Speculation Title


Speculation is an alternate reality game that explores the intersection of digital media and finance capital. Unlike videogames, alternate reality games are not bound by a single medium or hardware system but instead use the real world as their primary platform. From cryptographic puzzles and computer simulations to live performances and geocached dead drops, Speculation incorporates a wide range of media to imagine a dystopian future based on the culture of Wall Street investment banks. As an alternate reality, Speculation addresses the historical, material, and experiential realities of the 2008 global economic collapse and the 2011 Occupy movement.

Given their expansive scope and distributed, player-driven dynamics, alternate reality games are notoriously difficult to document. Speculation took place twice in 2012: first launching on April 1 (in Chicago, Durham, and Waterloo) and then on October 11 (in Chicago, Durham, and Poughkeepsie). From a few "rabbit holes" to eight online hubs to sixty four digital games and a final, real-time event, hundreds of players produced thousands of forum posts in the process of playing Speculation.

Designed as an exclusive online feature for the journal Critical Inquiry, a ninth hub, Nexus X, offers players a retrospective overview of Speculation’s narrative and a demonstration of the ludic challenges that make up an alternate reality game. Accompanying an essay that appears in the special issue “Comics and Media,” this Critical Inquiry exclusive serves as a multimodal archive of Speculation organized from the perspective of one of its players, Parkaboy73—a fictional player piloted by the designers. Rather than a summary of the experience, Nexus X represents the third iteration of Speculation and operates as a diegetic document written by Parkaboy73 and featuring his ASCII artwork “Player X: A ©oltan ©omic.”

Made with N. Katherine Hayles at Duke University’s GreaterThanGames Lab and Patrick Jagoda at the University of Chicago’s Game Changer Lab. Exhibited at the Bibliothèque Nationale and the Centre Pompidou, discussed at the Triple Canopy lecture series for EXPO 1: New York at MoMA PS1, and published in Critical Inquiry in 2012–2014.

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Nexus X