Kanye Quest 3030 ? How Data Miners Discovered the Greatest ARG of the Decade.
You might have heard of Kanye West, a famous artist known for his spoken-word poems, hip-hop debuts and his marriage to Kim Kardashian. You may have even heard of the 2013 indie-developed game Kanye Quest. However, you may not have heard about one of the alternative endings to Kanye Quest ? A supposed real-life invitation to join a Cult.
Before we delve into this mystery, we need to define a few things:
- What is Kanye Quest?
- What is an ARG?
- What is Data Mining?
Kanye Quest 3030 is a 2013 released hip-hop-themed science-fiction 2D roleplaying video game which was available on Steam, Newgrounds, and other popular video game-related websites. It is not known who the developer(s) were for the project, but we do know that this game is supposedly completely unrelated to Kanye West in terms of official brand awareness. You can view a trailer for the game here.
Looks just like your typical RPG ? Right?
The story begins in January 2010 when West is taking out the trash out one day, in which he abrasively finds himself traveling through a wormhole. Emerging on the other side, Kanye opens his eyes and to his amazement, finds himself in the year 3030. In a dystopian city filled with clones of hip-hop musicians and under the control of a god-like dictator, can Kanye get back home?
What is an ARG?
3301 ? The greatest Reddit mystery of all time
According to argn.com, Alternative Reality Games (ARG) are ?fictional narratives that unfold over time, using the real world as a platform to tell a story that gives players control (or the illusion of control) over the events that unfold.?
?Some ARGs may ask you to follow narrative threads from one platform to another. If you see a business card while watching a YouTube video, check to see if the company has an online presence, or try calling the telephone number. Players typically work together to piece together bits and scraps of information to uncover larger stories, acting like narrative archaeologists. Often, the community of players that form around these games can help point you in the right direction.?
ARG?s will usually involve real-life actions, an example of this is the infamous ilovebees ARG, in which many members of the gaming community began to receive seemingly random jars of honey pots delivered to their address with the words ?I love Bees? written on the jar. Many of said members of the community banded together to try and understand more about such a mystery ? which ended up being an elaborate marketing campaign for the upcoming Halo 2 release.
ARG?s are often made with the intention of using them for marketing and advertising purposes, as it often generates interest and articles, such as the one you are reading right now. ARG?s can also be used to create a form of communication with a petite amount of people from a particular community. An example of this is the elaborate 3301 challenge (see above) released on Reddit, in which a handful of exceptionally talented hackers and decoders managed to crack a series of coded puzzles, both online and in the real world, eventually leading them to a membership opportunity within the network-security and cryptocurrency industry.
What is Data Mining?
Within the video-game industry, data mining is defined as the process of accessing the in-game files, giving one the ability to view the developer code in which the game was created. Through this, we can learn a lot, from what languages was used to build the game, to how the developer used such languages to develop the game, to accessing single image files, to accessing information that was never intended to be viewed by the user.
As just mentioned, data mining is often used in the real word by people to access hidden content within a video game that cannot otherwise be viewed. An example of this is members of the community data-mining recent releases of the world-famous Pokmon games in order to gain information about certain items of Pokmon which are otherwise not available to the user.
Because of Data Miners, Game Freak, the developers of Pokemon, generated a an unintentional viral sensation in 1998 after Data Miners discovered an unreleased Pokmon named ?Mew? within the initial US/EU releases of Pokemon Red and Blue. Within this games universe, Mew is the 151st Pokmon, and although Mew itself was mentioned within the games on multiple occasions, nobody had ever been known to access one. Thus, grown-ups and children all across the world quickly began spreading rumors about Mew and its existence quickly became a point of ponder among many.
Because of this discovery, Red and Blue became worldwide all-time best-sellers after rumors spread globally about the hidden Pokmon, and people quickly began to conspire on how to access this Pokmon in game, and who was going to be the first to do it.
So what does any of this have to do with Kanye Quest?
Kanye Quest came and dispersed fairly quickly. The developers may not have generated much, if any money, from the game, due to the game being free to download and play.
Kanye Quest never made any best-sellers list, nor did it become a viral sensation. It did feature on many sites such as Newgrounds and Kotaku, and generated mixed-responses from critics, and was soon left to collect virtual dust as those who had once played in middle school grew older, developed their library of games further, and eventually began to forget about Kanye Quest altogether.
The ending on Kanye Quest is nothing spectacular. Kanye and his followers battle against the dreaded BasedGod Clone, in which Kanye and his followers band together in their typical turn-based formation, to knock the absolute hit points out of BasedGod Clone, and eventually defeat him, granting Kanye the ability to finally return to modern day and live happily ever after.
The game ends, the gamer shrugs, and life goes on.
The Alternative Ending
In 2015, it was discovered by an anonymous user that there was more than one ending to the game. The discovery was posted in a paste-bin file (found here) in which the anonymous user claims to have discovered the ending via the use of inputting the word ?ASCEND? into the console when asked by an NPC
Usually upon entering any input to this NPC, she would simply echo back what you had just typed.
