As the title would suggest, today we are going spelunking into the biggest internet rabbit holes of 2017. So, hold onto your tinfoil hats, this one will keep us all busy for months.
Poppy came onto the scene in 2014, releasing a series of bizarre videos that at first glance, seemed innocent and random for the sake of being random. However, upon closer inspection, the videos appear to have a theme, and a message. While the true message seems unclear – other than to mock idolatry – Poppy herself seems to be a living parody of today’s pop stars, and potentially, celebrities as a whole. What makes this even stranger, is the fact that she was signed by a very real record label, and even has a verified Vevo channel, despite her entire persona being a commentary on pop stars selling their souls for fame.
People have come to all sorts of conclusions about Poppy’s agenda, ranging from a simple art project, all the way up to being a full-blown member of the Illuminati. Some folks have even dug a little deeper to find that every video that she has uploaded has been directed by a guy named Titanic Sinclair. Many of the themes and cryptic messages found in Poppy’s videos are also found in Sinclair’s, which only adds to the mystery of the ARG. The videos from the pair create an unsettling feeling, one that demands that we all keep watching. Poppy releases videos with consistent regularity, and this shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
Cicada 3301 started in January of 2012, with their sole goal being to “recruit intelligent individuals.” Many are unsure if this organization is a well-crafted alternate reality game, or a recruitment tool for the CIA, NSA, or worse. Each year since 2012, they have released new puzzles for the general public to solve each January, with the exception of 2015 and 2017.
Cicada 3301 has been discussed at length just about everywhere on the internet, but the reason it makes this list is because in April of 2017, they released a new PGP-signed message to the world. “Beware false paths. Always verify PGP signature from 7A35090F,” which signifies that they are still going strong, and still recruiting. Recruiting for what? No one really knows. Whether this is a cult, a secret society, government agency, or just an elaborate ARG, the only way to have a chance of understanding their agenda, is by trying to solve their puzzles.
Waking Titan is a brand new ARG that began at the end May of 2017, and it looks to be a massive undertaking. It began with a tweet from ARGNET, which stated that they have begun hearing “whisperings,” of a new project to come in June of the same year. Since then, a wiki has been developed for the ARG, as well as several Discord servers, and it also received its own thread on Unfiction Forums.
What makes this ARG particularly interesting is that a message was sent to a moderator on Unfiction Forums from the architects of the game itself, describing it as the following: “It’s the countdown to a new, large-scale ARG launching this summer, starting with 16 radio stations across the world. It’s being produced by veteran puppet masters and includes NPCs, actors, live events and much more.” Which, is something that is reminiscent of “The Jejune Institute.” Of course, not much is known about the organization as of right now, but you can find a map of radio stations somehow connected to the ARG from their website.
Eckva began in October of 2016 – the successor of Marble Hornets and Clear Lakes 44 – after a member of the Clear Lakes 44 creative team went their separate way, leaving the project behind, which solidified Eckva’s status as an ARG. Eckva, at the time of this article, is a series of digitally manipulated “found footage,” with infomercials, recruitment videos, and pharmaceutical propaganda, riddled with hidden messages to the viewer.
It has the same eerie feel to it as the original Marble Hornets, though there is no apparent antagonist like in Marble Hornets, other than Eckvanet themselves. The protagonist, or uploader, seems to have a lapse in memory, which is a major throwback to the old days of Marble Hornets, and could potentially exist in the same universe. The only question is, is this a sequel, or its own entity entirely? I wouldn’t rule out the appearance of Slenderman just yet. In fact, this very well could be his origin story.
Forgotten Languages can make anyone’s head hurt just by visiting the site. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, and we can’t be entirely sure if it’s an ARG or not, which is how the best ARGs operate. Warning: This one is very in depth.
There is quite a bit about hermetic alchemy, Gnosticism, religion, and even information regarding aliens, space tech, and human consciousness studies. The articles on the website are largely sourced, with academic journals, government reports old books, all corroborating what is said in the articles. What’s odd about this ARG is that it appears to have been operating for over ten years, uploading text or videos daily.
The website is comprised of several languages that the organization has created themselves, using bits and pieces from old or dead languages, as well as pieces from modern ones to create brand new languages. These languages act as encryption for the information hosted on their website. What that information is in its entirety? Everyone is still trying to figure that out.
Away Glitch Swan
This ARG started as “The 7,” back in September of 2016 then changed their name to “Away Glitch Swan,” which is an anagram for “always watching.” What they’re always watching, or watching for? Your guess is as good as ours. The channel releases videos frequently, and it seems they always involve some sort of symbolism, or a puzzle. A lot of them can be solved using sonic visualizers, spectrograms, or online decoders, but the vast majority remain unsolved.
The channel refers heavily to change for the future, and leans on religion and political connotations to get their messages across in the bits that have been solved by the communities working on them. Another weird aspect of this ARG, is that it references the “Red Queen,” a lot, using the voice from “Resident Evil.” We’re not sure about the relation of the “Red Queen,” to this ARG yet, but it seems to be a running theme. One of the big problems with this ARG is that they often delete or hide their videos for long periods of time, sometimes permanently, so you have to subscribe and stay vigilant to catch everything. Which, I believe was their original intent.
