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Essay by Pat Harrigan: Monkey with a Mustache, MysteryPhone: Art of Darkness

Monkey with a Mustache, MysteryPhone: Art of Darkness

An art heist. Missing persons. Missing cat.

Jerry Belich is a master criminal. He plans his crimes with care. They are masterpieces of misdirection. They are executed with clockwork precision. Jerry Belich is the Napoleon of Crime and, like Napoleon, he is pretty short.

Jerry Belich employs only the best. No mere goons, these. His team is peerless in its villainy: David Pisa is a walking shadow, Megan Dowd keeps to the fringes, and Brian Quarfoth, expert bagman, keeps it all running, keeps you running. This is Jerry Belich’s team. They are the art in the darkness.

Jerry Belich knows who you are. You are a master detective.

You have been waiting for this night. You have searched for clues in the newspapers; you have interviewed lowlifes. You will pound the pavement, you will ask the tough questions, you will make choices that cannot be unmade. Tonight you tread the mean streets, you delve deep into Minneapolis psychogeography. Its buildings and alleyways are no longer comforting; they are the scenes of an urgent mystery. Each brick speaks a paragraph; each step is a move in the game.

You’ll spend a lot of time on your phone. Your MysteryPhone.

MysteryPhone: Art of Darkness is the latest of Jerry Belich’s interactive narrative games. In previous works such as Choosatron, he transformed the story-game format to create a customized reading experience for each player. Northern Spark’s MysteryPhone greatly expands the parameters of his interactive storytelling.

MysteryPhone is something like a live-action Choose Your Own Adventure book, because you make choices that advance the story. It’s something like How to Host a Murder, because you solve crimes. Like The Big Sleep, it’s a mystery.

Jerry Belich has woven a complex web of narrative possibilities among multiple real-world locations. Clues and narrative elements are place-based and occur in real time, delivered to your phone. You decide which leads to pursue or ignore, and the story you experience is unique, unlike that of anyone else.

Your phone is the center of the mystery. Your phone tells you things, and shows you things, and asks you things. You tell it where you go and you tell it what you do. And when you tell it these things, you tell Jerry Belich, too.

Jerry Belich knows where you are—right now, this moment—and when you decide what to do next, he will know that, too. Jerry Belich is one step ahead of you. He has planned it all, and he does not believe that you can prevent his crimes or solve his mysteries. But you believe differently. You will make Jerry Belich believe it, too.

Jerry Belich has a heart of noir. He works his evil in the dark places of your city. But you, detective, will light a spark.

A northern spark.

- Pat Harrigan, Writer-at-Large