Resurrect Dead – What does it all mean?

by nerdnyc

NYC game designers Luke Crane (Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard, Dark Crystal) and Jared Sorensen (InSpectres, Lacuna, Action Castle) join forces with Merrill Sterritt (, Women Make Movies) to bring you the Resurrect Dead Alternate Reality Game.

Have you stepped on them?

Perhaps driven over… without noticing?


What does resurrecting the dead, Jupiter, Stanley Kubrick, David Mamet, a massive Chilean telescope, and hundreds of tiles spanning city streets all over the world from New York to Buenos Aires have in common?

The Toynbee Tile mystery.

Resurrect Dead: The Toynbee Tile mystery is a documentary akin to X-Files, Fringe, or Lost meets Exit Through The Gift Shop… delving deep into a 30 year urban mystery intersecting the world of street art with conspiracy theory subculture.

NerdNYC talks with Luke, Jared, and Merrill about the Resurrect Dead ARG…

What is an ARG?
Jared: ARG stands for Alternate Reality Game. It’s a game that takes place in the real world, usually in the form of a scavenger hunt or a race. Information gathering is a key element of this type of game and the players make use of this information (addresses, phone numbers, URLs, QR codes, flyers, living people) to navigate the game and ultimately, to solve it. There’s a heavy puzzle element to ARGs but there’s often also a narrative thread to the game. ARGs are popular transmedia devices because it’s relatively easy to link the events in an ARG to fictional characters and story lines from movies, TV shows and other media.

Where can I play the Resurrect Dead ARG?
Jared: At the moment, you can play here in NYC. We’re focusing on the midtown and downtown areas of Manhattan and hope to expand out to other locations / boroughs / cities in the near future.

How do I win?
Luke: You win the game by collecting clues and using those clues to interact with the game.

Jared: Sorry to be so vague but we don’t want to give away all of the secrets!

What do I win?
Jared: You’ll learn more about the Toynbee Tiles and have access to some special documents and files. More importantly, you’ll win free tickets to the screening of the film Resurrect Dead here in NYC.

How did you get involved with Resurrect Dead?
Merrill: The short synopsis at Sundance intrigued me, so I decided to check it out. It was so fun and mysterious, and very different than a lot of the “social issue” docs being made right now. I asked the filmmakers to keep us in mind if they got a theatrical release, and here we are months later, with Luke and Jared looped in.

Luke: I was talking to the fine ladies of Film Presence about their summer outreach projects. They told me about Resurrect Dead and I was immediately struck by the concept. I knew that an ARG would work well with the documentary. And no one makes ARGs about docs, so that was another challenge!

Roleplay as Roger Ebert… review Resurrect Dead for us!
Jared: I’ve met Roger and spoken to him about movies. I wouldn’t even pretend to be in his league of movie reviewers! I will say that like all good documentary films, the movie seems to be about one thing and then goes off in another direction to focus on something else. This diversion succeeds in illuminating both subjects and it’s quite an exciting and moving story.

Merrill: Resurrect Dead is the prime example of how documentaries can indeed be stranger than fiction.

Have you seen a Toynbee Tile in person?
Merrill: Once you see the film, you can’t miss them! I never noticed them before, and now I’ve seen three since watching the documentary!

Luke: I’ve seen tiles in NYC and Philly. One of them was right around the corner from my apartment. I never thought much of them, honestly. I figured they were punk rock street art. But the real story is much more interesting!

Jared: I’ve never seen one in person. I guess I tend to not be all that observant of my surroundings.

What did it look like?
Luke: They looked like someone had taken the same hot plastic used to make crosswalks and made a stencil with it and embedded it into the asphalt.

Philly NYC Toynbee Tile (Rittenhouse Square)

NYC Toynbee Tile (6th Ave and 24th Street):

What did it feel like?
Luke: You know, I never knelt down to touch one.

What do the Toynbee Tiles mean to you? What’s their message?
Jared: I still don’t know what the message is. I mean, I know the literal message but I don’t know the mind of the tiler. To me they seem like a cry out to a world that turned its back on the tiler. It’s his way of fighting back and getting the IDEA out there. I respect that—if the Man won’t let you be heard, you have to make yourself be heard. You can either be louder than everyone else or be stranger. He chose the latter.

Luke: Originally, I sort of dismissed them as a crazy art project, but they’re so much more. I don’t want to spoil the mystery, but watching the doc completely changed my perspective on the whole phenomenon.

What is your favorite conspiracy theory?
Merrill: Does the Dyatlov Pass incident count? All the theories around it are amazing!

Luke: I actually find conspiracy theories really tiresome. Most of the time, the simplest answers are the right ones: corruption, negligence, incompetence are to blame for most conspiracies. Of course, I say this knowing that some of them turn out to be true: I had a friend who thought he was part of the MKULTRA project.

Jared: My favorite is one of the least sinister ones out there—that Andy Kaufman faked his death and was going to come back into the public light 20 years after he “died.” Around 2004 someone started a blog that purported to be Andy Kaufman himself…too bad it wasn’t true. It would have been the ultimate comic stunt!

If you were to invent your own conspiracy theory, what would it be?
Jared: I did! It’s within the pages of an RPG I designed called Lacuna Part I. The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City.

Luke: There seem to be a few swirling around the interwebs about me. Apparently I’m out to force to you game in a certain way, but I’m anti-GM and I don’t care about my fans. If I could start a better one, it would involve me, a luxury yacht and many young women.

Merrill: Wait, the “luxury yacht and many young women” thing isn’t true??

Anything else you want to tell NerdNYC’s readers?
Luke: The doc is really sweet and only playing at IFC for a week. It inspired us to make this crazy game, so check it out of you can!

Jared: You must make and lay tiles! You!!

Where can I watch Resurrect Dead?

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