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Friday, March 23, 2012

Investigative Activity: The Parepin Conspiracy

Go here: Where is the problem solving? What are you doing? What is the problem with this site? What creative solutions to this did you try? 

The problem solving on this site actually concerns reading the text. With the distracting lines in the background, the varied bright colors, and, most of all, the overlapping words, it was difficult to discern everything that was written. The site discusses a government conspiracy centering on a drug called Parepin that the site alleges has been put into the water system. The drug also seems to be connected to visions or sightings of “The Presence,” which looks like a hand coming down from the sky. 

As far as the actual reading went, I tried slowing down to look at the words (or parts of the words) carefully, and I used context clues to help figure out what the obscured words were. After several paragraphs, I realized it would probably be easier to highlight, copy, and paste the text into a Word document. I was frustrated that it took me so long to think of this simple solution! 

Since I like to think of myself as an expert at reading (having easily logged the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell says we need to be an expert at something), I was surprised that I approached the problem in what seemed to me to be an inefficient way. Why struggle through the methodical process of trying to read unclear text when a few keystrokes would solve the problem?

In fact, I have copied and pasted hard-to-read text from emails and from other sites before, so I have to wonder whether there was something different about this exercise. Perhaps the fact that it was an assignment made me work through the problem-solving strategy a bit more methodically. Or I might have been distracted by the context. The conspiracy theories, newspaper articles, and photos made for a compelling story, so my cognitive processes might have been divided. 

The story actually made me curious about the site itself, so I took a decidedly non-creative approach to problem solving and Googled a name in one of the newspaper articles. 


It turns out this is an alternate reality game connected with a Nine Inch Nails album (neither of which I am an expert in) called Year Zero. The text is indistinct and the site erratic because the information is being sent from the future. As a result, everything is distorted. 

Upon investigation, the game itself would require a great deal of problem solving. There are number clues on the site, an email address that will send you further information, and an online community of gamers with whom to discuss the conspiracy. 

Are any of you alternate reality gamers or Nine Inch Nails fans? Have you encountered this site? What do you enjoy about games like this?

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