At the end of last month, ABC launched a new viral marketing campaign for the upcoming season of “Lost.” It’s an ad for the series’ fictional airline, with a press release announcing that Oceanic would start flying again after the Flight 815 disaster, and a promo website called FlyOceanicAir.com.
And oh no did you see that?!? The website got hacked by a mysterious stranger with some mysterious connection to Flight 815! I am intrigued! Who is this strange whistleblower? How did he manage to hack into a Flash movie? Why did he spend so much time working on jamming-your-signal visuals and sfx in After Effects, instead of just putting his movie on top of the other one? And most importantly: how do you get that constant week-old beard thing going on, anyway — whenever I try it, I go from “late 70s prom photo” straight to “werewolf in mid-transition,” with no roguishly handsome interim.
But ho!, what’s this? Has my eagle eye spotted another URL cleverly hidden inside the hacked transmission? What other, greater mysteries are there for me to unfold?
So yeah, I’m not a fan of the “alternate reality games.” They always devolve into a bunch of internet shut-ins poring over rehashes of puzzles from the back page of Games magazine, all to get to a website that plays ineptly-written videos performed by struggling actors.
But I’ve got to give them credit for this much: at least with this one, they kept the “you’ve stumbled onto a secret part of the internets!” nonsense to a minimum. You don’t even have to enter the “top secret” URL; our man Sam has cleverly hacked flyoceanicair.com to automatically jump to the game site, so you don’t have to pretend you’re discovering anything.
And apparently, he’s hired ABC’s camera and lighting crews to film him as he explores the mystery. I don’t want to tell you how to do your business, Sam, but maybe you’d have more time to find your girlfriend if you didn’t have to look at dailies and have meetings with the composer to make sure you’ve got just the right note of tension in the background music.
But really, the stuff I’m making fun of is the best part of this attempt at an ARG. The thing might not have anything remotely original involved (at least yet), but they cut out the artifice and went high on the production values. So it’s a bunch of “click here” and “find-the-pixel” puzzles, but they’re really nice-looking find-the-pixel puzzles with music and HD video. Hey, it worked for Myst.
And Sam: when you find Sonya, tell her to have that mole looked at.