'Lost': The FAQ for the ARG

Michaelemerson_lost_s4_240 If there's one thing I can count on, it's that anything new in the Lost universe will send the lot of you into a tizzy. I'm talking "eleven year-old girls seeing Zac Efron" levels of tizziness. So it didn't surprise me in the least to see the bevy of excitement surrounding the launch of the newest ARG for your favorite show over the past forty-eight hours.

However, with great tizziness comes great confusion, as Peter Parker's uncle once told us. And while there was a lot of excitement, there was also a lot of puzzlement strewn across the interwebs like so many rolls of Dharma toilet paper strewn across Old Man Henderson's lawn. So, I thought I might try to separate the fact from the fiction, the wheat from the chaff, and the Hall from the Oates and give you everything you need to know in order to properly enjoy this new ARG.

Q: What the heck is an ARG?
A: Excellent first question, hypothetical asker. ARG stands for "alternate reality game." Wikipedia defines as, "an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions." I define it as, "something way beyond my meager capacity for reason and problem solving." These games are quite frankly huge, most often, and rely on the cumulative efforts of thousands of players working round the clock in specific locations utilizing specific skills and oh look, I just went cross-eyed.

Q: Am I smart enough to play this ARG? You kinda just scared me.
A: I know, I tend to do that. Here's the thing to remember: you're not really supposed to solve/finish an ARG on your own. It's designed in order to foster community-based problem solving. That doesn't mean you should passively experience the game by any means. Anything and everything you do within it could potentially have a snowball effect on everything else as the collective wisdom/work of the crowd pushes forwards like a slightly (but only slightly) less freaky version of a Katamari Damacy ball.

Q: So is this the first ARG for Lost?
A: Heck no. Between Seasons 2 and 3, we had The Lost Experience. Just before Season 4, we had Find 815.

Q: Were they any good?
A: Well, The Lost Experience was fiendishly involved, to the point where I just coasted along the wave of other people's efforts, not unlike a barnacle affixed to a blue whale. That being said, it was a terrifically interesting storyline that I once believed had major ramifications on the Lost universe as a whole.

Q: Wait, ONCE BELIEVED? What's wrong, Fox Mulder?
A: Find 815 ended with a huge reveal: Oceanic 815 on the bottom of the Sunda Trench. Sounds familiar, right? Well, when said event happened in the show, it happened in a way that was different from the ARG, which caused confusion, which caused the producers of Lost to essentially discredit the ARG, which caused me to bang my head against sharp things for a week.

Q: So, lemmee get this straight: these ARGs aren't part of the Lost universe?
A: An extremely valid question with an extremely tricky answer. What caused people like me to lose their minds back in February of this year was the fact that it was the first time the producers officially dubbed the ARGs "non-canon." In other words, events in the games weren't actually approved as Lost story elements by the show runners.

Q: So why bother playing the game? Sounds like fan fiction with a server farm behind it.
A: But, but, but, it's not as simple as that. There are enough kernels in these ARGs that eventually leak into the main storyline that you can't simply dismiss them outright. The biggest problem I can see is that while the scope of these games are ambitious, and I appreciate any and all Lost I can get, the producers of the show don't have enough hours in the day or resources to produced a canonized game while simultaneously breaking down the storylines for their own shows.

Q: So how should I approach the newest ARG?
A: With a silo of salt, basically.

Q: What's the ARG about?
A: Well, all we really know now is that it centers around the reconstitution of the Dharma Initiative, thanks to a message sent through time. Seriously. Other than that, we'll, we're in the dark.

Q: But we'll know soon, right?
A: Look, it might not have Lost canon going for it, but it does have the show's speed at revealing secrets. They have to keep this puppy going through January. As such, expect the revelations to come at something approximating the speed of continental drift.

Q: So, again: why should I even bother?
A: Because you miss Lost. Because you're semi-dorky enough to read a Lost blog and should jump right into the deep end of the dork pool. Because you want to answer questions such as, "A spider is biting your arm. You don't kill it. Why?" which is one of the questions asked as part of the ARG's initial website.

Q: Why is that link showing me jibberish?
A: The Dharma Initiative excels at many things. Building a website to meet the demands of would-be volunteers appears to not be one of those things.

Q: So what happens now?
A: Well, we all keep playing, whatever "playing" entails. But remember, you're one of a horde playing. Keep checking back here, over on our Facebook group, at Lostpedia, and any of your other favorite Lost sites. (Although don't tell me if you do look at other Lost sites, as I am a fragile creature.) There are plenty of sources to keep you up to date if you've missed the latest clue or are stuck on how to proceed.

Q: Are you sure I can do this?
A: Definitely. Remember, there's no "I" in Dharma. There is of course an "I" in "Initiative." Several in fact. But again: it's fine piggybacking off the discoveries of others. There are clues buried in code I could never decipher: HTML, CSS, and PHP are so not my things. I am down with OPP, but that's something else entirely.

Q: Will you hold me?
A: Erm. Um. No? No. Definitely no.

Thus endeth the FAQ. Any more questions? Leave 'em below!

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude, then peruses Zap2It's Guide to Lost Facebook group.