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So, as you probably figured, Angelman and I went out tonight, in Los Angeles, to the first live interactive moment of the YEAR ZERO ARG. I received an email from "Neil", stating that individuals that wanted to take part in a meeting of Open Source Resistance (the organization that spawned the "Art Is Resistance" movement in the game world of the ARG) should meet at the new mural found in Los Angeles, and get materials from the marked van.


As you can see, Angelman was ready for action.

As was I. Now, this was the moment in the game I had been waiting for since it first became clear this was an ARG we were dealing with. The moment where the websites and we'd been reading finally bleed over into our real lives. This is the moment the geek in me was excited about, when we're actually taking part in something fictional, yet real-world... where we can actually "play" this game in our real lives -- not just hiding behind a computer screen and reading text that somebody has written and published, but TRULY interact.

Last night I stayed up late, making my AiR gear (they said wear something so we can recognize you, after all), and with my large AiR armband pinned on, I left work a half hour early to hit the rendezvous point.


I made it there at 7, as request by the email. The van had just arrived, and Angelman and I got in line. We got the below supercool ammo boxes full of tagging materials, as I'm sure you've all read about by now:


Althought the shit is VERY cool, I was a little let down -- I had anticipated directions to this "meeting", a puzzle or mission we'd have to go on (tagging something in Hollywood, who knows?) In any event, I had been excited for playing this game finally, really becoming a part of it --- not just promotional materials.

We were about to leave when Angelman pointed out the girl next to me, and the cell phone she had in her box:


This phone came in the boxes that had been marked with a red star, and included instructions about the "meeting" we were all emailed about; the cell phone is the person's "membership card" to the resistance, and they're going to get a call about the first meeting, which will take place this Wednesday the 18th, and if they're over 18 they and a friend can come.

Pretty cool, right? Some folks are saying secret show; I hope it's something even more clever and in-game than that. But how did this person get the phone?

Turns out that long before seven o'clock, somebody, when everybody was hanging about, distributed buttons. Some people got yellow buttons, some white. If you got a yellow button, you got a cell phone box. And aparently, you needed to be "showing something so they could recognize you" for you to get the yellow button.

Not to be rude here guys, but WHAT THE FUCK? The email specifically said, "If you're interested, show up at the Melrose location at or a little after 7pm..." Why then, would they decide to hand out these buttons before the players were supposed to arrive? Particularly given the "Don't attract attention" warning -- quite honestly, NOBODY should have been there prior to 7, much less hanging out in a sea of black-clad Hot Topic angst. Was the idea here not to reward those who were paying attention and playing the game, and to instead give entry to the next stage of the game to those who just showed up because it was a NIN event that they found out about that afternoon from a friend (and believe me, a good number of people there were exactly that).

That's not even speaking to the fact that many of those that got yellow buttons weren't sporting gear -- unless you consider a hastily stuck sticker (that they got from somebody there) on a white t-shirt to be "sporting gear".

I'm sure the intent behind it all was to have people arrive at the designated time, those that were playing along would be wearing AIR insignias, and they would receive the yellow buttons and get to play the next portion of the L.A. live game. But when the move was made to hand out the buttons early, this was thrown in the shitter, the game ceased to become about paying attention or playing smart, and became about blind luck, and the people that had been PLAYING ALONG THE ENTIRE TIME got shafted, big time.

Now, I know this sound like sour grapes. I'm sure Trent would have a comment about whiny Internet bitchery, and to a degree, he'd be right. I mean, I've had more than my fair share of great breaks in being a fan of Nine Inch Nails -- even scoring his microphone back in San Diego. I've been a fan for 15 some years now, and I've got some great experiences that go with that.

But this wasn't supposed to be just about the band. This was supposed to be about this new art form of the ARG. And though the cell phone business is inspired, the way it was handled was, quite simply, a disappointment. Would it have been THAT difficult for the people handling the handouts to simply follow the rules they themselves had set up? Or to just check for AiR logos on people that came up? So that people that had played properly could get the admission pass to the next layer of the game?

My biggest fear going into today was high expectations, because I'm a game geek from way back -- I'm the kid that obsessed over Infocom games in my youth, and thus far, the Year Zero ARG has been the closest thing to that. I think what Trent, Rob, and the guys at 42 Ent. have put together has been compelling in a way I never would have anticipated. I worried I would emotionally invest in the game, get in the character mindset, create a costume so I could be a member of the resistance, and then have the whole thing simply be a fat guy from Interscope handing out stickers.

It wasn't that bad by any means, and I'm sure it looked great on paper, but it sadly wasn't in practice. With MTV there, and people giving interviews about "this brilliant viral marketing campaign, blahblahblah...", well, it frankly ruined any posssible suspension of disbelief. Not that I expected much, but maybe, just for a second, I thought that everybody would be in it for the game, and not to just be the obsessive NIN fans we all can be.

