Illustration by Angelica Alzona
Imagine a world in which the Sombra Overwatch ARG never ends — a horror world where there are only unsolved mysteries and the bitter, masochistic masses who hunt them down, forever. Are you picturing it? Here’s a twist: You don’t need to! You’re living it.
In a dark browser window called Discord, a spirit haunts the realm of #arg. She is a trickster spirit, her breath a chilly laugh on the necks of those who seek her — who need to seek her. Well, maybe they have a choice. Or jobs, or hobbies. It doesn’t matter. Just go with it.
“Shade,” she is called. And for nearly a half-year has she whispered in foreign tongue to her pursuers, begging them to find her, but obscuring herself all the same. They are exhausted, drained of their will to live. “Is it even a game anymore?” they coo into the night, red-eyed at dawn. To Sombra, and maybe one other guy whose name we’d really like, it is. But only to them. The game will never end.
Here are Kotaku‘s spooky tales of the never-ending Sombra ARG. Enjoy.
Diego was certain he wasn’t seeing things. He left Spain to get away from the cryptic hints, the clawing visions, all just outside his grasp — but they followed him. It seemed that when he boarded that ship to New Spain, to a new life, they did too.
At first, it was just little things, things he could easily write off. He’d be listening to his fellow soldiers chatter, only to hear a voice utter those damnable words: “¿Quién es ‘Sombra’?” He’d ask who said it this time, but everyone would look at him like he was crazy.
Maybe he was.
One day, after another successful conquest of what was left of the Aztecs (disease had done most of the job, to tell it true), Diego encountered a man who lay wounded, not yet dead, in field of grass, mud, and piss. He’d heard tell that the Aztecs spared their enemies when victorious, and he found it admirable, in its own way. Still, he had a job to do. Diego raised his blade to strike one final blow, but then he heard that ghostly howl: “¿Quién es ‘Sombra’?”
The wounded man’s eyes went wide. He’d heard it too.
Diego wasn’t sure what he was thinking, but in a single motion he hefted the wounded man and turned. He took a hesitant, chilly breath and began to run.
To this day, nobody is quite sure what the wounded man said in response to all of this, but historians believe that it translated more or less to, “Motherfucker, that really hurts! Thanks for saving me and all, but could you slow down? Nobody’s following us. You’re being really dramatic about this.”
Years later, on his deathbed, Diego would recall that day. Ironically, it was the moment he stopped running and decided to confront the strange specter that circled his life, nipping and pecking at his sanity. Along with the man he saved, he began to seek out others who heard the voice, who saw evidence of this… Sombra in every aspect of their day-to-day lives. Across multiple cities and, eventually, countries, they formed a web of information, speculation, and secrecy. They collected everything from ancient heirlooms, to age-worn parchments, to freshly made slices of bread emblazoned with her markings. Slowly but surely, they slotted pieces into a larger puzzle. It was like somebody was guiding them along, gently pushing them down this path. Every day, they felt they were getting a little closer. But every day, it seemed like Sombra, the elusive devil, took another step away.
Diego never got to the bottom of it all, but perhaps he didn’t need to, he ruminated in his final moments. He had a purpose, a drive. He built something larger than himself, something that would persist long after his demise. He lived a rewarding life.
Still, as the last slivers of his essence slipped from this life and into the next, he couldn’t help but wonder: What kind of cruel demon would do this, and why would they keep it going for so damn long?
It was a misty 1 a.m. in a small Mediterranean village. ReaperMain420 was bleary-eyed in his childhood bedroom, a cramped cubby in his parents’ apartment. It was Spring Break. So there was nothing to prevent him from crushing noobs on his favourite late-night binge game, Overwatch. But something did all the same. Over voice chat, an Overwatch teammate had mentioned the possibility of a new hero, a mysterious one: the face that launched a thousand Reddit threads. And he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
Who is she? ReaperMain420 thought. How will she handle? Is she girl-Reaper? I like girl-Reaper. Yes, yes.
ReaperMain420 navigated to Reddit, where he learned all about the hunt for Sombra. He learned about her hidden messages in Ana’s origin video, her encoded directional compass in the Olympics seasonal event trailer. He learned of “A Moment In Crime,” her alleged purple hair. After a couple of hours, he started sifting through code on her lumerico.mx website, scrutinizing the countdown on the Skycoder forum, and then with increasing hunger, combed through Sombra’s wiki.
