skullgroup2.jpgTed Allen might be the only person protecting this world from death and destruction. Then again, he might be the person who will bring about our doom. I’m not talking about that suave Queer Eye co-host Ted Allen, although I do consider his cuisine to be earth-shatteringly delicious. No, I’m talking about the character in Doom Skull (alternatively titled Thirteen Crystal Skulls), a grassroots alternate reality game that has gathered a dedicated following over the last two months.

Doom Skull follows the search for thirteen legendary crystal skulls from outer space that may be responsible for the destruction of Atlantis. With the aid of “The Chosen” — four people cursed with the ability to communicate with the skulls — players prove their worthiness to each skull by solving a variety of puzzles. So far, they’ve successfully collected seven of the thirteen skulls. But now, Ted Allen is warning the masses that helping the skulls will lead to a cataclysm of epic proportions, so the players must decide how to proceed.

Exploring the Doom Skull universe is like taking a romp through an alternate reality gaming tutorial. Each skull has its own unique method of communication, ranging from Britskull‘s steganographic images, to Skyskull‘s pig latin, to Goldenskull‘s chessboard cipher. Not all puzzles are “traditional” ARG fare, though. Skyskull had the players work on a jigsaw puzzle, Goldenskull sent a crossword puzzle, and Roseskull had participants collecting image files from past websites, characters, and other players. Since each skull seems to have a distinct personality, these often lighthearted challenges help complement the overall character of the game.

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