I suppose I've learned my lesson, and in the future, I'll know the routine -- forget the rules given to you, ignore the world of the game; just act like you're trying to get on the rail through the Spiral Entrance and get there as early as possible, and you'll get all the cool rewards.

Because paying attention and giving a shit will only get you excluded. That, and a pretty sweet box with a stencil in it.

Problem is, I don't need a stencil, because I already made one myself. Because I just wanted a chance to play the game.

Edit: It has come to my attention that Steve Peters, Game Designer extraordinaire at 42 Entertainment, was the one that actually handed out the buttons to people yesterday, pretty much right after 6pm. Steve, this is my first 42 game, and up until now it has been amazing, but whatever reason made you decide to do the whole button giveaway thing at the time you did was simply wrong. Maybe you're not familiar with NIN fans, maybe you just wanted to start your weekend; maybe you and Trent were going to catch Grindhouse later that night; I don't know. But the net result is you squandered the coolest part of the game thus far on a bunch of people that didn't know what the fuck was going on, and let down a good number of people who were there, both as fans of the band and fans of this experience, that wanted to participate in this portion of it, and because you broke the trust between Storyteller and Audience, they -- we -- won't get that chance.

Edit 4.15.07: So yesterday the phones started ringing, and people who answered were vigorously questioned -- in character -- as to where they got the phones, their knowledge of OSR, etc. While I still feel the way the dispersal of the phones was handled was a bit of a disappointment, this next level of play is exactly what I was hoping was in store -- so kudos to everyone at 42 and the NIN camp, for continuing to deliver a great game experience. I hope we all get more oppportunities for this type of interaction as the game progresses.

Edit 4.16.07: MTV thought we kicked so much ass, they put us on the front page of their photo gallery. Oh, and my armband got a close-up too. Guess who's not Resistance enough to get into the secret meeting now, bitches???

Posted by Gabriel in gabriel's_ponderings | Permalink


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Aw bummer! I'm an old school LARP player from way back (remember Mage, Changeling and Vampire the Masquerade?). If I were anywhere near L.A. I'd have been there too (with my handmade screen printed AIR gear on).

I should organize some resistance here in bumfuck boredville. Maybe I'll find some cool people who like NIN.

I never seem to find them during the light of day. Maybe they only come out at night.

Posted by: Tessah | Apr 13, 2007 10:16:03 PM

Well said, brother.

I am not at all the obsessive fan that Gabriel is but even I was a little disappointed.

By the time I got there I was ready for whatever - but having it be a kind of event where I felt like a disposable tool in a marketing campaign instead of like a resistance supporter in "the game" was a bummer. I didn't expect to be Michael Douglas in a Fincher flick but... the game is SO carefully crafted in the digital world that I hoped some degree of authenticity in the real world part would be achieved. I wanted to play. Don't get me wrong - the box thing is cool, and a nice little bit of memorabilia to sit up there with my now-growing HALO collection - but as a "game" they dropped the ball.

I do look sweet in my outlaw gear and ninja panties though, don't I?

Posted by: Angelman | Apr 13, 2007 10:21:41 PM

Awwww, this is the saddest gabriel's_pondering EVER!

I agree with you that the distribution of the super-secret cool cell phone stuff was badly handled. What they should do is make these sorts of events smaller, so you don't have the mob of 500 NIN fans all in one place.

Give out the meet-up info only to people on the mailing list...break them up into different groups so that the crowd isn't too huge.

Or...hide shit throughout the city so that only people playing the game would find it.

But cheer up, Charlie...you'll get the golden ticket eventually.

Posted by: maise | Apr 13, 2007 10:27:41 PM

Angelman, you look straight-up dangerous. Like you're about to knock over a Hot Topic.

Posted by: maise | Apr 13, 2007 10:33:58 PM

Bitch of it is - there were only like... MAYBE 60-70 people there. And only a handful got the red star boxes. Honestly what kind of secret meeting will it be without Gabriel and I there? We were ready for some real Fight Club shit - not Mtv!

Posted by: Angelman | Apr 13, 2007 10:35:37 PM

Maise, you're right.

I'd be like "gimmie all the cash in the register, that studded belt buckle, the fishnet shirt and the hello kitty purse and no one gets hurt."

it'd be funnier if I didn't used to have a fishnet shirt.

Posted by: Angelman | Apr 13, 2007 10:41:22 PM

You know, for these kinds of giveaway events, you need to recruit The Hot 23-year-old Girl with the Tits. They'll always get the all-access, super-secret special shit.

Or dress Gabriel up as The Hot 23-year-old Girl with the Tits. That's even better.

Posted by: maise | Apr 13, 2007 10:42:28 PM

And you didn't wear the fishnet shirt tonight? Well, no-the-fuck-wonder you two got shafted! Jesus!

