"Does anyone need an extra-large?" The community spirit at the latest "The Dark Knight" alternate reality game (ARG) gathering was such that, despite the limited supply of black Citizens for Batman T-shirts flung into the crowd, those lucky enough to catch one flying through the air were happy to relinquish their prize if it wasn't a good fit. "Does anyone have an extra-medium?"
The New York City mob, consisting of predominantly high school and college-age men and women (many in costume), started gathering before 9:00 PM in Thomas Paine Park for the ten o'clock event announced last week by the Citizens for Batman, intended to be a "major show of force" in support of the Dark Knight's unorthodox war against chaos and crime. A similar event was held simultaneously in Chicago.
Seats on the fountain's ledge were claimed early, while across the park Gotham Times newsboys handed out the latest edition of the fictional paper. At about two or three minutes to ten, the crowd swarmed a Domino's Pizza deliveryman who, thankfully, was in fact part of the viral campaign. Domino's is participated in the ARG last week by delivering some fans free pizzas while operating as Gotham City Pizzeria. Fast hands grabbed pepperoni slices, while those who had failed to jostle for the snack turned away to resume watching for the main event.
It was quickly discovered that attached to the pizza boxes were clues that led fans on a scavenger hunt not unlike those seen at other ARG events. The crowd dashed as a unit around the park, halting traffic as the throng collectively ignored stoplights, and leaving nighttime passers-by wearing dazed looks. But after circling, alternating walking and running to keep up while still avoiding overheating in the hot summer evening, the mob stopped as a pack leader climbed to higher ground and announced, "We have not yet found the sticker; we don't know if we're going the right way." Grumbling and laughing, the congregation wandered (walking, running) back toward the park's interior. The coveted sticker was found within minutes.
What the sticker said, though, was anybody's guess. There was more confusion, with clues left unresolved, talk of a two-way radio that either never materialized or else was not noticed by a large segment of the crowd. Above the murmur of the crowd and the fountain's cascading water, it was impossible to hear the clue as the young woman who found it read aloud. Cries of "everybody shut up!" just added to the noise. But eventually, some clever person pointed up at the nearby Woolworths Building, onto which a huge Bat-signal was being projected. Viewable from blocks and blocks away, it was quite spectacular, and no doubt something every comic fan has always wanted to see lighting up the sky.
"The Dark Knight" opens July 18 in the U.S.
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