Another case of an alternate reality game antecedents: Ray Johnson's performances, as depicted by How To Draw a Bunny (2002).
As a stager of performances, a player of pranks (sometimes called "nothings"), Johnson's blurring of reality with art pieces is clearly in the ARG vein. The film presents many cases of such boundary games, like an obsession with the sales process, drawn-out gallery showing negotiations, Taoist tricks by mail art (he's often credited as the founder of mail art), mind games by phone. Johnson staging most of his life as performance is a theme running through many of the interviews.
Johnson's death stands out as his major "nothing", with his house arranged into a gallery/game/mausoleum. Some of How To Draw a Bunny's finest moments occur in interviews with the Sag Harbor coroner, visibly creeped out and excited by the extraordinary staging of Johnson's home. Art dealers mix glee with trepidation as they spot tiny art pieces hidden in door hinges, old collages positioned as clues to the suicide, and reminders of the death in works examined a decade later. The viewer must wonder how many clues went unrealized, how many games unplayed, as people refused to attempt to intrepret mail sent to them, or didn't catch on to clues in conversations. What did they miss in Johnson's death house? The recreation of a normal space as an area of epistemic doubt and connection, a story emerging by investigation of distributed items, multiple/overlapping/unforeseen timelines, the proliferation of interpretations nestled doubtfully on the boundary of artifice and daily life - this is a signpost on the way to The Beast.
Back to the film: the focus on Johnson's death might be why some biopic features are lacking. Interviewees wonder about how the artist paid his bills ("I thought he ate air!" says one), yet the fact of his enormous savings isn't mentioned. His sexuality doesn't really appear, beyond hints. The arc of his reputation is barely mentioned, as is port-mortem influence. More pieces for the viewer to assemble.
Many thanks to Richard Liston for pointing this film to me.