Posted by: maise | Apr 13, 2007 10:43:41 PM

Gabriel I'm sorry this didn't pan out to all your hopes and dreams. Damn that Trent and all that could have been.

I can totally feel you on being pissed as hell. This game has a hell of a lot of potential but some suspension of disbelief is necessary. That almost makes me wonder if NIN is too big of a name to do this kind of thing. It's nice that it's populated enough to have minions figuring out the shit I don't have time for but that also means that the mediocre followers have easy access to the cool shit and sites, too. But that doesn’t mean that the “ring leaders” should encourage them either.

Angelman that bandanna is fierce. Real American Badass.

Posted by: Iris | Apr 13, 2007 10:44:56 PM

And I <3 ninja panties...

Posted by: Iris | Apr 13, 2007 10:48:00 PM

Oh the fishnet shirt is real and was worn during live shows between 1998-2002, just ask Gabriel...

Posted by: Angelman | Apr 13, 2007 10:56:13 PM

Post Pictures, Angelman. And you know ones I mean, Mr. F.D.

Posted by: Gabriel | Apr 13, 2007 11:00:54 PM

Gabriel you fucking comment teaser. Get your ass online with Maise and me!

Posted by: Iris | Apr 13, 2007 11:04:47 PM

Yeah, we CST girls can't stay up all night!

Posted by: maise | Apr 13, 2007 11:16:41 PM

Here's a live shot of the Angelman of yore.

Yes, that is a mesh shirt. Yes, you're all wet now.

Posted by: Gabriel | Apr 13, 2007 11:27:38 PM

Oh, and by the way, in case anybody was wondering, the way the Year Zero ARG event today was handled was BULLSHIT.

Joking aside, why should any of us be inclined to participate in the game if the people on the street level are just going to abitrarily change the rules? Maybe the plan was originally to hand out buttons at 7pm and they decided to jump the gun because so many folks had lined up already; I dunno.

Either way, it's completely killed my enthusiasm -- it's turned a cool interactive experience that one plays and interacts with, and turned it into yet another random radio handout lottery experience.

I hope from here on out the folks running these events choose to stick by their own rules, because to be frank -- most of the people out there didn't have a fuck all about the game, and just wanted some free shit. THAT'S the audience you cater to by giving the Early Liner Ups all the benefit. Many people had only heard about the event this afternoon, likely thanks to ETS.

If there is a game to be played here, people looking to play the game will need to be included -- nay, they will be REQUIRED. Otherwise the whole thing will collapse under the weight of fan disinterest when they realize they're not going to get Trent to personally call them on those fucking cell phones.

Posted by: Gabriel | Apr 13, 2007 11:34:46 PM

Does that shirt chafe your nipples? It looks like it would.

Posted by: maise | Apr 13, 2007 11:36:04 PM

Strangely, no - that shot is from a stop on the '02 tour in Boise... needless to say the crowd wasn't feeling the fishnet shirt, nor were they feeling the oversized blue robe I wore early in the set. Shit I miss those days...

Worst show in the run... every other show was better...

Posted by: Angelman | Apr 13, 2007 11:41:18 PM

How you can call any show where the band's frontman is wearing a fishnet shirt and blue cookie monster rob "the worst" is beyond me.

Posted by: Gabriel | Apr 13, 2007 11:43:09 PM

You know, if the Year Zero ARG were awesome, you'd get an email that says the following:

"Dear Open Source Resistance Member:

Your assistance is urgently required. Trent Reznor has arranged for himself to be handcuffed, covered in a burlap sack, wrapped in chains, and placed in a tank full of water and live sharks that has been buried somewhere in the city of Los Angeles. Follow the clues to find him and rescue him. ..---...----..-.--.---..."

Posted by: maise | Apr 13, 2007 11:43:22 PM

That shirt looks like all kinds of potential nipple problems. Definitely wouldn’t want to be bra-less in it. Nipple rings caught in mesh. YIKES and OWWIE!

Posted by: Iris | Apr 13, 2007 11:44:40 PM

Well, if it was ran the way today's was, that would also have a statement on there about "You have until 7pm to save Trent!"

And then you'd find Trent at 6:55, only to discover that they decided to kill him about an hour earlier just to fuck with you.

Posted by: Gabriel | Apr 13, 2007 11:46:07 PM

No, you'd find him at 6:55 only to discover that they had already handed the key to the final padlock to the Hot 23-year-old Girl with The Tits, just because she happened to be standing there, being hot.

Posted by: maise | Apr 13, 2007 11:49:55 PM

And don't forget that MTV would be there to cover the whole story.

Posted by: Iris | Apr 13, 2007 11:50:11 PM

Let me clarify something for you, Maise.

There were no hot girls there, getting cell phone boxes.

I don't want to be rude to anybody, but other than the nice girl that let us take pics of her cell phone, it was quite the OPPOSITE sort of situation.


Posted by: Gabriel | Apr 13, 2007 11:56:57 PM

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