Slenderman, Jeff the Killer, and Sonic.exe are all well-known creepypastas, “horror-related legends or images that have been copied and pasted around the Internet. These Internet entries are often brief, user-generated, paranormal stories intended to scare readers. They include gruesome tales of murder, suicide, and otherworldly occurrences” (source). As a connoisseur of the strange and the macabre, I thoroughly enjoyed these retellings of Internet urban legends alongside consuming true crime related content and horror films (as you can see by taking a look at my Wicked Horror author profile here). However, the fantasy content of film and of creepypasta always left something to be desired, always left me yearning to experience the thrill of hearing a “true account” of someone dealing with the horrific for longer than the end of a story or movie. It was here that I was introduced to The Sun Vanished and the wonderful world of Alternative Reality Games (ARGs).
The Sun Vanished is a twitter account that was started in April of 2018. I picked up on it in May of 2018 and was engrossed in this presentation of a world that seemed to parallel my own. The user of The Sun Vanished is typically only known as TSV and their account documents their experience of the world without the sun. In one of the earliest tweets from TSV, there is a video that shows a news report voiced over by a woman describing the chaos that has erupted following the random disappearance of the sun. This utterly fascinated me as this was not a telling of a story in a fantasy setting, but a narrative that was both curated by TSV and driven by those who were following and tweeting. Questions about the situation were being answered at the behest of followers and videos soon surfaced from the account, asking users about their opinions and what to do. Polls and questions then emerged as to allow the audience to direct TSV’s actions in a world riddled with mystery and sinister strangers.
What I came to understand while fixated on the world of TSV was that it was an ARG or Alternative Reality Game. Alternative Reality Games are defined as “an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions” (source). This means that people who are watching the action have direct involvement with the narrative, sometimes by asking questions, solving puzzles, or decoding hidden messages. Once I was exposed to TSV (which is still running by the way) I then stumbled upon the broader experience of Alternative Reality Games, a world that I want to share with you. In this three part series, I aim to introduce you to Alternative Reality Games with this first installment, then feature an interview with someone who investigates ARGs, followed by a chat with the creator of one of them.
After discovering TSV, I knew I needed more. Then I found the EverymanHYBRID channel. However, being used to ARGs that functioned on Twitter and only having lurked on the subreddit for TSV (as I am useless when it comes to puzzle solving) I was not ready for the dense, multi-faceted nature of EverymanHYBRID. EverymanHYBRID utilizes found footage style videos on YouTube, various Twitter accounts, Tumblr posts, boxes snail mailed to viewers, newspaper clippings, hidden messages, floppy disks (you read that right), websites that only exist within the context of the game, and so much more. I came to the party fashionably late and I was completely lost. It was then that I found Night Mind, which is a YouTube channel ran by Nick Nocturne, a self described, “shapeshifting demon currently in the form of 4-eyed humanoid black cat monster.”
On Night Mind, Nick investigates various Alternative Reality Games, large and small, breaking them down in chronological order in long form videos that help viewers make sense of the story arc. These videos revealed for me, in the case of EverymanHYBRID, when the story would move from YouTube to Twitter, to Tumblr, and back again in a timeline that was easier to digest. Nick himself is a charming host with a soothing voice who serves as your guide to ARGs, so if you want to do more than dip your toe in the water, I highly recommend his channel to help you get started. More on Nick Nocturne in the next installment, which will feature my interview with him.
Noah Maxwell who made an appearance in EverymanHYBRID is a crossover from another ARG called TribeTwelve. While I shyly came onto the scene with TSV and grew my confidence with EverymanHYBRID and Night Mind, I dove headfirst into TribeTwelve and the series has never let me down. In the first chunk of content, the sheer craftsmanship alongside the eerie nature of the videos by the antagonists actually caused me to sleep with the light on for a couple of nights. I will never forget the first time I watched a beady eyed villain (the featured picture of this article) taunt Noah Maxwell, I gripped my armchair with such force it made my hands sweat. This series affected me in a way that disrupted my life, but it thrilled me in a way that I have never been thrilled before. Alternative Reality Games allow the player to be a part of something that they can actually participate in; a movie without boundaries; a story that lives and breathes alongside its viewers.