A post from GeekTeen John, the Ceceri family resident gamer:
Remember that scene in A Christmas Story where the main character excitingly decodes a message given to him over the radio, only to find that the message tells him to drink more Ovaltine? The Internet is being used as the playground for puzzles like this, called Alternate-Reality Games (ARG). One of the latest ones by Valve Software promotes the soon-to-be released game Portal 2.
The most common form of ARG is a website with hidden clues and messages for players to find. Often a fake Twitter or blog site is set up to help players along. What makes the Portal 2 ARG so unique is that many of the clues are hidden in unrelated indie games on Valve’s game distribution service Steam. A special package containing 13 popular indie games, including Super Meat Boy, Killing Floor, and AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, was released on April 1, and people quickly noticed that each of the games had glyphs (symbols) and hidden files that led to the ARG.
As the ARG has progressed, it has quickly spiraled into an elaborate story. The indie games have been updated so that Aperture Science login screens pop up when certain steps are completed. The developers claim that GLaDOS, the insane computer villain of the Portal games, has taken over their games. Currently many of those developers have “gone missing“; they may have been replaced by robotic facsimiles. All games now have Portal-themed levels and content. All the while, GLaDOS’s true plan is slowly being revealed…
This is one of the best forms of advertising out there when it’s done right, and Valve certainly has done it right. Not only does this increase awareness of Portal 2‘s release, but also encourages players to buy the other smaller titles in order to follow the ARG. Not to mention how the gamer community springs to action when these games start – a wiki and several IRC channels were set up within a day of the ARG’s start.
If you want to get in on this, hurry. The sale on the indie games ends when Portal 2 is released on April 19. If you don’t want to spend the money on the games, but still want to find clues, the wiki is quickly updated with new developments and puzzles for people to solve. Get cracking!