Checking Back with Arcanum

Alternative reality games are puzzle filled adventures that enhance the creative minds of players. Worlds are created and players attempt to unravel the secrets of the ARGs. The goal is to discover what the significance is at the end. What does it all mean? A player has to have all parts of the story to solve the final questions. ARGs that have already ended enable players to reach the ending. They have access to all the necessary clues to solve. Ongoing ARGs have players asking what the meanings are because new information is being presented at a consistent rate.

In our Transmedia Fiction class, we were told to archive what was present for certain ARGs. I was responsible for archiving the Arcanum ARG. The Arcanum ARG started in late January 2016 when a website was posted concerning a new interactive mystery game. The game advertised that it is a “vast experience that blurs the lines between fact and fiction.” The ARG provided two options for players. They could either subscribe to receive online clues through email or purchase a premium subscription to receive physical clues. The premium experience was stated to take about thirty days to complete while the online experience was said to still be ongoing. I was able to engage in the online experience while the ARG unfolded. Firstly, online players were sent to the orderofarcanum website where they were presented with various pages with mysteries attached. Each page had code embedded for players to try to solve. The home page is an introduction to The Order of Arcanum. The page starts with:

I extend my congratulations to you. I am pleased to reveal that Providence has granted you the rare opportunity to become an Initiate in The Order of Arcanum. We are an ancient secret society, our existence unknown to most, with a membership comprised of exceptional persons deeply committed to the ideals upon which the Order was founded. Our origins stretch back to the dawn of human civilization. Every twenty years, we choose a class of new Initiates to join the Order of Arcanum to continue the work begun by our forefathers, and to comprise the next generation of Members of the Order.

The page also involves the use of Latin as messages for players to decode. A Rot 25 code is also present on the page. One section of the Latin messages translates to “Knowledge is power. His worshipers’ knowledge crowns.” At the bottom of the page, there is a message as follows, “Bc fypsejp hfofsjt ivboj bc jnnfnpsbcjmjt, Bsdbovn.” The message is a Rot 25 code that translates to “mystery of humanity from time immemorial from the beginning,” The next page includes an email that has Ben Franklin’s magic square. The email is sent to Emma Sharpe from James Blusson and Dr. Sharpe page is directly after.

Her page involves a picture stating that she works for Archon Genomics and is a Senior Geneticist. Lastly, there is a Washington Post article called “Warning Earthlings of Atomic Dumps” by T.R. Reid. The article was dated to be published on November 11, 1984 and it includes annotations from however was reading it at the time. Areas are circled and references to Mayan creation myths are made. With a little searching, we found that the article was real because it has been used in various academic literature as a citation.

This is all we were able to find as of the end of February 2016. Then, there was limited information but we knew that the ARG was based on scientific research mysteries, but what we saw wasn’t really enough to give a conclusion. In fact, it was just the beginning of the ARG. I wanted to check back in April 2016 to see what was different and what new mysteries unfolded.

I am a part of the email list; however, I never received the first email. The creators told many players that didn’t receive emails to go straight to the orderofarcanum website for most of their information. The ARG is supposed to be ongoing and emails are supposed to be sent every once and a while that enhance the quest towards the end. I haven’t received any new emails concerning new puzzles to solve, so I went on forums to see what new things appeared to players. I found that subscribers of the physical ARG had started to receive their first packages that included newspapers, articles, and business cards. However, many forums only stated that people had received their packages. No one scanned the items that were in the packages. So, I wasn’t able to see any of those clues. I later found out that online followers were sent to the Archon Genomics website that went through introduction about the company and what the company is researching. It involves a place to contact the group and frequently asked questions about genomes. In the upper right hand corner, the website cautions that, “ATTENTION: The Archon Genomics facility is currently operating under a Level One Security Protocol. Public access to large sections of this website is restricted until further notice.” I decided to try using Wayback Machine to try and find out what the website had taken away but it told me that it was unable to do so because the page wasn’t archived. This makes me believe that the website hasn’t changed and that the message is a clue of some sort.

This is all I have found so far for the ARG. I started out with archiving it for the class’s project and my groups had many questions that we wanted answers to. Looking back at a later date, I still have a lot of questions. Overall, the ARG seems to give out information at a slower pace, so it might be best to check back even later to see a rise in mysteries to solve. However, currently there isn’t much difference with when we started archiving Arcanum.