The designers of alternate reality games (or ARGs) do delight in challenging their players’ patience. We’re talking, of course, about a genre that often requires pattern recognition of the most minute scrutiny. That said, while other ARGs frequently send gamers sifting for irregularities in source code, or make them follow complicated coordinates to be at an exact spot at a precise moment, Frog Fractions 2‘s official/unofficial campaign might be the most demanding of its type yet.
Yes. That’s a ten hour YouTube video.
As the instructions at its front plainly explain, there’s a graphic of gold bars hidden somewhere within its run-time. Spot those bars, and click them, and you’ll follow a link to the next level. That’s it. The rules may not be easy, but they are simple. In order to advance, you really do just have to watch a colored circle roam a black screen while elevator music loops endlessly. Scrubbing the timeline won’t let you spot the bars, and comments have been disabled to prevent anybody from offering hotlinks with skip-to time-codes, as well.
If that all sounds less like a game and more like a modern art museum’s “po-mo” video installation, then well, it might be both? The starting point for all this is Frog Fractions, a free-to-play browser title that rather sneakily goofs on edu-tainment games–and players themselves. It not only provides no instructions, it also never actually teaches fractions the way its title implies. The game’s developer Twinbeard used the same deceptively simple approach for Frog Fractions 2‘s Kickstarter pitch video. Shifting between gentle PBS-style fun and Lynchian meta-horror, it leaves viewers asking, “What the hell?” Yet, the clip still led to a successful campaign that well exceeded funding goals.
Two years on and Twinbeard has continued to tease backers who look quite eager to be teased. The revolution (in indy gaming) will not be televised, and Frog Fractions 2‘s release will never be formally announced. Instead, fans will most likely have to follow this ARG, which seems to spoof other ARGs that way Frog Fractions spoofs edu-tainment games.
One challenge so far has been that ten hour video, of course; but there are so many other little challenges and mysteries, they’ve taken over 60 pages of discussion thread to fully document. Dedicated Frog fans have needed to “shave” a photo of Obama and learn how to bake bread, among other things. Probably the most amusing step, however, came when players had to follow discrete instructions to meet Frogs‘ creator just as he was getting arrested by time cops with a bag of “bug pornography” in his possession.
At this point, you must wonder if the meta-joke is that this ARG has been Frog Fractions 2 all along.
Would you weather this Byzantine gauntlet just to play a game (not really) about math? Or has the real game been in front of our noses this whole time? Contribute theories in the talkback.
Featured Image Credit: TwinBeard