Sunday, April 4, 2004

So, what was the mini-series? (3 of 3)

A couple years ago, there were some motions in the direction of "immersive fiction" -- I think the best known attempt was "Majestic," but the first was the game that was built-up around the movie "A.I." (The game was never officially named, although it was unofficially known as "The Beast.") I spent a summer playing it -- and while it, of course, involved the relatively standard game-playing elements of solving puzzles to find directions to the next location (in this case, websites) -- the game also aimed to intrude on reality in such a way that you'd never know what was game and what was real. Its websites weren't just game sites -- you'd find them by googling -- so whenever you found a new site, you wouldn't be positive whether it was a game site or just a real world coincidence. The game emailed you. It faxed you. On some notable occasions, it telephoned. You met other players in person and never REALLY knew who there was a game player and who was a hired actor playing a role IN the game.

I mean, while playing this game, I found myself in a dimly lit ladies' room in a bar looking for a clue we'd been told would be in the bathroom. I'm aiming my little pocket flashlight all over the graffitti in the john, asking myself, "Is this the clue? Is this the clue?" -- when it was all just normal bathroom wall writing. At the very best moments of this game, I had a feeling of total uncertainty, where I was actually questioning my reality.

And it wasn't until I sat here watching "The One Game" this week that I realized this British cult TV mini-series I'd enjoyed fifteen years ago was actually a grandparent of the game I enjoyed playing some ten years later. I just love it when loose ends in my memory link up.


annalisa135 said...

how did you find out about 'the beast'? how long did you play it? did you ever finish it? if so, what was the outcome? actually sounds kind of fun. does it still exist? not that i'm running out to join, just curious! smiling. i have enough to do as it is, without checking out bathroom stalls! LOL

nzforme said...

At the end of an early preview of "A.I." there was a screen that said "Summer 2001" -- in each letter there was a number of notches. If you counted up the notches, they made a phone number. Call the number and it's a puzzle... I played The Beast all summer -- they sorta had to end it early when the movie tanked. It is archived in great detail at