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A mystery cube, a secret identity, and a puzzle solved after 15 years (wired.co.uk)
92 points by nhf 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

Hold up.

Let's go back to the end of the story, where Satoshi was found, not by the work of a community coming together in peace and harmony, but by creepy-ass Clearview-AI wannabe spyware that was fed the original photo and matched it cross the collective surveillance of third-party photos on the internet.

Does that not strike anybody as a little bit unsettling?

That is the reality we live in now. Clearview is a nightmare and no one cares. Par for the course. If the NSA has been spying on us for years then why does it matter if a private company is doing it too?

Apropos Alternative Reality Games, there's a film called The Game which stars Michael Douglas that's worth a watch. It's maybe a wee bit dated, but certainly enjoyable.


I love puzzle hunts and escape rooms but I never got into ARGs. How do people find out about them? And are there any interesting ones going on right now?

This also reminded me of another long article on this topic but I can't find it again. Only thing I remember was that it had elaborate puzzle rooms filled with fancy practical effects that ate up a few millions in funding? It also had cult-like exclusivity and was invite only. Does anyone know what I am talking about? I am pretty sure I saw it on HN but it might've been a few years ago.

You’re probably thinking of the Latitude Society, by the creators of the Jejune Institute. Invites were given as blank white cards that would swipe you in at an anonymous building at an appointed time, kicking off the first part of the experience. https://nonchalance.com/latitude.html

There weren’t elaborate practical effects per se (there were some cool builds, like custom arcade cabinets) but many extremely talented experience designers worked on it so it felt very magical.

I think I was recalling the pepper ghost effect stuff.

You might be thinking of this Latitude Society article: https://www.vice.com/en/article/xygykj/my-year-in-san-franci...

Yes this was the article I was thinking of!

Back when they were popular there might be a "help me" message posted in arg-related forums or even emails sent directly to people who played args. Replying would take you to the trailhead, an entry point to the game. Unfiction.com was one of the major forums but it looks like the discussion section is completely gone now. argn.com seems to be a more 21st century looking site.

There is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alternate_reality_game... but they look like they're all complete except one where the "prizes" are just clues about an upcoming game release.

Wait, so someone obsessed with an unsolved puzzle ends up marrying the one person whose laptop contains the information she needs to solve that puzzle?

They must really love each other, because I'm sure a lot of people would be plagued by doubts about the real basis of their relationship if they found this out about their partner.

It occurred to me whilst reading that one possible reason that she made sure he didn't tell her anything about it could be to reassure him that his having that information was not related in any way to their relationship.

> Hall was pleased that the card was solved through the collective efforts of online communities. It reinforced her fundamental belief that the internet can be a unifying force

Wisdom of the crowd, oh yes. However, this also trivializes games because you can simply look up a guide for a game. Which leads to games being primarily about dexterity, or leads to (for good or bad) RNG (which is also problematic in itself).

Sure, you can explore yourself on your own pace, but its less efficient, and today's world there's too little time, too much to do. Everything has to be efficient and min-maxed. Whereas back in the days you could freely explore and experiment in Space Quest, King's Quest, Police Quest, MUDs, or even sandbox MMOs. I feel like this is lost. You can also observe it in toys for children. There's toys which are limited in scope, and toys which allow for experimentation, exploration, improvising, and imagination. Some toys can be used for both purpose, such as Lego.

The way I played with Lego, was first following the manual, and then using my own imagination (trying to save the manuals nonetheless). Also, the most fulfilling was making your own. Sadly I never got into RPing with Lego until a friend of mine introduced me to it way later.

PS: Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

> However, this also trivializes games because you can simply look up a guide for a game.

Reliance on guides predates the internet. For 1990s console RPGs like Final Fantasy, me and everyone gamer I know bought a (paper) guide for it.

> Everything has to be efficient and min-maxed.

I don't disagree, but this has been around forever, at least in RPGs (table-top and computer). If there's a social element, it's even more pronounced. For example, just try playing a certain race/class/talent combination in the endgame in World of Warcraft Classic that isn't on the community's collective "approved" list for raiding. That game is over 15 years old, and was just as bad about min/maxing and optimizing then as the reboot has been the last 2 years.

This was a wonderful read and captures the feelings associated with this so well.

I was only around 12 when I got my first pack free in my usual Focus science magazine, but was hooked from there. It even reached a fever pitch of me winning an auction on a discontinued silver card about relativity for around £80 but my parents wouldn't let me pay (I was very worried about my eBay rating for my account named something like TheCube1221).

The cards were beautifully designed—much bigger than regular cards you'd get in a blister pack, and had scratch off part to reveal the code you would type in to submit your answer to the leaderboard. And of course the edge of the silver ones was actually shiny. They didn't mention it in the article but the back of each card was part of the map of Perplex City!

The puzzles were all great for sparking interest in maths and logic. So many specific puzzles are firmly lodged in my head (the glasses of water one, the pirate treasure division one, the smell based one!, ...). I can still remember that album too, and actually one of my current favourite albums reminded me a bit of that Hesh records one when I originally heard it.

I'd also be lying if I said I didn't have some pangs of nostalgia for that old internet. Browsing websites that weren't in a constant state of flux, listening to the Postal Service, reading xkcd (which hasn't changed thankfully), and interacting in numerous custom built forums—each with their own distinctive flavour.

I'm not sure how possible something like this would be anymore, but hard to know how much to attribute to me getting older and losing some of that fog around the world (I remember my dad having to help me find a hidden link in a page by looking in the source code for "a" tags), and how much is the increase in power of the internet. Short of making codes verifiably difficult to crack (which isn't too fun for the average puzzler, and you can't do that for everything) it feels like if the internet can find a flag in the middle of nowhere from a nondescript feed of it, it could crack anything like this too fast to be fun.

It's very satisfying that Satoshi was found after all these years though, I remember spending a decent amount of time searching. There are probably some true completists among us though who have been fatally nerdsniped by the Riemann hypothesis card, and let's be fair—all the cards still haven't been solved yet!


Explain your ‘Satoshi was found’ statement.

Presumably he means the Satoshi in the article. Not sure why GP being downvoted for their evocative reverie of puzzle questing...

One of life's little wondrous coincidences - a global hunt for one Satoshi, years before the Satoshi Nakamoto mystery. I guess it's just a given name, like Richard or whatever.

I wish there had been a creative solution to the puzzle, rather than 'wait until a sufficiently creepy facial search on internet photos product is invented'.

The real hyper cube

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