This summer my last college friend was getting married and so we went to one of his favorite vacation spots, Las Vegas, for the bachelor party. Out of 6 of us I was the only one flying out of a different city and so my flight options were a bit different. I got there on a Thursday night and was leaving Monday at some morning hour where you wonder if it is better to just stay awake or get a couple hours of sleep. After too many days of heavy partying I was left alone when everyone took off on Sunday morning. Luckily, as an adult in Vegas it is not hard to find stuff to do, namely pinball hall of fame and Meo Wolf’s Omega Mart. The latter is where this little project begins.

Meo Wolf is an art collective that I’m not going to jump into here, but if you are interested this is their story page. Omega Mart is what I want to talk about instead. When you get to Area 15 you’ll see a giant robot laying on the ground along with a big line to get in to a big square unassuming warehouse. Once inside there is an art shop front and center along with a vending machine you can buy art from and a bar on the right. Omega Mart stands on the left wall by itself and for all intents and purposes it sure does look like a small run of the mill grocery store. After a short line I got in. At first it all looks pretty normal but then you take a look at the shelves and realize maybe other grocery stores don’t have ‘Whale song deodorant’ or ‘tattooed chicken in a can’. The best part? Anything on the shelves is for sale. So pick up those ‘nut-free salted peanuts’ and wash them down with some ‘gender fluid’. It got extra weird when I was looking around at funny products and a kid popped out of seemingly nowhere, then another person opened a cooler and stepped in and did not come out. I’ll try to leave any more spoilers out for Omega Mart, but the gist is Omega Mart is a story. For a couple bucks more you can become an “employee” and then use terminals spread throughout to pull up files from the company files. You can do activities and those will unlock new files. You can find phone numbers and call them on phones spread throughout to listen to messages and get even more info. You can watch some very weird video archives and learn a bit more. Whichever way you turn there are little things to find while walking around a place you will later stuggle to explain to others. It is unreal. I don’t remember the last time my brain was so lit up and excited from a unique thing. Ever since I’ve looked at the environment I live in and decided that boring and normal is not for me anymore.

Omega Mart is essentially an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). You leave reality for a little bit and explore a different reality for a little while. ARGs are not uncommon and Omega Mart is not the first. Escape room’s can be considered ARGs or online experiences like cafe and diner have been around for a while. Anyway, that’s all the background that I think is relevant to this project and so let’s jump in. But befor we begin this little journey I have some things to consider: building an ARG is not free, not in money or energy and so we take stock of what we can do on our own and what we cannot.

I am a software engineer by trade, and I am pretty good at figuring things out. Over the years I have dabbled in microelectronic projects, 3d printing, sewing, along with other maker type hobbies. I have been a standup comic for a few years (amatuer only) and I am an ok writer. More importantly when starting a project it is important to acknowledge your weaknesses. I need to know where I will need help. Writing is my only creative talent. I am not an artist, I’m not a good painter or sculpter. I don’t have any talent in music or making art experiences. I don’t know what colors go together and I can’t make things look nice. I don’t know why, but these things just escape me. So, how do we use our strengths and avoid our weaknesses?

  • I am several paragraphs in and I am now realizing that I guess this whole post is going to be background, but if we can get the boring stuff done then we can get to the good stuff next time.


  • software
  • electronic
  • writing


  • music
  • art in general
  • actual house construction stuff

That seems to draw some pretty clear boundaries of stuff I can do and stuff that will cost me real money if I want it. I should mention now that I am married and that my wife does like the fact that our house is “normal.” She likes things in their place and has on multiple occasions reorganized our entire library to get even a few new books alphabetized. So this is also a constraint. So the first rule for my ARG emerges. It has to be secret and the house has to stay normal.

Now I hear you ask yourself, “If it is secret, then how will people play it?” That is a great question and at some point we will have to answer that. Another upfront question, “How do you hide a game in a house that has to look perfectly normal?” Truthfully, I have no idea, so for now I am ignoring that reality and instead submitting my own. I am tackling the problems I know how to solve.

So first question to answer is what to call this? I landed on Project Shatterstone.

Probably next up: How Phones work! or maybe “How to hide a puzzle”