A week ago, inspired by our discussion with Sean Stewart, I wrote:
Back in The Beast they did a lot of cool tricks in source codes, DNS registries, hidden bits of info et cetera, just because they could. Now those tricks have somehow become an established standard in the ARG design: Things you have to do, not necessarily because they contribute to the play experience, but because you will run into trouble if you don’t cover your ass from all sides. And if you do something that resembles an ARG but is not (imagine a new Blair Witch Project), the people looking for the rabbit holes may very well start poking around registries and calling random phone numbers just to find content from places where none exists.
Well. Back in Finland someone posted a full-page contact ad in the largest national newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. According to the advertisement, the poster had met the woman of his dreams in a Helsinki bar, but hadn’t dared to go talk to her. He decided that a full page ad worth €20,000 would probably get her attention.
The advertisement was picked up by most national news media. Some suspected that it was an advertisement hoax. Internet investigators from MuroBBS web community got interested; one of them, “Xaeron”, clicked “I cannot access my account” on the Gmail, found out that the poster uses Gmail in Russian, found out the domain of his alternate email address, which turned out to be a private domain of a wealthy Russian businessman who spends much of his time in Finland.
Today the Finnish Data Protection Ombudsman Reijo Aarnio commented that such Internet investigation is dangerous business that can lead to unexpected legal processes. “In my opinion, they are playing with fire”, he said.
This is not the first time the MuroBBS detectives have successfully uncovered stuff through their real world internet investigations. In 2009 the Finnish police thanked the community for their help in exposing the Wincapita pyramid scheme, in 2007 they found out the identity of Jokela school shooter before it was released in public, and in 2007 they managed to uncover some shady evidence of allegedly faux charity organizations.
Very interesting from the ARG point of view. If games are simulations of the ordinary world, this is what The Beast and the likes simulate.