We all like to reminisce about the good old days, especially when it comes to looking back at the great video games of the past. Two game developers have used this nostalgia to promote their new title, a twine game about fandom, forums and Usenet boards, by making up a classic JRPG for the Playstation.
The "fake" #JRPG is called Arc Symphony, and it has been causing trouble on the internet for the last couple of days, getting everyone confused about whether the #videogame... actually existed. Weird. It all started when the two devs, Sophia Park and Penelope Evans, handed out homemade jewel cases for Arc Symphony to their friends so that they would post about it on social media.
Arc Symphony? Yeah, I Remember That
The remaining cases of the fictitious game were brought to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival — held last weekend — where a bunch of people got in on the rumor-spreading action. Just for the lulz, you know. There were even a few there that would insist that they'd actually played Arc Symphony back in the day.
As Penelope Evans told Kotaku in a recent email:
“One or two people at TCAF mentioned something along the lines of: 'Oh, I think maybe I played this at a friend’s place.' That was surreal. I was really focused on nailing the look of the case, and apparently I succeeded.”
That's a promotion campaign well done, I'd say. Except for the fact that people might actually believe Arc Symphony is a real, classic JRPG and be genuinely disappointed when they find out it doesn't exist. Perhaps even feel a bit cheated.
A Game About The Forum Fans
The real Arc Symphony isn't a JRPG, but an indie game about the fandom surrounding one. It takes place on a Usenet board for this non-existent game, where players are assigned a user profile and asked to play through a brief personality test before diving into the old-school internet community experience.
It all feels very authentic, which you'll know if you've ever been a part of a well-established internet forum. From the well-developed, quirky characters appearing on Arc Symphony's boards to the issues brought up in the different online conversations found there.
"I think it feels a lot like a real forum experience: all you’re looking at is pixels, but there is someone behind that screen. They get to accept or reject you, and you get to accept or reject them.”
- Sophia Park to Kotaku
It Works Because Of The Marketing
Besides friends and people from Toronto Comic Arts Festival spreading misinformation about the JRPG Arc Symphony, Sophia Park and Penelope Evans also reached out to a few other developers and got them in on the joke. The following internet reaction to the non-existent game was so big, it even surprised the two that put the whole thing in motion:
“It’s actually really unsettling when it stops just being indie game devs having fun with each other, and starts being, well, rewriting cultural memory."
On top of the stir-up Arc Symphony caused on Twitter and Facebook, an unnamed hero also created a very believable Neocities fansite, which will pop up if you google the game. There's also a thread on NeoGaf where people are trying to further develop the mythology of the-game-that-never-was by spreading crazy misinformation. There's a thesis waiting to be written on Arc Symphony and this whole mess.
What old games are you really nostalgic about?