To start off with, however, I want to talk about PAX Prime, the largest video game conference in North America just for us players (though we keep getting trumped by PAX East, drat them). Every year when I go to PAX, the first ten minutes I find myself wondering what I'm doing there again (the long hours of standing on your feet in line or wandering about can be a killer). Thirty minutes later, I've forgotten all my whiny comments and I'm whizzing around looking at all the amazing booths and cosplayers. At the end of the day, I'm wondering to myself why I was ever thinking of not going. It's just that amazing.
This year, there was a booth that stood out above all the rest - the booth for XCOM. I ended up having my brain twisted into a pretzel by the time they were done with me.
I'll show you what I mean, but be warned - this is a pretty long story (though there are pictures to break it up)!
While wandering across the sky bridge at PAX, you were bound to see the tableau below - a guy acquainting himself with some kind of plastic white lightning type stuff. It doesn't look terribly pleasant, does it?
|XCOM guy chills with plastic lightning bolts coming out of his mouth.|
|A closer shot.|
|Time for your close up!|
You proceed to wander around the show, forgetting about the montage. It's not that important, anyway, just another advertisement for a game, you think. That's when it gets even stranger.
|Citizen Skywatch booth|
|Citizen Skywatch wants YOU!|
|The mysterious 'Citizen One'|
|Hmm, being attacked by cyclones from outer space?|
|It's THEM! Stop THEM! Zounds!|
|Better dead than Red!|
I knew they were acting, but this was confirmed for sure when I was able to get a glimpse of what was in his 'notes' - there was a doodle of one of the Pac Men ghosts, probably Blinkey (the red ghost).
|We think there may be enemy infiltrators!|
|I've never seen a camera that small before! You must be lying!|
|You think this is a game? This isn't a game!|
|The sign up booth. This was effectively a web terminal for citizenskywatch.com|
On a table to the side there were a bunch of books on how to avoid and deal with communism. One of the guys in line was heckled when he told the 'CIA agent' that his kindle was a 'book.' He was told in no uncertain terms that one of the anti-communist books was a 'real book,' not whatever he was holding.
Next to the books was a large pile of paper detailing various UFO encounters. It had probably been taken from some internet site.
|An old teletype machine.|
|An old timey tape recorder.|
|Oodles of drinking water. If, of course, the barrel was actually full. It probably wasn't.|
|A sanitation kit and oxygen mask, with a geiger counter on top. The 'citizen agents' would randomly pretend to check radiation levels of the people standing in line.|
|Mmmm, SPORKAM, Warholl's Tomato Soup, and survival cracker rations. Everyday favorites!|
|An old timey radio.|
|The Wall O' Hoaxes|
|Hmmm, not very accurate so far.|
|The 'professor' with the Wall O' Evidence behind him.|
|Various 'evidence' used for the tack board.|
|The information linked to locations on the tack board.|
As we progressed, I was able to get a clear shot of the blackboard. I've forgotten too much about physics to be able to decipher it at all, though apparently from what it says they appear to be looking for some kind of frequency.
|A curious black board. I still need to look up the morse code on it.|
|A citizen skywatch nurse and a doctor?|
I proceeded to sit down in the 'doctor's lab.'
|An eye chart. Why are parts of it redacted?|
|The 'doctor' asking a possible recruit questions.|
|'We're worried that some foreign agents have tried to infiltrate the organization. Keep an eye out for them.'|
|'We still can't figure out what these radio signals are about.'|
Finally, he wrapped up his spiel and asked me if I was willing to join Citizen Skywatch. By this point, I was super curious about what was behind the curtain, so I said yes. He shook my hand and ushered me over behind the curtain.
Instead of the game preview I was anticipating, instead I was inside a dark room. In front of me was a computer setup with a camera. There was a piece of masking tape on the floor in front of the table the computer was on.
The fellow behind the computer got up and rushed me, pumping my hand. "We're so glad you decided to join!" he said in a stereotypically high pitched geeky voice. "It's so good to meet you!" He had unbelievably high energy, the enthusiasm dripping from his mouth.
He then asked me to stand on the masking tape, and proceeded with a series of questions. "Where's your home town?" he asked. "Seattle," I answered, not willing to be more specific than that. "What's your handle?" "Dash-o-Salt," I answered. "What's your specialty?" I wasn't exactly sure what to answer. "Good reflexes?" I said in an unsure fashion. "Excellent!" he said.
In no time at all he had printed out an ID card and handed it to me, pumping my hand again. "Welcome to Citizen Skywatch, Citizen 1360!"
|My new badge. Hooray for Good Reflexes!|
|It even has a nifty logo on the back!|
With that, he ushered me out the door and closed it behind me. I was back in the PAX environs, bewildered as to what had just happened to me. Bemused, I wandered over to the 2K booth and told them 'Citizen 0' had sent me. They gave me a card with cryptic information.
|Hmm, more propaganda. What's this all about?|
|And the back.|
The 'bit.ly' web site they give directs you back to Citizen Skywatch.
So there you have it. It was a crazy adventure, clearly part of an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) on 2K's part. It was definitely worth an hour in line to experience the whole thing. If you want to join up yourself you can go visit their web site. They have cleaner pictures of their posters at this link and more information about mysterious occurrences.
Thanks for reading the whole post! I'll work on posting pictures of awesome cosplayers next. That will probably take less time than writing up this entire story!