So that Matrix game is finally over, and what a thrill-ride it was! The debate about whether this was like that story/mystery/game thing related to the AI movie is finally over. It was not to hype Matrix Online. It was a group of people who create these quite a lot, but are also Matrix fans and pulled it off on a shoestring budget. I didn't even know there WERE people who create these sorts of interactive game-story-things. I thought the AI one was the only one, but it turns out there was one revolving around the second season of “Alias” (at the time they were airing that season), one for a TV show called “Push, NV,” one called “Majestic” from Electronic Arts that was a $9/mo subscription, and quite a few others. This one just happened to be fan-run instead of company-sponsored.
In some ways, it was like reading a really good mystery novel from the perspective of an outsider, only you are forced to read it at a particular pace. It was often aggravating that some event would have repercussions a day or two later, but you can't sit up all night reading through to the back cover to discover the butler was behind everything. There were a number of characters you get attached to–a [basically Microsoft] employee searching for X-Files-like paranormal events, her missing boss, an orphan-kid hacker that may have accidentally seen/caused glitches in The Matrix itself and the paranormal events they cause, a sarcastic coworker who seems like an antagonist at first but you almost shed a tear for her at the end when you see the security footage of her drowning, the artistic couple who are recognized as being other people, the shady new-age spiritualist milking naive folks for money, the misfunctioning “Garbage Collector”–a curious man/program that goes around cleaning up after glitches by wiping people's memories and giving them new lives, etc, etc. They were all unconnected (and several completely unknown or vaguely known) at first and were gradually fleshed out and brought into the story arc, which wrapped up pretty well this morning.
Of course, the story is told in a rather unconventional way, but the interactivity of the storytelling mechanisms (web pages, databases, email, phone calls, CDs hidden across the country, instant messaging, etc) adds a lot of realism. Various puzzles along the way–for instance getting a hint to a password allowing you access to secret internal memos or a picture that somehow leads you to a particular web page–certainly made it interesting and kind of “got the reader involved.” I know for a fact that most of the people were stock photos, but that really did not detract from its power.
It has been hinted to me by a couple of people behind these sorts of games that I would do a pretty good job being one of the “people behind the curtain.” I may talk with them a bit more and see if pursuing this is some kind of option. Of course, it's nothing to quit the day job over, and would likely be volunteer like it was for the designers of this game. It might also never happen–but if it does, I think it may be kind of cool to help design the puzzles, pages, plot, and such…then sit back and watch people ponder the mystery.