Websites and phone numbers in the Year Zero alternate reality game
Websites and phone numbers
The story of the Year Zero alternate reality game is primarily told through the Year Zero album and a number of fictitious, in-game websites and phone numbers. The appearance of these websites and phone numbers from the year 2022 (Year 0 BA in-game) seems to be as a result of the Solutions Backward Initiative, a group of students, professors, and IT specialists who have devised a method of sending information back through time through "quantum computing."
- 1 In-game websites
- 1.1 I am Trying to Believe
- 1.2 Another Version of the Truth
- 1.3 Be the Hammer
- 1.4 Consolidated Mail Systems
- 1.5 U.S. Wiretap
- 1.6 The Mailstrom
- 1.7 The Price of Treason
- 1.8 Open Source Resistance
- 1.9 Grace The Teacher
- 1.10 One Country At A Time
- 1.11 Exterminal
- 1.12 Brian Tsunoda
- 1.13 Viability Index
- 1.14 Free Rebel Art
- 1.15 Mining For Life
- 1.16 Exhibit Twenty Four
- 1.17 Hour of Arrival
- 2 In-game phone numbers
- 3 Notes
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The numerous sites with the Year Zero game all have a distinct "hacked" or "corrupted" appearance to them, with the exception of Open Source Resistance. They were registered through Domains by Proxy, a company that protects site owners' identities. Presented is a list of the most relevant websites, in the rough chronological order in which they were discovered.
The first website discovered, I am Trying to Believe is primarily concerned with the fictional drug Parepin as well as its relationship to sightings of The Presence. On one of the pages, an email is provided as contact information to the "creator" of the website (email@example.com), and upon sending an email to this address, an auto-reply is returned:
Auto-reply from firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
------------------------AUTO_RESPONSE--------------_--I'm drinking the water. So should you.
Thank you for your interest. It is now clear to me that Parepin is a completely safe and effective agent developed to protect us from bio-terrorism. The Administration is acting purely in the best interests of its citizens; to suggest otherwise was irresponsible and I deeply regret it.
Another Version of the Truth is primarily an in-game forum in which characters discuss varying topics of resistance and life within the world of Year Zero. The opening page resembles a picturesque, propagandistic picture of an American farm, but through Flash the user can reveal another, bleaker picture of a destroyed wasteland. This picture in turn links to an in-game forum. Besides the topics posted on the forum, another forum post has since been discovered that does not link from the main forum page.
Thus far postings on the forum have led to discoveries of three MP3s and a brief timeline of the Year Zero world:
Like the opening page, the "America Unites the World / Another Version of the Past" page, which initially displays an "official" account of history since Year 0, with the implementation of Flash, the user can drag an alternative, satirical, and highly critical version of the same timeline into view.
It can be seen that every few pages contain a certain step in building a bomb.
A resistance site apparently maintained by the "Angry Sniper."  The site was first discovered via the Another Version of the Truth message boards. The site contains seven different sections or "entries," which serve as an insight into the character's past and his own personal views on his contemporary, Year Zero society.
The result of an amalgamation of all private and government run mail services, both paper and electronic. However, there are actually only two versions of the site available: one which corresponds to "citizen_unknown" , which is completely inert and unusable, and one which corresponds to "nooneimportant" , which leads to an inbox of sorts with a piece of mail offering brief insights into the drug Opal. Upon any link being clicked, however, the following error message is returned:
WARNING CODE 24.10.4 (All page functionality disabled): You are not the citizen assigned to this account. Close this window immediately and stay where you are. Authorities will be in contact shortly for appropriate reeducation.
An in-game search engine designed to eavesdrop on messages contained in the Consolidated Mail Systems. Operation of The Mailstrom consists of two text input boxes, one labeled "Wreckage" and the other labeled "Shard." The Mailstrom is said to be a "decryption field" which, seemingly at random and only rarely, is able to intercept emails being sent through the government-controlled data stream, the Consolidated Mail System.
