Nine Inch Nails has been doing this thing lately. If you're familiar with what they call "alternate reality games", you'll know what it is. If not, i'll explain:
Alternate reality games are promotional campaigns for something, usually video games, or movies, consisting of elements that leak into "real life", like websites and email, phone calls, etc. For example, a url for a website may be somewhat hidden in a commercial. The website seems completely unrelated to the product being advertised, but it seems to have been hacked, and is defaced. Upon investigating the html code, or editing an image file, a phone number is revealed. Calling the number, there is a recording of a man who souds like he is in danger, quickly relaying a url to yet another website, which contains a video clip. The video clip has further information and secrets to be revealed, and so on. It's sort of an interactive advertising campaign. Games like this in the past have gone so far as to call participants in the middle of the night with new clues to the game, or require one participant in the game to be at a certain pay phone at a certain time to recieve a phone call that continues the game. They tend to be quite elaborate.
I won't get into the full details here, there are websites
all over you can find if you want to know everything (and there is a LOT
to know), but Nine Inch Nail's "alternate reality game" promoting their next album "Year Zero" began with a t-shirt sold at one of their concerts. The listing of dates of shows on the shirt had some letters highlighted. When read in order, the letters spelled out "iamtryingtobelieve". This lead people to find the website "iamtryingtobelieve.com". The site is slightly scrambled, sort of ugly, and contains information and scans of news clips about a drug that the government has been putting in the water to make people safe from bioterrorism attacks. But some poeple are starting to believe that the real purpose of the drug is to dull the minds of the citizens in order to make them complacent.
Songs from the album get "leaked". USB drives found in bathrooms of venues Nine Inch Nails are playing contain MP3s, and sometimes image files. The images lead to more websites, message boards, email addresses, and phone numbers with recordings, featuring various infomation about government wrongdoings, violent police actions, terrorist attacks on major US cities, etc. And these lead to more phone numbers, audio files, websites, and on and on.
In short, the "storyline" of the songs, websites, phone messages, etc. is that in the year 2022, the world is very bleak, and dangerous. It's a vision of what the world may be like if it continues on the path it's on now. 2022 is now "Year Zero", 0000. The government is drugging its citizens in the name of terrorism prevention, killing people who "resist" and are revealing the truth. Website access is very restricted, some sites being authorized to view by only certain citizens with certain licenses, and unauthorized viewing can result in a "reeducation team" coming for you. Internet bandwidth is monitored and audited. Governments promote drug use in other countries in order to destroy whole societies. It's a very dystopian, 1984-like environment. (No coincidence, i suspect... 1984... 0000...) And someone is trying to change things... by sending message to the past, to the year -0015 (2007), in the hopes of altering their present and preventing such a horrible future for us.
The most interesting thing, though, is the reports of "the Presence". A large, ghostly hand that literally reaches down out of the sky in a thunderclap of noise, that irrevocably alters anyone who witnesses it. Is it a mass hallucination caused by the drug the government is putting in the water? Possibly... except there are photos
. These very creepy photos are found on the various websites, on the cover of the "Year Zero" album, and the Presence can be seen in a really really disturbing short video promoting the album.
And the Presence appears, most interestingly of all, in the spectrograph analysis
of one of the leaked Nine Inch Nails song. The static at the end of one of the songs, when analyzed, reveals an image of the hand reaching down. Another audio file found on a USB drive, when analyzed, reveals yet another phone number. Yes, an image of a phone number was encoded into a sound. This blows my mind, not only because it's an amazing thing to do, but because i actually thought of it a year or two ago. I was musing to my sister, "Wouldn't it be cool if a band would hide images in music, that you could see in the spectrograph?" To my knowledge, no one did it before. Then, one of my very favorite bands actually DOES it. When the whole concept that spawned the spectrograph images is that messages are being sent from the future, and i'd thought of it before NIN did it.. well it's got me a little creeped out.
Anyway. i'm so hooked on this... whatever you'd call it. Promotion, game... One of my three all-time favorite bands, using a story line that combines my very favorite type of sci-fi: dystopian future societies, corrupt governements, electronic messages from the future, giant forces of nature/god/higher powers, along with my previously-documented absolute love and fascination with actual real-world artifacts from fictional people, places, and times... and the actual implementation of a concept i "invented" in the past... I'm just blown away by the whole concept. It's almost as if i got into Nine Inch Nails fifteen years ago just to wait for this thing to happen.
Wait... got into NIN fifteen years ago... Year Zero is fifteen years from now... My favorite sci-fi and love of artifictions... my invention of concepts used in the "storyline"... messages from the future... Nah, i'm reading too much into this.
Or am i? :O DUN DUN DUNNN!
All joking aside, it actually IS a bit creepy if i think about it too much. Too many "coincidences", and i don't believe in coincidences. Anyway, it's all very cool. Yay for Nine Inch Nails for doing something really cool and fun tying in with their new album.