The Beast was the first true Alternate Reality Game. It was set in the AI movie universe but at a time about 40 years after the movie. In April 2001, a group of people came together, curious about the rumors of circled letters on the backs of the AI movie posters and the credit in the movie trailers for one Jeanine Salla, "Sentient Machine Therapist."
The Cloudmakers, founded by Cabel Sasser at a free online messaging service, were soon hot on the trail of the person who had murdered the fictional character Evan Chan. At least they thought he was fictional, but nowhere in any of the dozens of sites that were eventually found was there a disclaimer stating, "By the way, this is just a game." In fact, the creators went so far as to embed the opposite message – "This is not a game." – in sparkling letters of subsequent movie trailers.
In tracking down those responsible for Evan Chan's untimely demise, the Cloudmakers—and the thousands of independent players who followed along—uncovered a secret cabal of Watchers, an underground movement of sentient robot revolutionaries, and a secret project gone madly out of control. In the process, players decoded messages encrypted with a World War II Enigma machine cipher; translated German, Japanese, and Chinese text; and created a nightmare database to trap an insane AI named Loki, who was "hacking" a swath through the in-game websites.
The story that unfolded across thirty sites was written by Sunburst and World Fantasy award-winning, Canadian author, Sean Stewart, engineered by Jordan Weisman and masterminded by Elan Lee, both of Microsoft. The Cloudmakers maintain an exhaustive archive of the sites and pages found during play.