Combinations of "Wreckage" and "Shard" inputs have been discovered within buttons handed out at pre-release Year Zero listening parties and a few through a variety of other means. Later all the Wreckages and Shards that appeared on the buttons were listed on Exhibit24.
The text reads:
ATTENTION! The Bureau of Morality has identified you as A CONSUMER OF DISSIDENT MATERIAL.
This is a one time warning. Any further attempts to view, consume, or distribute un-American content will result in the loss of citizenship increments and/or the imposition of fines, penalties, or imprisonment.
You have choices. Make the RIGHT ones.
For further information on making good choices, visit http://www.thepriceoftreason.netOne Nation Under God
Bureau of Morality
The website is a collection of pro-Year Zero government propaganda about the consequences of rebelling. Much of the site is devoted to anti-music articles including an article about the life of Neil Czerno, an anti-government activist and musician, as well as a mother sent to jail for letting her daughter listen to music before killing herself in a suicide bombing. It also contains articles on the evil of removing nerochips, women receiving an education, and a link to the memorial site Hollywood In Memoriam.
Unlike the rest of the Year Zero sites, Open Source Resistance is set in present-day (2007, -15 BA). The appearance of the site reflects this, particularly since it doesn't carry the "corrupted" appearance of the sites set in the Year 0. Also unlike the other Year Zero sites, Open Source Resistance is interactive: participants in the game can submit artwork, videos, and messages related to the game and story.
The site acts as a hub for a grass-roots resistance movement, urging people to "Wake up and give a shit," in order to prevent a world like the one described in the Year Zero game.
An online journal from a young man that moves into the country. He notices changes in himself, particularly increased aggression, while unaware that it is the lack of Parepin in the water that is responsible for such changes.
A website with letters and comic strips depicting a war in Syria. Discovered from a mural in Los Angeles, California. It is speculated that the artist of the comic on the website is comic book artist Mark Bagley.
The digipak versions of Year Zero have a thermochrome disc, which when heated changes from dark grey to white, revealing a binary sequence. When passed through a binary to ASCII converter, the series translates to "exterminal.net."
The site itself contains hacked content from an unknown website centered around the "Extra Judiciary Federal Detainment Camp" in Guam, consisting primarily of evidence collected against detainees. Of the evidence presented, "exhibitA.wav" is Track #7 from the Year Zero album, "Capital G."
A website consisting of a scholarly paper, which explores the phenomenon of The Presence, presenting several theories on what it might be.
A real-estate guide which rates locales on their viability and property value. Each city is given a "Viability Index," with higher numbers representing the most viable locations. According to the website, nearly every city is affected by some sort of disaster on a regular basis.
Many of the major cities of the world have been adversely affected by global warming, the most significant of which are New Orleans, Louisiana and Charlotte, North Carolina, which have been flooded by rising sea levels, and Mexico City, which is described as "Hell on Earth." New Orleans and Los Angeles, California both have index scores of 0, due to global warming and lingering toxicity due to terrorist attacks, respectively.
The Viability Index is so far the only in-game website to link to real modern-day websites, featuring animations of the effect of rising sea levels on New Orleans and Charlotte, and a study of the microbial air quality of Mexico City, among others.
A site found within the liner notes of Year Zero. The site has two text entry fields, where users can input their name and phone number. Doing this will result in a phone call which tests the user's knowledge of the resistance movement, which results in an official message from Bureau of Morality.
A corporate site found through this Wreckage/Shard combination of The Mailstrom. It is the webpage of "Anglo-Johnson," a fictional company that pays African workers for skin grafts, blood transfusions, bone marrow transplantats, kidney transplants, and cornea transplants, which are then sold on the open-market in wealthier countries.