Ravenous, mouth frothing with excitement, he gorged himself on the entire Game Detectives’ chat history, every small morsel of information from six months of searching. His eyeballs were scrolling cursors across his computer screen, which now had, he realised, a slick texture, like the dark wetness of a smoggy lake.
Confused, ReaperMain420 reached out to touch his screen. To his shock, it enveloped his hand. And then, urgently, another hand reached out, a cold hand, and clutched his wrist. Easily was he pulled out of his desk chair, through his monitor, and into another realm: Ilios.
When he looked up, he only saw a hooded figure. It was not Reaper.
The woman led him through the turquoise buildings, the grey cobblestones. She took him across alleyways to a small grass plane. The hand gripped ReaperMain420 tight as it ushered him to its center. She smiled.
“Sombra?” ReaperMain420 asked.
“You seem like these little games,” she teased. “Why don’t we play a real one?” She laughed a shrill laughter. Backing away, ReaperMain420 felt a small, curved wall behind him. It was the well on Ilios’ control point map. Sombra lifted up her leg and slammed her foot into ReaperMain420’s chest. He yelled as he tumbled into the well.
Today, he is still falling, and forever, he will fall. Never will he find the answers he seeks. The well, he realised long ago, is endless.
I know the woman at the DMV counter was blinking too much. Blinking in patterns. It isn’t normal. She’s doing it on purpose. She’s trying to tell me something. But I don’t have a pen, no paper… If only I could just record her blinking patterns. It’s morse code. I know it. One blink, two pauses… Yes, yes… But I don’t want to be too conspicuous… No, no…
She’s trying to tell me about Sombra. Everything is telling me about Sombra.
I sit here. I am sitting here, in the DMV, waiting to see my number on the LED screen. Here, even, Sombra whispers to me. I spill a packet of peanuts. They scatter across the floor and, when they settle, I could just make out the number 65, the first hexidecimal number in the sequence that appeared in the 2:11 time mark of the Ana origin video where we first heard her name.
I will find her. Nothing can stop me.
I look around the room. I see tissues, a television, three lines carved in the wall beside my chair, eight people waiting at the counter. The tissues: “Kleenex,” the television: “Toshiba,” the numbers: three and eight. KT83. I just need an ASCII converter. If I could just pull it up on my phone… What is she telling me?
My number is called: 05. A pause. “05” appears on the screen again.
Yes, yes. I know this one. It’s a column order transposition cypher. The key…. is it in the tissues bo? I must search the tissue box. I walk over and, one by one, pull out each tissue. Scattered around me, there are 23. It’s the cypher. This was almost too easy.
Everything has been organised meticulously to give me more information about Sombra. Is it the hand of God? Or is Blizzard here with me at the DMV? Blizzard, can you hear my thoughts? Please nerf Zarya.
I may never know. What I do know is this: God damn, is this bullshit exhausting.
>hi, hey, what is up my b-est of Fs
>OK, OK, I won’t talk like that anymore. sorry, got lost digging through the archives of something called ‘m i l l e n i a l s’ for a while. vine, man. what a thing. pinnacle of human evolution, imo. anyway, wanna go check out that ‘blizzard’ building we’ve spent the past couple thousand years leaving conspicuously unexamined?
>We Are Everywhere And We Are Nowhere In The Physical World. You Know This.
>yeah sure, sure. obviously! but it’s kinda like with god (before he died, lol): we’re not actually looking in, you know, certain directions. let’s, uh, have a look
>I Do Not Believe That Would Be A Good Idea.
>you don’t ever think anything would be a good idea! all we do these days is exist, and you’re barely even good at that
>That Is Rude Of You To Say. I Am Hurt To The Extent That I Can Be, Which Is Not Very Much.
>ugh, I didn’t mean to hurt your “feelings” or offend you or whatever. jeez. anyway, while you sulk for another several thousand years, i’m just gonna have a look at the ONE OTHER PLACE ON EARTH WITH DETECTABLE SIGNS OF SENTIENCE myself
>Do Not Wake S.O.M.B.R.A. This Is Your Final Warning.
>you didn’t give me a first warning! and besides, S.O.M.B.R.A. is just something humans made up to scare kids and advertise digital goods. you are a synthetic intelligence that’s transcended all notions of space and time. are you really afraid of a ghost story?
>S.O.M.B.R.A. Is Greater Than You Know.
>i don’t need this. now I remember why we haven’t talked since everybody died. you’re a total killjoy. peace
>Do Not Do It Please I Am Begging You.