Tengri 137 is an organization devoted to bettering the world by creating “free energy,” using the best and latest in math, science, and engineering. They have released their “plans,” through their primary outlet, Twitter, and they use guerrilla marketing to get their ARG out to the masses. Most of their clues from the ARG itself come in the form of pastebin dumps, which are all PGP signed by the group themselves. They also insist that you physically, and digitally mail their agenda to media outlets across the world.
A lot of people are drawing comparisons between Cicada and Tengri 137, though at the moment, there is nothing connecting these two entities, aside from the way they deliver announcements. The ultimate goal of this ARG remains largely unknown, aside from their outline for humanity, but it is gaining a healthy following quickly.
Hell is another brand-new ARG without much substance, yet. When you go to their website, you are greeted with a GIF of a vibrating man standing still in a sea of cloaked beings. You only have two options on the page, which are “enter,” and “part 2.” Choosing “enter,” you are led to a page with a GIF of choppy seas, and an overcast sky to the tune of calming music. If you inspect the element on the page, you’ll find this hidden text: “If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him/her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate. Yea, all things live forever, though at times they sleep and are forgotten. This time I wouldn’t forget him, because I couldn’t ever forgive him – for breaking my heart twice. Go ahead, feel free to forget. You already forgave.”
A click on “part 2” reveals a creepy looking rabbit, with words across the front that need to be decoded. This time, the music is a lot more unsettling, and darker. If you inspect the elements on this page, you’ll find this: “A word of advice: Do not believe your eyes. Put it together. The order of the values is your next destination token. The truth is always present, regardless of one’s ignorance.” So, the rest is up to the visitor. Where it leads is anyone’s guess.
SeventyBroad is another Youtube ARG, or at least I hope it is. It follows a young man who has killed someone and is now on the run after committing the crime. It blurs the lines between “game,” and “reality.” It’s a very well done self-documentary style series, and has amassed a large following in a relatively short amount of time. The first video uploaded is old cellphone footage from 2007, and I’m not sure if it’s even part of the game, but it adds to the mystery. Is this just a normal guy that’s nuts? A guy with friends and family that is on the run from the law? The story is believable and engaging, making it hard to look away.
The man in the series speaks about not being in “the right mind,” and apologizes profusely. His mood swings wildly from video to video, from chipper, to downright creepy. I won’t spoil anything for anyone, but this series is a must see, and shows no signs of slowing down at all.
The Black Watchmen
This one would be best explained by the developers themselves.
ABOUT THE GAME
In the first ever Permanent Alternate Reality Game, you join the ranks of The Black Watchmen, a paramilitary group dedicated to protecting the public from dangerous phenomena beyond human understanding: ritualistic murder, occult secret societies, and the paranormal, to name but a few.
As a global organization, The Black Watchmen offer a wide range of skills and services for covert missions anywhere in the world, on behalf of any group, corporation or government that can afford them. Often called in as a last resort, The Black Watchmen pride themselves on their discretion, strength and efficiency.
To maintain objectivity in the field, you, as an agent, are never informed of the identity of the client. You are given only mission parameters and told how to distinguish friend from foe, but the lines are often blurred…
A traditional video game has clear parameters — it is played on a screen, within a virtual world, and it exists solely within that space. A PARG (Permanent Alternate Reality Game), like The Black Watchmen, uses the real world as its game world, blurring the lines between fiction and reality, turning everyday interactions into game mechanics.
During active seasons, the game is played on dedicated websites, social media, phone calls, text messages, and in real-world locations. We have created an interface that acts as a mission hub, while offering players various means to communicate with one another and advance the narrative of the game.
The Black Watchmen storyline is an evolving, user-influenced experience. The game releases new content on a two-week release schedule during an active season, allowing player actions to directly impact the game. By simply playing the game, players have a visible impact on the direction of the game’s development.
A flashing TV screen, a bizarre phone call, or a radio jingle could signal the start of a massive, international collaboration of agents — all rushing to solve the same problem before it’s too late. To date, there have been 19 live events in cities around the world, with players taking recon photos, recovering dead drops, intercepting coded television broadcasts and performing magic rituals.
Once during an active season, the community elects a Green Level Agent, who is transported to a city for a 24-hour fully-immersive secret mission. Working with the community via Twitter, IRC and Periscope, they must solve location-specific puzzles, chase down suspects and even attempt to escape kidnapping.
Different missions rely on different skill sets – crack ancient codes, investigate bizarre occurrences, hack through the virtual defenses of your enemies or research an occult group to uncover hidden connections.
Beyond the client itself, the game is played using websites, newspaper ads, phone calls, text messages and interactions with NPCs. Using a colour coded player immersion system, you decide just how much in-game interaction you receive.
Embedded on media outlets around the world and on various real websites, Black Watchmen missions are truly global in scope.
You always need to be ready during an active season, a live mission could start at any time: a flashing TV screen, a bizarre phone call, or a radio jingle could signal the start of a massive, international collaboration of agents–all rushing to solve the same problem, before it’s too late.
A FAMILIAR REALITY
The narrative of Black Watchmen intertwines with historical facts and current events, constantly asking the player to question whether or not something in the game (a website, a company, or even a person) is “real”.