Apparently I'm a bit thick. I've been corresponding with a person who doesn't exist and promoting a blog that's really just a front for an ARG promotional scheme. You can read all about it here.
When I found out about it earlier today, I found myself sorting through a mix of reactions. As a lover of ARGs (I keep hoping somebody will seize the day with an iPhone-based trans-media game), I thought it was a brilliant little ruse. Contact a few bloggers, feign interest in their work, encourage them to check out your new blog. Voila!
I bought it hook, line, and sinker. What's more, I engaged in an exchange of emails with PixelVixen707, discussing voice acting in games, games as toys, Spore - all topics I was writing about at the time. These weren't dashed-off little messages. This was a genuine conversation with a person who told me she was passionate about games. When she mentioned she was just starting to talk up her blog, I read through some of her posts and wrote to offer her some positive feedback.
And the fact is, PixelVixen707 did some solid writing about games over on her pseudo-blog. When I linked to her here, I was in very good company. It turns out my blog pals Mitch Krpata and Chris Dahlen did the same. Regardless of the ruse, you can still find some interesting pieces on a range of topics. Somebody there knows a thing or two about games.
So okay, I got played, and I like games, and it's all in fun. Nobody was malicious or destructive. No harm, no foul. But at the risk of being a killjoy, I can't help but feel a bit peeved about it too. Someone took advantage of my willingness to be responsive and supportive of a new games blog, and I was apparently expected to read between the lines and sniff out the big joke.
Maybe I need to be more cynical, but I took the whole thing at face value and made an earnest effort to lend a hand, just as people like Leigh Alexander, Chris Dahlen, and N'Gai Croal did for me when I got started. Every blogger who maintains a separate full-time job - and that's pretty much all of us - will tell you the same thing. Time is incredibly precious. We have so little of it to spare.
I love writing The Brainy Gamer, reading other games blogs, and doing my share to nurture our burgeoning little community. But I must tell you it requires every bit of non-teaching time I can muster. I'm not complaining, honestly, because I love doing it. But I'm disappointed that PixelVixen707 never bothered to consider just how much that wasted time meant to me, and I'm not exactly thrilled about being tricked into promoting somebody's product either.
So to the folks at Smith and Tinker who perpetrated this alternate reality hoax, I say "Well played. Well played indeed." But next time, you may want to pick on somebody smarter. Jokes are never funny when you have to explain them.
Update: I'm satisfied by the cordial correspondence I've had with Rachael's
"handlers" since this all blew up. I think they were trying something
different, and they miscalculated a bit regarding how such an approach
might affect those of us who invested ourselves in trying to help
PixelVixen707. She seemed genuinely interested in some things I was
writing about, and we exchanged some very pleasant emails about common
interests. In the end, I think whoever wrote those emails and blog
posts is for real in the sense of someone who cares about games and
thoughtful conversation about them.
It's the meta part of it that got messed up, at least for me, but I'm happy with how we discussed it yesterday, and I bear no resentment or ill will. As I've written before, I like ARGs...but I think they probably work best when they're consensual, especially if I'm being asked to devote my time and energy to them.