TV show Lost. If you remember, it was this time last year when Rachel Blake, a character in The Lost Experience, confronted panel members about their involvement with the Hanso Foundation. We don’t expect the same sort of large-scale ARG event to take place with this year’s Lost, but you never know.
Abrams will be serving double duty at the Con, as he will also be discussing the upcoming movie Star Trek movie. However, there are rumblings across the blogosphere that he will shed a little light into the 1-18-08 mystery that began with a pre-roll movie trailer earlier this month.
With Celina blogging and Tweeting from the event, we will have up-to-the-minute coverage if any ARG-related news breaks through the course of the next few days, so bookmark ARGNet and check back regularly.