Government site, found through the GarageBand release of Capital G, that apparently echoes the number system found throughout the alternate reality game. The site acts as an "evidence dossier" of all the media of the game thus far, presented as a catalog of mounting evidence in a surveillance campaign and criminal investigation of an unnamed ("Classified") inmate. Evidence within the website suggests that this "Classified" inmate is none other than Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. The site presents a few additional pieces of "evidence" new to the game, specifically two "Subversive Networks." (#1, #2) Contained within these lists are a series of 4,810 "Resistance members," which seems to be a directory of particularly active Nine Inch Nails forum and fan club members. The entry describes the forum and fan club members as "intelligent, organized, and highly motivated" and that "finding, catching, and destroying them should be a top priority." Many of the "resistance members" are described as "Incarcerated," "Deceased," "Missing," or having fallen victim to a number of other fictitious fates.
Found through a phone call to the mobiles handed out by the Open Source Resistance, the website is a letter from a high-ranking government worker to his yet unborn child (who is due in the next few hours), calling the child Danny Jane (Danny if the child will be a boy, Jane if it will be a girl). In the letter he describes his childhood, sightings of The Presence (the author thinks that it means the nearing of the end of the world) and other facts about the modern time. The letter is cut off at the end.
In-game phone numbers
Also included in the Year Zero game are a number of fictitious, in-game phone numbers, often leading to new and previously undiscovered websites.
The MP3 file of static found with "Me, I'm Not," "2432.mp3," when analyzed through a spectrogram, reveals the phone number 1-216-333-1810. Calling this number returns a wiretapped phone conversation which is described from a different perspective at U.S. Wiretap.com (Case No. - 71839J).
A Nine Inch Nails tour T-shirt contained highlighted letters that spelled out another phone number: 1-310-295-1040. Calling this number plays a series of clips, including a clip of the album's first single "Survivalism."
Another phone number appears on the digipak packaging of Year Zero. On the back is a sticker showing the album's Universal Product Code, copyright information, and a label from the fictional US Bureau of Morality with the phone number 1-866-445-6580. This leads to an official recording from the Bureau.
- Melchor, Michael (2007-03-30). "Full Breakdown Of Nine Inch Nails Year Zero "Web Story"". 411mania. Retrieved 2007-04-08.
- Gunderson, Edna (2007-04-18). "Nine Inch Nails 'Zero' in on bleak future". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-04-19.
- Montgomery, James (2007-02-15). "Weird Web Trail: Conspiracy Theory-Or Marketing For Nine Inch Nails LP?". MTV News. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
- "The contents of tonight's USB key...". The NIN Hotline. 2007-02-25. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- ""Year Zero" Project = Way Cooler Than "Lost"". Rolling Stone. 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2007-04-06.
- Reuters (2007-04-02). "Cryptic Web sites build buzz for Nine Inch Nails". CNN. Archived from the original on 2007-04-08. Retrieved 2007-04-06.
- "NIN fans receive cryptic email". The NIN Hotline. 2007-03-27. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- "OpenSourceResistance.net". The NIN Hotline. 2007-04-06. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- Montgomery, James; Todd Brown (2007-04-16). "Nine Inch Nails' Year Almost Here, But Real-World Game Continues". MTV News. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
- Gunderson, Edna (2007-04-18). "Reznor nails big 'Zero' on the future". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-04-19.
- "Third Nine Inch Nails Track Leaked". dogmaticblog.com. 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2007-04-06.
- "1-800-Survivalism (DO NOT CALL THIS NUMBER, IT'S JUST A HEADLINE!!)". The NIN Hotline. 2007-02-14. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- "New Year Zero cover art posted". The NIN Hotline. 2007-04-04. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- "Year Zero Released Today". The NIN Hotline. 2007-04-17. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
- "Year Zero Cast Study". 42 Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-04-09.
- Frank Rose (2007-12-20). "Secret Websites, Coded Messages: The New World of Immersive Games". Wired. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- Official Year Zero page at NIN.com
- Year Zero Research at the unofficial NIN Wiki
- echoingthesound – discussion forum regarding the ARG
Year Zero phenomena