I was intrigued by the concept of Alternate Reality Games and simultaneously bewildered. As I understood it, the ARG designer leads the blind participant through intersections of the physical and digital worlds. The unspoken agreement between the two is trust: the participant has faith that the journey will be safe and the end-goal will be rewarding, while the designer believes in the faith of the participant to lead him there. Although Speculat1on.net claims to not be an ARG, it explicitly pleads for faith between the designer and participant and motivates with incentive:
“We need your trust. We need your belief. We will reward you in time.”
However, ARG designer is not physically present in this interaction, but is a spectator and observer of his creation: a system of fixed processes and interactions. He has set the controls and variables and destination of this singular path and therefore is all-pervading in its direction. He is the deity of this world and a spirit in its shadows.
This relationship between the creator and the follower is the fragile core of the ARG experience. In addition to trust, it requires willingness on the behalf of the participant. So how can an indirect, constant force maintain this relationship? Through the power of intrigue and challenge. (After all, not to sound trite but: satisfaction did bring the cat back!)
Speculat1on.net’s perimeters are strikingly similar—expect that its hybridization of the virtual and material is almost exclusively the latter. The foot it sets in reality is a mere reflection: words and ideas that represent historic actuality. The postcard advertisement / announcement illustrates this foundation in pictures: a photograph of the trading room of Wall Street, circa the 1980s overlaid by a figure 8 decorated by screenshots of the Speculat1on.net “passcode frames.” One opening of the 8 encapsulates a group of people and the other the computers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange—which additionally highlights the relationship between follower and creator; person and the computer; organic and the mechanic; physical and digital; realistic and fanciful. Furthermore, the number 8 represents perpetuity (or the symbol of infinity when portrayed horizontally); and therefore suggesting a chain of virtual and actual events interconnected within this relationship which cannot be broken—if the participant desires satisfaction!