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Is '77 Days' the greatest ARG never created?

Posted Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 5:27 PM Central

by John Couture

Alternate Reality Games, or ARGs, are creative cross-media experiences that attempt to blur the line between reality and the game. If you've ever seen David Fincher's 1997 film The Game, it's pretty much like that without the bullets.

I've been known to become pretty obsessed with various ARGs over the years. Just over six years ago I wrote about the viral marketing around the film Cloverfield and talked about my own passionate following of "The Beast" ARG around the film A.I. in 2001. Because the Internet was still in its relative infancy, it was pretty easy to create a realistic game with online and offline parts and was pretty effective in marketing the movie.

Over the years, ARGs have been continued to pop up from time to time in support of games such as Halo 2 and movies like Tron: Legacy, but they have all failed to capture the excitement of "The Beast." Some speculated that the Internet simply evolved to a point where ARGs were impossible or at the least very hard to pull off effectively.

In a way, they have a point. The Internet has changed drastically in the last dozen years. Now, thanks to social media and massively interactive social sites such as reddit, it's become much more difficult to effectively stump and entertain, all the while maintaining the mystique of cool.

Enter, "77 Days."

Of course, I can't even tell you with any level of confidence if it's even an ARG at all. It could simply be the biggest red herring of them all. Here is everything that I know so far.

On July 9, the YouTube channel Pronunciation Book went a bit haywire. The channel was set up on April 14, 2010 with a simple but useful purpose of properly pronouncing certain English words. Here's the first entry.

Pretty innocuous, right? These videos continued in the same manner up until the two year anniversary of the channel. Things then got a bit weird, but not full-on freaky yet. Here's the video that was posted on that day.

This video introduced the character "Chief" and hinted that the person voicing the videos had a secret agenda. The voice is also different from the one that recorded the videos prior to April 14, 2010. The videos which were up until this point around 10 seconds in length suddenly blossomed to over a minute and contained odd "secret messages."

If this wasn't weird enough, the channel suddenly went back to its smaller 10 second innocuous videos and different voice last November and stayed that way until July 9. On that day the ominous voice was back and he revealed a countdown of sorts.

But a countdown to what? The day it's counting down to is Tuesday, September 24, which is a street date. The only DVDs or Blu-rays of interest being released on that day are Iron Man 3, V/H/S/2 and Room 237 and I don't really this being associated with those films.

Some have speculated that the continued use of the character Chief refers to Halo's Master Chief main character and that they will be announcing a new Halo game on that day. Well, I've checked with my good game contacts and they told me that Halo 5 was already announced and they didn't believe this was related to that.

My own personal theory revolves around the TV series "Lucky 7" that debuts on ABC the evening of September 24. "Lucky 7"..."77 Days"...eh? I know, it's a stretch, but I've seen a few of the promos for the show and it would seem like something a bit more subversive is going on than simply a few co-workers winning the lottery and having their lives changed.

"Lucky 7" is also executive produced by none other than Steven Spielberg. You may recall that Spielberg also directed A.I., the film responsible for kicking off ARGs in the first place with "The Beast."

Then, there's this. Shortly after ABC picked up "Lucky 7" back in May, Pronunciation Book posted this video.

ABC is also the network that aired Lost, the TV series known for doing its own involved ARGs over the Summer when the show was dark. Whatever it is counting down to, it's pretty apparent that it's deliberate.

If the videos themselves weren't odd enough for you, someone actually thought of taking the dead noise at the end of the countdown videos and seeing if they could create a spectrograph from the noise. The bottom line is that it does and it looks like a version of the Uncle Sam "I Want You" poster. You can check out an updated version of the picture here.

But that's a great example of how the Internet has changed and how amazingly complex and coy ARGs have to be these days just to get noticed. There's already a Wiki set up to track progress and theories in the game. The folks over at reddit have created it's own sub-reddit so that its users can try to crack the game.

All of this begs the question, we know it's intentional and something is coming, but what if it's simply just one guy's imagination run amok? Does it have to be part of something more grandiose for us to enjoy the process? People often debate what is more fulfilling, the destination or the journey?

That's a philosophical question that is far too deep for this little site. I do know that I will continue to follow this ARG and see where it leads us to next. What do you think they are trying to do? Do you have a theory as to what will happen in 77 Days?