NOTE: This story is about an ongoing Alternate Reality Game (ARG) for ‘The Batman’. If you don’t want spoilers for the gameplay, proceed with caution before clicking on any links within this story.
When the original trailer for The Batman dropped, it featured a coded message from the Riddler that fans were fairly swift to unlock. However, since then the easter egg seems to have evolved into something bigger – you may or may not have noticed the strange symbols in the title card of the most recent trailer that dropped about a week ago.
Could we be looking at a brand new, fully fledged ARG to accompany the release of the movie? All the clues point to ‘yes.’
For those who may not be familiar, an ARG is an ‘alternate reality game,’ or an interactive story told through a networked narrative. It plays out in real time across various mediums, both digital and in the real world though most are focused on the use of the internet. Players can interact with the story’s characters, and through a combination of analysis, puzzle solving, and exploration can reach the story’s climax and conclusion.
While some ARG’s have been created as stand alone games, many have been used to promote various forms of media, such as TV, video games, and even YouTube channels. The first true, successfully executed ARG is known as the Beast, and was used to promote the 2001 movie, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. It featured thousands of files, content spanning thirty websites, and gained its moniker for the sheer breadth and depth of the game which portrayed its murder mystery in absolutely earnest fashion.
Other well known ARG’s include the season by season games that took place for the ABC show ALIAS, which began via websites for many companies and entities in the show’s universe. Another came from network companion LOST, which even involved the show’s actors through the use of wristbands worn at various public appearances that contained segments of critical code needed to reach the climax. While these have been used to promote various properties, some ARG’s are created to provide additional content, such as the one created by The Game Theorists YouTube channel that designed some of their own merchandise to facilitate gameplay.
For this latest mainstream ARG, it has the appearance of a limited scope in that its highly simplistic. Using the previously discovered code, the strange characters in the trailer translate to the phrase ‘you are el rata alada.’ This is Spanish for the winged rat, a common epithet for bats. However, pronounced aloud, it also provides the phonetic spelling of ‘URL.’ By plugging the last two words of the phrase into a web address, you reach a website simulating an old school DOS prompt.
To prevent spoilers, suffice to say you end up interacting with the movie’s own Riddler, and if you can solve his puzzles you are treated to an exclusive movie image. Continuing to engage will lead to another image with a coded message of its own, and a promise from the Riddler that he’ll have more soon.
The whole site appears to be very basic, and could be a stand alone element to promote the movie. However, in an ARG, clues can be included in the most innocuous of places – embedded in image files, hidden in website code, contained within a file name. Again, I won’t give any spoilers, but pay attention to that first bonus image you acquire if you play the game. The series of numbers in the file name don’t exactly seem random to me.
Have you ever played an ARG? What do you think the plot of this one will center around? Many promotional games have plots of their own, partially or even fully divorced from the property they’re promoting.
Let me know in the comments below, and make sure you prepare to find more than answers by checking out The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, its theatrical release scheduled for March 4, 2022.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.