Some times ago I posted about Perplex City, an all-but-forgotten treasure-hunt/puzzle game and the mysterious man in a photograph who still haunted the last obsessive players, stuck on the game long after its creators moved on. Will Coldwell narrates how it all came to a close: A mystery cube, a secret identity, and a puzzle solved after 15 years.
Hall is what you could call a completist. She also appreciates how a good story can transform a puzzle into something transportative. Perplex City did just that. Like Alice in Wonderland meets The Matrix, it was conceived as a 21st century version of Masquerade, a puzzle book by Kit Williams that was published in 1979 and contained clues to the location of a golden hare buried somewhere in England. Two decades after Masquerade sparked a national frenzy, Perplex City used the architecture of the internet to construct not just a treasure hunt, but a parallel universe that was accessed via the computer screen. "The thing that drew me to these games, and the immersive genre more broadly, is that the potential for adventure is there, if you're willing to take the leap," Hall says.
It's a wonderful trip to the brief and haunted world of post-millennial ARGs, ruinously expensive as they were to those who invested in them.
There was an online newspaper, The Sentinel, which players could contribute to; a record label, Hesh Records, that released an album; and "living" characters with active blogs. When one character, Violet Kiteway, asked players to write her a book, they published (and sold) an anthology called Tales from the Third Planet. When another, Anna Heath, was murdered, the players delivered 333 origami cranes to the Mind Candy office as a token of remembrance.
Remember when the internet was a million messages in a bottle, clinking together on the high seas?