When Video Games Entered The Real World

The underwater city of Rapture is falling to pieces

(Warning this post has some spoiler for Bioshock 2, which was released 4 years ago, if you haven’t played it, what are you waiting for?)

There was a time not long ago when I was fairly certain that games were things I played and enjoyed greatly but on my TV, computer, phone, or hand held. The idea of them effecting me emotionally had been long established, but actually contacting me in the real world was an impossibility. Until 2009, when they did.

I am a huge fan of the Bioshock series, ask anyone who knows me and they can tell you I will (with very little prompting) go on and on about the series, so to say in 2009 I was excited for Bioshock 2 was an understatement. I followed the forums on the 2K site, followed it on Facebook, listened to the podcast, you name it was all into it. The forums led me at one point to somethinginthesea.com a site at the time had only a cork board with some made up newspaper clippings about young girls who had gone missing around the Atlantic coastline of American and Europe. It was a site starting to build a story to the upcoming Bioshock do naturally I followed. as it progressed it went from the cork board to an office of a man named Mark Meltzer. in his office there were a host of things to click on to lead more into the story, one being a typewriter, with an address. From the forums I learned that you could write a letter to the address and you would get a response. Thinking a cleaver marketing move I wrote a letter, as though Mr. Meltzer were real, then waited. Assuming I would get a form letter response I was floored when I received a note and a record. Yes, a vinyl record. (Younger readers ask Mom or Dad what a record is.) It simply stated on the cover Rapture Records, it was a single called Rise Rapture Rise and it was awesome.

record

After receiving the record I assumed that was that, I wrote a letter and got a cool piece of in world item, but it was only starting. A few weeks later I was getting the mail on the way to my house (my mail box is in a group of mailboxes about a block from my actual house) when my I noticed a man pull up to my house on a bike, not just a bike but an old school bike (think 50s – 60s design) and an all white uniform, including hat. He rang my doorbell and waited. I was trying to get back into my car to drive over to the house (I was running some errands, I’m not lazy enough to drive to my mailbox, I case you were thinking that) to see who he was and what was going on. He put something in my door and rode off. When I got to the house I found a telegram stuck into my storm door. It was delivery from Speedy Delivery Service and it was from Mark Meltzer. I had just received a telegram from a character from a story I was following for a video game. The telegram basically said that I was found trustworthy and expect another package soon.

Soon was an understatement. As I was cleaning my house the next day in fact my door bell rang. My wife answered the door and called for me, telling me there was a strange man with a package for me. It was the same Speedy Delivery man as the day before, except this time he had more then just a telegram it was a large package. He greeted me, asked my name, and to sign for the package. I signed a sheet with a list of names, mine included. Once is signed he thanked me shook my hand went back to his bike and sped away. I took the package inside. It was a brown paper wrapped cardboard box with nothing on it, no address, shipping for, nothing. I opened the box to find a full page letter from Mark Meltzer, it talked about the missing girls and his investigation and that he found something and sent it to me to continue my research. Inside buried in shredded cardboard was a splicer’s welding mask. (Splicers are in Bioshock the former residence of Rapture, deformed by overuse of the genetic drug called Adam, the are most common enemy in the game.) This was a bit shocking to me (by a bit I mean a lot). Now as I had received recorded and a mask, other in the forums had received other masks as well. The site was changing to, almost weekly, with other little things you could click on and receive new clues, puzzles, or information. We were getting drawn more and more in.

mask

As the series progressed it would provide more challenges and more deliveries. At one point a new cypher puzzle was posted and when deciphered it gave locations and dates. The locations were at different points around coastal areas around the Atlantic. Unfortunately none of the locations were within an easy distance for me and I was unable to go at the dates, from what I read on the forums found on the beaches were items half buried in the sand. Items such as wine bottles, posters, and other Rapture based materials. Within the story Mark was getting closer to finding Rapture and we meet Orrin Oscar Lutwidge, a man also obsessed with finding the undersea city. He begins sending things as well. Many of the people who received items in the past became “inducted” into Lutwidge’s organization called the I.O.O.P (International Order Of the Pawns), for example I am the Peridot Pawn. Later from him I would receive an actual pawn piece that would help, along with others, another puzzle from the site.

IOOPcard        pawn

As the story began to hitting its third section the focus became less sending items and more on the puzzles in the website and getting Mark closer to his goal. The final setting went from his office to s boat in the mid Atlantic. The puzzles became harder with each new section but were still a huge focus of the forums and interest surrounding the site. In the end Mark found his way into Rapture and actually appears in the game. First through radio diaries found in the city (if you played the game it’s the audio diaries in color). Here is where it gets a bit spoiler heavy. Through the game you will finally find him in Dionysus Park as a Rumbler Big Daddy with his daughter Cindy as his Little Sister. It was a sad ending to a wonderfully build story, but that happens so much in Rapture.

In the end it was one of the most fascinating, enthralling, and strange events that took place in my life with games. It was interesting to see the story play out, changing day by day in front of me as the release date got closer and closer. I miss greatly the puzzles, I would copy the cypher and decode them at work and I enjoyed the challenge of finding a new key to a puzzle to unlock yet another puzzle. Add that to the community feeling of the forums when everyone was working together to solve the latest challenge, it was loads of fun. I think I miss most is the unexpected presents that would arrive unannounced at my door or mailbox. It’s great to have toys or items from games you love but to have them arrived to you from a character from the game brought that feeling to an other level. Also knowing you have something from a game you love and that there are only a few of them out there is pretty good too.
So many games come and go in our lives but experiences like this stay and greatly impact us and our view of what gaming can be. So how many of you have things from your favorite games. Does it (like me) help you feel closer to the experience you feel in the games or is it just cool stuff?

About Ness

As a chaotic good nerd I try to be as well rounded as possible, from video games, comics, tabletop RPGs, anime, and cartoons I try to fit it all in. Although I enjoy all of it, video games have always dominated the majority of my time and attention. My plan for here is not to write previews or reviews but to talk about how I relate to the games I play. Hopefully we can all play along.

  • Jinx_the_Bard

    Great post Ness.

    The marketing on this game was absolutely genius. I wish this was the norm with big games today, as I’d love to see borderlands, fallout or the elder scrolls series take it to this level. How I would love a borderlands Psycho mask!

    Bioshock didn’t just make fans out of people like you, who were able to experience this awesome, detailed world they created in and out of game, they made you feel like family. I SO wish I had taken the time to be part of this.

    Thanks for sharing!