UPDATE: Readers have come together on Discord and made small discoveries about the ARG and how it connects with the comics. I’ve updated the article with the new section at the bottom of the page.
UPDATE 12/4: The ARG site has been significantly updated since the release of W0rldtr33 #5. See below what has changed!
W0rldtr33 by James Tynion IV and Fernando Blanco is one of the most intriguing creator-owned comics ongoing from Image Comics today. It has been gripping readers with its unique techno-horror story about a mysterious website called the Undernet that causes its visitors to do horrific things. Think of it like The Ring, but instead of being afraid of a cursed videotape, W0rldtr33 wants you to be afraid of the Internet itself. As if the Internet wasn’t scary enough already in real life, the comic has a crazy naked ghost lady going around forcing people to kill others. The comic has gone as far as showing a character live streaming themselves murdering an old couple in cold blood to take part in the Undernet’s violent community.
With just two issues so far, there’s still plenty to unravel about the mystery of W0rldtr33. Except Tynion and the team want to pull readers deeper into the rabbit hole using their version of an alternate reality game (ARG). If you visit the URL w0rldtr33.net, you’ll be greeted by an ominous splash page. Originally, this site acted as a promotion leading up to the series' debut. Now, over a month after its release, the site has been updated with a password input page. Readers have since been trying to figure out the password to get in because the latest issue featured the same webpage with horrifying events following it.
Before I go deeper, I want to briefly explain what an ARG is and why it fits so well into W0rldtr33’s story. ARGs often present unique online experiences centered on cryptic and interactive content. Clues sprinkled throughout the content lead participants to discover more details about the story told within the ARG. The cryptic nature of the content means it can be dissected and interpreted in many ways. These often lead to discussion threads speculating the meaning of every clue to find the next one. By creating a blend of reality and fiction, the narratives of ARGs shift and mold depending on the discoveries and interpretations made by participants.
It’s fitting for a comic that talks about the terrifying power of the internet to elevate its story in such a way that invites people to connect and speculate together. It’s as if we readers are part of the same group of hackers looking to learn more about the Undernet and its messed up power.
Going back to W0rldtr33’s ARG, readers assumed the website was going to stay as it was when it was first discovered. But with issue #2 showing a log-in page of the Undernet itself, readers quickly checked for a new update on the site. Lo and behold, the website was updated with a similar-looking log-in button at the dead center of it. So far, no one has been able to crack the website’s code despite Redditors scrubbing for any clue they can find. In a classic move for plenty of ARGs, readers have looked through the website’s source code hoping to find something but to no avail.
The biggest big clue readers have discovered is on page 15 of issue #2. A Post-it note on Gibson’s computer shows text scribbled under the username “M1LL10N5.” Sounds simple enough, right? If only the answer to the mystery were that simple. What’s shown on the panel is incredibly difficult to decipher. It’s also much longer than the seven characters shown typed into the text box. This means that whatever is on that piece of paper is some sort of code or cipher for the actual password that Fausta figured out. This clue is what most readers have been racking their brains with because it’s the most upfront clue so far.
As I mentioned earlier, readers have looked through the website’s source code with few results to go by. But something that did stand out about the new page is how it ominously has “month-1” added to the end of its URL. This seems to imply that more clues will unravel as the series goes along with each new issue. It’s still too early to tell at this point, but exciting to consider nonetheless.
Readers have also gleaned what’s shown on the webpage itself. As exciting as it would be to have clues hidden in the screen of green code shown on the log-in page, we recommend not getting your hopes up. The cryptic imagery on that page has already been debunked as just a looping video found on YouTube. This discovery goes to show how some facets of ARGs can be quickly deconstructed when enough people put their heads together.
When done right, ARGs have the potential to make things very exciting for people committed enough to dive into them. Not only do they add layers to the narrative, but they also authentically bring communities together trying to crack whatever mystery is behind it all. For a story that’s as shrouded in mystery as W0rldtr33 is, it will be intriguing to follow how this ARG develops in the next few months. Keep an eye on this space, as we will constantly be updating it with every new piece of information discovered. We’ll be on the front lines as much as others who are trying the crack the code of W0rldtr33.
Since the ARG’s discovery, readers have scraped through every possible avenue for answers to all our questions. Every page has been scanned and dissected carefully, including the credits at the start and end of each issue. Some readers have also scrubbed through Tynion’s recent newsletters for any morsel of a hint they can find. Even after all that, there is still not much to go by.
The most substantial “breakthrough,” however, has been readers reaching out to Tynion himself during comic book creator panels. The writer has hinted that the password may not be solvable yet. This hint could be related to how the login page has “month-1” on its URL. It implies that the ARG will just grow naturally as the series progresses. It makes the site feel more like an interactive companion piece for the comic. This shows that this is only the beginning of the wild ride the creative team has in store for us readers.
As expected, the final issue of W0rldtr33's first story arc provided us with the biggest development into the ARG. Not only does the issue make numerous hints to w0rldtr33.net, but the back cover gives the password we've been looking for to enter the mysterious website. By inputting "m1st3rw1nt3r" (Mister Winter), into the password box, it sends you straight to the forum homepage we've seen throughout the comics. On that page, you'll see one clickable forum entry.
This same eerie passage is the same one found in the latest issue. Admittedly, it is a bit disappointing that content within the site is nothing new from what's already in the comics. It does make for a cool experience beyond the pages. It's also a great sign that this space is going to be continuously updated as the story moves forward in December.