The user then claims to have discovered the alternate ending by typing in the word ?ASCEND?, inspired by the cypto-esque text the user can discover near the beginning of the game
The only instance where the word ?ASCEND? is implied within the game.
Upon entering the code, the user is then transported to another level. The sprite no longer represents Kanye West but instead is of a butterfly. You, the new-born butterfly, find yourself contained within a pyramid, with nothing but terminals which prompt you to enter text. The user claims to receive the following text upon entering this seemingly-alternate dimension within the game:
This was the spark to the biggest mystery yet to be solved within the video-game industry ? What on earth is the purpose of this, and why does it exist?
Data mining comes into play; after being displayed the message, the user was ultimately unable to continue further in this strange, yet compelling narrative, due to the lack of cryptic knowledge needed to enter into the in-game terminal to continue to the next stage.
Upon pressing A on the terminal sprite, you are prompted to enter a password in order to continue to the next tier of the pyramid, and thus progressing to the next terminal, and it is indeed almost impossible to have correctly entered the passwords without access to the developer files. Unfortunately, this alternative ending is not very-well documented, nor is the video game still available to the public. As such, I can only recommend that you view the following video in order to understand what kind of information is asked of the user to input in order to allow access to the ending:
Incase you missed it, here is a screenshot compilation of what is asked of you near the end:
Here is what happens if you wish to continue further:
And then once you conform with a ?yes??
That?s right. You are prompted to enter your personal information.
So what is the point of all this?
Well, for starters, there is talk about how this may be an in genius way to get young people who are affiliated, or are inspired by either hip-hop, or hacking, or anything in which may be their target demographic, to join this particular organization. It may be that this organization has chosen this format of recruitment as a way to immediately filter out those who do not show interest or potential in this particular subject.
As more research is being produced on this particularly strange ending, many have come to the conclusion that this is, in fact, a real cult.
The reason behind this is due to a group effort made via the UnsolvedMysteries subreddit , where it was discovered that a tie between Kanye Quest and this seemingly obscure twitter account ?Ascend Records? occur.
What is strange about this account, is its seemingly almost randomly generated posts, which appear to form indistinguishable content, leaving many readers baffled, and scratching their heads.
Data-miners, ARG-enthusiasts, and even psychologists are left dumb-founded by this. We are all in the same baskets chirping to each other ? What is the reason of this? What was the expected outcome? What did the developer wish to achieve from this? Is Ascend Records even tied to Kanye Quest, or maybe even Kanye West himself?
Even stranger, upon the initial discovery of the request, not only have the developers removed any identification relating to themselves, but the video game itself has since been removed from the web, and the Ascend Records twitter account appears to have ceased posts.
BUT WAIT, THERE?S MORE!
Ascend records may initially appear to be tied to cult-like invites, via the use of Kanye Quest, but what?s even stranger is this: Ascend Records is just that ? it?s a music record company.
Unfortunately, with this being a supposed-technical blog, I can?t divulge much further on the company itself, but their ?music? can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/user/AndromedaUGC/videos
(Please note: Since researching for this blog, most videos have since been taking down)
Of course, the most obvious reason for all of this would be for marketing purposes. ARG?s are a common formation within the industry for just that.
However, recruitment via the use of ARG-like components such like this isn?t uncommon, and even more so, strange instances of invitations to cult-like organizations aren?t uncommon, such as these examples here.
So what are the potential dangers of this?
As programmers, scientists, engineers and artists, we need to be aware of the definition of an ARG and what its components involve, as well as the implications that could derive from it as a result.
Because ARG?s are a brand-new formation of artistic displays within the industry as a whole, it is very difficult to decide yet as to what implications that they may pursue, as well as what they may be used for in the future: whether that may be marketing or advertisement is not so much the question, but rather what are they advertising/marketing as a whole? We also must understand that ARG?s are incredibly well hidden, making it inaccessible for most people to access. This means that QA testers are unlikely to discover this, which also means it?s likely that many games can contain material not suitable for its intended audience.
This is why data mining is important, as without it, many easter-eggs, ARG?s, and unused code would not be discovered, and so long as we have data miners, many companies will be less tempted to include malicious material within their projects, reducing the chances of invitations to real-life secret organization activity becoming a common theme in video games.
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Before we conclude, I would like to make a note that although the ARG for this supposed Ascensionism alternate ending/cult invitation is, in fact, very real. It does not necessarily mean that it is actually a real-life interaction to an organization of any kind. It is worth noting that Kanye Quest is and was always an offline-single-player-game. This means that you can progress and complete the alternate, cult-esque ending, all the while entering your personal information, but data miners have found that this information never gets sent to the server ? meaning that such information is never divulged.
Your final message before being exited out of the game.
So, to conclude, although this particular game may not process your personal information to an upcoming musically-inspired cult, that does not mean that the rise of ARG?s is inevitably safe, and as such, we must ask ourselves: what are some of the implications that Alternate Reality Games could invoke on us within the near future?
To join in the fun on our research into Kanye Quest and its links to to Ascensionism, feel free to request an invite to our shared research data here
Sources: (To be added)