The Matrix game: introduction
(edited slightly; fuller intro text to come)
Some might recall "The Beast," an elaborate game-cum-marketing conspiracy for the very lame movie A.I. This game positioned a rich, interlinked, and often sneaky series of texts, clues within other documents, Web sites, and even voicemail messages, which were pieced together and developed into a narrative by thousands of curious netizens around the world. I've been describing this as collaborative, distributive, interactive, mystery storytelling, and consider it a new form of writing; others use the pithier and delightfully-abbreviated term Alternate Reality Game. For more background, there's a New York Times intro, Sci-fi Wire's sketch, Ain't It Cool's coverage, along with the Yahoo discussion forum for the biggest collaborative group around the game, Cloudmakers.
A new one has emerged on the Web, during the past few days. It supports the new Matrix movie, but there's no need to hit the official site.
Let me offer you two ways in.
You can dive in by exploring the mysterious pieces of the game which have surfaced in collaborative exploration. There's the Metacortex company home page (note the spelling of the URL), a firm specializing in a variety of cyberproducts. Metacortex employee-of-the-month Beth McConnell has her own personal/research site, where you can read about her interest in the paranormal. Metacortex publishes MetaOffice Suite, and is soon to roll out a new virtual reality tool, MetaVRX, while also developing a new personal productivity/knowledge management product, Metadex. One pw-protected Metadex site points you to two missing persons sites, he is missing and she is missing; each has built by MetaOffice Suite's Web authoring product ("content="MetaCortex MetaPage V1.0.3 for Windows""). Meta's partnered with an undersea hotel construction project, Aquapolis, and also with Underscore Web Hosting. Underscore, in turn, hosts several interesting sites, including the Cascade Vortex. PaintOver is a cryptic site, playing the unusual, fourth-wall-breaking role of also hosting a discussion forum devoted to cracking its secrets.
Or you can see what players have discovered so far. The Metacortex Conspiracy offers solid information. Down the Rabbit Hole presents the players' progress so far. Matrix Information Collection is just that, db-driven, with updated data on the timeline, characters, etc. The Unfiction Forum site has probably the richest, best discussion. The Last Free City also hosts a discussion. Metacortex: Unlock the Mysteries has a good narrative account of their exploration.
Narrative pieces are beginning to emerge. Metacortex and Underscore claim they were under serious network attacks last week. Metacortex has had a change of CEO (check out the last exec's directory entry). As with any good mystery, several people are missing: that previous Meta CEO, along with the so-far unnamed she and he.
I suspect the paranormal thread will point to anamolies revealing our world as the Matrix.
How is this developing? Interesting people explore the sites, much like a mystery novel or interactive fiction, piecing together clues. New information emerges, which leads explorations forward: passwords and logins are guessed and tests, phone numbers called, emails sent, characters discovered, Web site source code studied, literary references considerd, terms googled, images studied in painstaking detail, Flash movies decompiled, a screensaver scrutinized, Perl scripts written, changes to Web pages monitored, and several languages translated.
I'll try to blog developments here, time permitting.
(thanks to Gabor Por!)