I Love Bees

July 26th, 2009

I Love Bees (also known as ilovebees or ILB for short) was an alternate reality game (ARG) that served as both a real-world experience and viral marketing campaign for the release of developer Bungie’s 2004 video game Halo 2. The game was created by 42 Entertainment, who had previously created an ARG for the film A.I., and would later create Why So Serious? for the Warner Brothers film The Dark Knight. I Love Bees was commissioned by Microsoft, Halo 2’s publisher.I Love Bees was first advertised by a subliminal message in a Halo 2 trailer; players who investigated the titular website discovered that the pages appeared to be hacked by a mysterious intelligence. As players solved puzzles, audio logs were posted to the ilovebees.com site which gradually revealed more of the fictional back-story, involving a marooned artificial intelligence stranded on Earth and its attempts to put itself back together.I Love Bees was a marketing success; 250,000 people viewed the ilovebees website when it was launched in August 2004, and more than 500,000 returned to the site every time the pages were updated. More than three million visitors viewed the site over the course of three months, and thousands of people around the world participated in the game. I Love Bees won numerous awards for its innovation and helped spawn numerous other alternate reality games for video games.

Alternate reality games or ARGs are designed to involve fans of video games or other media in a form of viral marketing which CNET described as encompassing “real-life treasure hunting, interactive storytelling, video games and online [communities]”.[1] I Love Bees began when jars of honey were received in the mail by people who had previously participated in alternate reality games. The jars contained letters leading to the I Love Bees website and a countdown.[2] At around the same time, theatrical trailers for Halo 2 concluded with the Xbox logo and a URL, xbox.com, that quickly flashed a link to ilovebees.com,[3] ostensibly a hacked site related to beekeeping.[2]

Both events, not connected publicly for several weeks, caused the curious to visit the website ilovebees.com. The site, which appeared to be dedicated to honey sales and beekeeping, was covered in confusing random characters and sentence fragments. Dana, the ostensible webmaster of the ilovebees site, created a weblog stating that something had gone wrong with her website, and the site itself had been hacked.[4] Suspecting that this was a mystery that could be unraveled, Halo and ARG fans spread the link and began to work on figuring out what was going on.

Players respond to a phone call

The gameplay of I Love Bees tasked players around the world to work together to solve problems, with little or no direction or guidance.[5] For example, the game presented players with 210 pairs of global positioning system coordinates and time codes, with no indications to what the locations referred to.[5] Players eventually figured out the coordinates referred to pay phones and the times to when the phones would ring; one player in Florida stayed by a phone while Hurricane Frances was minutes away in order to recite answers to prerecorded questions.[6] Other phone calls were made by live persons known as “operators”; these calls allowed players to interact with the characters of the games in spontaneous and occasionally humorous ways.[7] Other players treated the corrupted data on ilovebees.com as encrypted files to decipher, or used image files found on the web server to solve puzzles.[6] After players completed certain tasks, they were rewarded with new installments to an audio drama which revealed the reasons for the ilovebees.com malfunction.[6]

Over time, the game’s mechanisms for contacting players grew more complex. Players were sent messages via email, called on their cell phones, and travelled to arranged meetings between players and characters.[8] The game culminated by inviting players of the game to visit one of four cinemas where they could get a chance to play Halo 2 before its release and collect a commemorative DVD.[9]



by Nelson

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