EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a planned series of editorials exploring horror- and dark-themed ARGs from a number of different perspectives.
The saccharine lyrics and cheerful smiles of the popular Japanese pop group “Dessart” hide a dark secret: coded messages hidden within stage performances, websites, and promotional posters for the band lead concerned individuals to a cult inciting mass suicides among Japan’s disaffected youth. This is not a game. No, really — this time it really isn’t a game. Rather, it’s Japanese director Sion Sono’s award-winning film Jisatsu Circle. The movie paints a dark picture of what could happen within the alternate reality gaming industry.
Viewers never find out what drove Dessart to embed messages encouraging suicide within their seemingly upbeat music, but with song titles like Mail Me, it’s not too improbable to assume it was a viral marketing ploy gone awry.
This raises a question relevant outside the realm of fiction: what level of responsibility do PMs have over actions their players take?