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Slate’s Decoder Ring plays an alternate reality game

Benjamin Frisch, who co-wrote the latest episode “The Incunabula Papers” with host Willa Paskin, tells me:

This month our episode is about Ong’s Hat AKA The Incunabula Papers, which was an interdimensional conspiracy theory which arose through the mail in the 80s and then crossed over into the internet as it came online. It was secretly an art project masterminded by one guy, who didn’t mean to create a real conspiracy theory, but then it got out of hand. According to him, the purpose was to create altered states of consciousness in people, which he succeeded in. Ong’s Hat was also, inadvertently the birth of the ARG, the alternate reality game, where clues  and puzzles are seeded in multiple mediums, inspiring players to work together to solve them.

The thing we did in this episode that I’m very proud of, is that we wanted to recreate some of that altered consciousness, and so we turned the episode in a bit of a mini-ARG. I masterminded a story with a fake, evil mattress advertiser, a fake website, and some radio drama thrown in.

Very cool. Also: pretty creepy!