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Interview with Shane Messer, creator of Weapons of Mass Destruction hunt (english)
by Stephanie Cordova
05 Nov 2003
An offer for lunch was extended to Shane Messer, in order to ask him a few questions about his massive hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction real-life puzzle and it's origins.
Tracking down Shane Messer seems to be much easier than tracking down
the $5000 golden trophy that he has hidden in the midst of nearly 3,000 public
domain documents obtained from the government.
With only a few weeks to go until the product actually ships, the project seems
to have already become source of debate.
I offered to take Shane Messer to lunch in order to ask him a few questions
about his massive hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction real-life puzzle and
it's origins. (And maybe get a few hints).
He doesn't eat Chinese, so we opted for Starbucks
SC: So what exactly is "Find Those Weapons: The Hunt for the Real
WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)"?
SM: Well, it consists of a CD, a 10 page clue book, a Bingo shaped matrix, and
a map. With all four of these items, you can begin to deduce where the "trophy"
is located. Once you figure it out, you go out and get the “fake”
trophy. From there instructions will be given on how to get the real one.
SC: So you have
physically hidden these things all over the country?
SM: I can’t reveal how, what, or where the items are. I can’t reveal
how many there are. I know it sucks, but I can't even reveal where one should
even go about looking. The only thing I can say is that we have designed the
game so that the largest 65 major metropolitan cities are able to play, as well
as 4 cities in the UK.
SC: What happens once someone
SM: They get a $5000 solid gold shaped trophy. The trophy is shaped like a weapon
of mass destruction. There is also a bag of cash based on the number of entrants
and a barrel of oil that we are going to send to George Bush. If no one wins,
we are going to send everything to Bush. After he gets out of office though.
That way he can keep it.
Is that legal?
SM: Not sure. I think there may be an issue with sending it throught the mail.
Maybe some friends and I will take a road trip to and deliver it.
much did it cost you to make the game?
SM: I can’t say.
guess it's safe to say that you are a Democrat?
SM: If you asked me that a year ago, I would have said Republican. Over the
past year, I have pulled back to a "middle of the road."
the subject, if you had a million dollars, would you support the women's soccer
SM: Umm. Yeah sure. I guess it depends on if I got free tickets to the games.
you have a background in game making or did you just randomly think up this
SM: No real background I guess. I have always just enjoyed paying these kinds
of games in real life and on computers. This is my first attempt at my own game.
There is a big interest in these kinds of games in Europe
do you do for a day job?
SM: I'm a technology and production manager for a new alcoholic beverage company
called Player's Extreme. Great flavored vodkas. It's a cool place to work.
SC: What's your favorite drink?
SM: Amaretto Sour.
you have any samples you can give me?
SM: Actually, I carry about 9 bottles in my car at all times. One of each flavor.
You can have whatever you like.
does a technology person go about making something like this?
SM: I wrote a book when I was 20. It was more of a personal diary, but the book
sold pretty well in local and regional bookstores. From there, I did a few short
videos for film festivals, and most recently worked on a mock candidate running
for office. I have always been doing politically motivated “odd projects.”
This is the first time I have really created something that I ties in to my
love for puzzles, my knowledge of technology, and my fascination with politics.
are you wanting to gain by this endeavor?
SM: First of all: going back to college. Secondly, we all have our own feelings
about where we stand on the Iraq war and on the information being given to us
by the Government. This game is simply my interpretation of this whole Iraq
ordeal and how it seems to have been blown a little out of proportion by everyone:
the media, the UN, and the White House.
are you studying in college?
SM: Law. Cyber law specifically.
you agree with the war?
SM: I agree Saddam needed to be removed; and that it probably would have needed
to eventually happen by force. But I also agree that the leader of N. Korea
needs to be removed. It seems to me that we played out this entire scenario
on evidence that is not credible whatsoever. I am not an fanatical idealist,
but (stops short).
you agree with out America dealt with this situation?
SM: No. I think we did a discredit to the UN and a discredit to the American
people by somewhat misleading them with beefed up propaganda.
would you have done differently?
SM: I would have never went to war until the UN was 100% on board. We were told
there was imminent danger, but I don’t believe that. We had plenty more
time and we should have went that route. We may have lost a little face, but
it’s more important that we set a proper precedent. France and Germany
were being pretty stubborn, but we should have been more firm with them and
at the same time a little more willing to negotiate.
you in the military?
SM: Yeah. I had a non-combat related injury and was discharged just after training
and just before really starting my job.
many people have signed up?
SM: I can’t reveal that, at this point. It wouldn't be fair to the number
of people playing to know how many they are up against.
How's the coffee?
SM: I actually got a hot white chocolate. It's good.
long did it take you to create this game?
SM: Just under 6 months. In retrospect, it could have been done much faster.
It started out just being a joke. By the time realized that it was turning into
a larger puzzle, I realized that I was also making a political statement at
the same time. I had to go back and make changes to align the result with my
own interpretation. Right or wrong, I want to make sure that at least I am making
my own point very clear.
what is that point that you are trying to make?
SM: The need to look beyond the surface of what we see on TV. I think that more
and more credibility and questioning of facts will lead to a stronger representational
system. Our country is great, but we should always strive to make it better.
One good thing about the internet and organizations like indymedia is that we
can hear from all voices.
you think that this project might get people on edge knowing that you are hiding
things around the country?
SM: Not if they get the right information given to them. The fake prizes not
dangerous in any kind of way. This whole thing is just a game. I have been in
contact with the FBI and have been referred to their legal department for more
assistance. My thought there has been to quell any questions or panicking for
no reason. I keep having these recurring thoughts that the FBI is going to come
knocking on my door flashing some Patriot Act papers demanding to scour my house
for stuff about Bush, Iraq, Saddam or Osama. Hopefully, people will realize
this is just a game. Albeit with a political twist.
SM: I love gaming theory, politics, and technology. I would love to see myself
being able to create political puzzles that go in sync with current politics.
Watergate, Whitewater, Iraq. Games that allow people to come out the other side
knowing a bit more about politics and how the American political machine works.
I hope to use my law degree to further explore and assist the role of technology
in the government and in international relations. I am working on a new project
right now, but am only about a third complete. I will probably post a few messages
about it on the current website, www.findthoseweapons.com.