Majestic: The First Alternate Reality Game

Let’s flash back for a moment to the year 2001. I was 16 years old and very interested in computers and technology. It was a good time to be into that stuff, as the Dot-Com Bubble was in full swing and new millionaires were being minted every other day it seemed.

One area that I found intriguing was gaming. I remember flipping through WIRED magazine and coming across an advertisement for a completely new type of game that claimed to be very different from any other type of game.

The game was called Majestic and it was one of the first “augmented reality games.” The premise was that you were trying to solve a mystery, and the game would interact with you in your real life. EA enticed players with the following description of Majestic: “The suspense thriller that infiltrates your life through the Internet, telephone and fax, then leaves you guessing where the game ends and reality begins.” Or more simply: “It plays you.”

Once a player signed up, they would receive clues to the game via email, phone call, Instant Message or fax. A person in the game you were talking to might say they would call you tomorrow and you’d actually have to wait until the following day for the call to happen. It could happen at work, at home, any time. The game broke the traditional boundaries of what we think of as gaming by integrating the story line into your everyday life.

I was excited about the idea of this game and I desperately wanted to play. However, I was only 16 at the time and the game required players to be 18 or older. Also, it cost money to sign up and I didn’t have any, being a sophomore in high school (10th grade). Sadly, I never got a chance to participate in the game.

So what became of Majestic? The game launched in 2001 and was retired the same year. The company felt it would be in poor taste to continue the storyline in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The company behind Majestic was absorbed into EA Games. Justin Olivetti has written a much more detailed piece about Majestic which you can read over at massivelyop.com.

Looking at it through adult eyes, I can see that the game was a product of its time and environment. The game came out on the heels of the Dot Com Bubble, the period of time where IPOs of technology companies caused the biggest run-up in US Stock Market history at that time.

There was a lot of optimism in those early days about the Internet as being more than just chat rooms and e-mail. Flooz debuted as an online currency, Pets.com was an early e-commerce venture, and sites like MP3.com were envisioning a world of music streaming and purchasing that was a bit ahead of its time. These dot com companies were trying to “revolutionize” the world, back before “disrupt” became the verb of choice.

It was a time when seemingly anyone with a website and an idea could become a millionaire overnight. Companies were making ridiculous promises and losing vast amounts of money in order to woo users. The mindset at the time was to gain users first and worry about monetization later. This led to startup companies burning through investor cash at alarming rates.

The bubble finally burst on April 4, 2000 when the NASDAQ plunged precipitously low. In the fallout, a number of high-profile tech companies went bankrupt and found themselves penniless. The dot com bubble of the late 90s/early 2000s was over.

Many years later, I still find myself thinking about Majestic. The idea of a game that integrates with your real life is as intriguing to me now as it was when I was a teenager. In fact, I recently spent several hours Google-searching to try and find the name of the game. When I re-discovered that Majestic was the game I’d remembered, I was ecstatic! That inspired me to write this post.

Do you remember the hype around the game Majestic? Did you actually play it? Post a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majestic_(video_game)

https://web.archive.org/web/20080331134720/http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2001/09/46744

About the author

Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman is a writer, photographer, and maker who loves learning new things. His favorite food is pizza. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from Grand Canyon University. He lives and works in Phoenix.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorFreemanAZ, on Instagram at @arizona.dreamin, and on YouTube: TheRealTrevorland.

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