The new novel and transmedia experience from podcast novelist JC Hutchins and noted game designer Jordan Weisman, Personal Effects: Dark Art, launched today.
The novel itself deals with Zach Taylor, an art therapist at The Brink (Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital), where the criminally insane go to rot. He’s young, believes in his work, and has fully met his match when he meets Martin Grace, a man accused of killing twelve people. The trick is, Grace is also psychosomatically blind. Grace claims his innocence and puts the blame on a dark force he is dreadfully afraid of.
The book does much more than track Zach’s story in learning about Martin Grace’s guilt or innocence, as it comes with actual personal effects. With the book you will get ID cards, credit cards, faxes, notes, messages, even a braille card, all designed to lead you to more content. If you call the numbers in the book, you’ll get the characters’ voice mails. If you use Zach’s stated pass code for his voice mail, you’ll hear messages left from other characters. The extra content, from The Brink’s website to the phone messages, is intended to lead to a bigger story, information about the murders and Martin Grace that the characters in the book will never see.
A particularly cool phenomenon coming out of Personal Effects is Rachael Webster, aka Pixelvixen707. She’s our protagonist’s girlfriend, a professional videogame blogger. She’s been blogging—for real—since January. That’s January ’08. She recently started doing a new game blog for Suicide Girls (link is SFW, but the site as a whole has naked ladies on it. Be warned if you click on anything), and can be found posting frequently on Twitter. Reading her stuff you will find content worthy of any of the popular gaming blogs, and occasionally she’ll mention Zach and his job. (Check the blog posts for October and November ’08, which is when the story takes place.)
The book stands alone as a solid, creepy story (I’ve read an ARC, I can vouch), so if you’re not into the alternate reality games and chasing down clues, you can still enjoy the story. But for those who want to see what storytelling can evolve into, this book might be just the thing. We need more content making use of the vast potential of the ‘net, and I’m glad to see Personal Effects doing so.