Complex TV

p. 308-309: LOST

As to the goal of revealing narrative mythology for the ongoing television series, the ARG proved to be more frustrating than rewarding—the canonical narrative content was not sufficiently integrated into the television series as a whole, making some players feel like they had wasted their time on “trivia,” rather than getting a head start on what was to come during Lost’s third season. The Lost Experience’s biggest revelations were in the so-called Sri Lanka Video, which included an “orientation film” featuring Alvar Hanso, explaining the origins and mission of the DHARMA Initiative, the meaning of the “numbers” (which had been a central mystery from the program’s first two seasons) as being part of an equation predicting the end of the world that was being researched by the DHARMA Initiative, and numerous other clues that connected directly with the television canon. However, these revelations never appeared in the series itself, and the numbers were given a different (but not contradictory) explanation in the program’s final season. For fans who participated in the ARG, the mystery of the numbers was already solved, and the new explanation felt like a slap in the face undermining fans’ engagement by placing the narrative events uncovered in the ARG into an ambiguous paracanonical status. In contrast, some of TLE’s revelations were considered “unanswered questions” by television fans who were left unsatisfied with Lost’s lingering mythological ambiguity— for such fans, knowing that the numbers and DHARMA were further explained in the ARG increased frustration over the television program’s narrative, as they wanted to be able to comprehend the series fully without requiring “online research.” Even for TLE players who learned the secrets of the Sri Lanka Video (which has received over one million views on YouTube, still a small fraction of the program’s global television audience), the fact that the television series never addressed, and subsequently contradicted or displaced, its revelations made the game play more frustrating in retrospect, feeling more like a waste of time than a storytelling bonus.

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