More ARG Curiosity

Seems like a lot of people are curious about the Da Vinci Code puzzles, if my referral statistics are any indication. So for all of you coming here looking for information, I’ll just direct you to the links in the post below (and the comments thereof).

But I did want to mention something I discovered in my preliminary research on this topic. Turns out that I participated (if only briefly) in an “Alternate Reality Game” right around the same time (Spring/Summer 2001) as the infamous “Beast.” But at the time, I didn’t really realize that it was as complex as it actually was, probably because I wasn’t aware of the online community pursuing it (as compared with the much larger and higher-profile “Cloudmakers” solving the Beast).

A lot of people remember the BMW Films promotion a few years back. For those of you who don’t remember, they were a series of short films — directed by top-name or up-and-coming directors — that were basically commercials for various BMW vehicles. The films would all be viewable only online, and would require high-speed ’net access (which most of BMW’s target market would naturally have).

The films were pretty damn good — one hell of a lot better than one would have any reason to expect — and had the distinct honor of introducing the largely-unknown Croupier star Clive Owen to American audiences (if only a limited segment of those audiences).

Interwoven throughout the films, however, was a continuing series of shorts directed by Ben Younger, called the “substories.” These films would effectively occur between the other films, following a completely separate storyline that would (if only vaguely) overlap with the events of the main films. Throughout these films were a series of briefly-featured “clues,” such as an airline ticket stub, a website scribbled on a piece of paper, and a phone number. I first got the idea of investigating when I noticed that the phone number was not a generic “555” number, but an actual New York City number.

So I called.

A strange voice on the answering machine tipped me off that this was not some continuity editor’s gaffe, but was in fact a deliberate insertion. Combining clues from the phone call and the website, I dug a little deeper...

... and eventually gave up. After all, I didn’t exactly have the free time to pursue this on my own, and I wasn’t aware of anyone who could help out with some of the more obscure puzzle solutions.

As it turns out, of all the people who made such preliminary investigations, only about 250 completed the entire journey and made it to the endgame (a year and a half later): A real-world hunt through the streets of Las Vegas, called “Uncap the Ride.” The event (assuming you could follow all of the clues and find the final destination) culminated in a grand prize giveaway: a brand-new BMW Z4.

Damn. Maybe I should have kept at it.


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