So to stand out, “The Dark Knight’s” alternate reality game (ARG for short) is mashing up advertising, scavenger-hunting and role-playing in a manner that variously recalls “The X-Files” and the play “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” “The Matrix” and the board game Clue — all in the name of galvanizing a community of fans to bond (with the new Batman and each other) over the course of a wild goose chase.
Or to be more precise, a wild Joker chase — one that so far has involved clues spelled out in skywriting, secret meeting points, cellphones embedded inside cakes, Internet red herrings, DIY fan contests and even fake political rallies. Moreover, last week several players were nearly arrested in Chicago while engaging in civil disobedience to promote the movie; others have even been “kidnapped” and “murdered” over the course of the game.
Befitting the campaign’s covert-ops M.O., neither Warner Bros. nor 42 Entertainment would comment for this story. But as Jonathan Waite, founder of the Alternate Reality Gaming Network (www.argn.com) sees it, “The Dark Knight’s” multifaceted promo push transcends marketing to exist as a standalone cultural event.
“This is looked upon as viral marketing, but you have to look at it as an engrossing experience — you have people getting very attached to the game,” Waite said. “You’re not a passive onlooker, you’re taking an active role. And any time you take an active role, you’re emotionally connecting. That’s why people keep coming back: You make personal connections with others and a community gets built.”