Ong’s Hat: The Beginning (Authorized Version)
Reissued, authorized, and final version, 2021.
Available as Kindle, Print, and Audiobook
“…a bizarre Internet phenomenon: an “immersive” online experience—part mystery, part game, part who knows what—known as both the Incunabula Papers and Ong’s Hat. The Incunabula Papers/Ong’s Hat was, or is, a “many-threaded, open-ended interactive narrative” that ”weds an alternate history of chaos science and consciousness studies to conspiracy theories, parallel dimensions, and claims that computer-mediated environments can serve as magical tools…. the documents provoked a widespread “immersive legend-trip” in the late 1990s. Via Web forums, participants investigated the documents—manifestos—which spun up descriptions of brilliant but suppressed discoveries relating to paths that certain scientists had forged into alternate realities. Soon, those haunted dimensions existed in the minds and fantasies of Ong’s Hat’s many participants. That was evident as they responded to the original postings by uploading their own—all manner of reflections and artifacts: personal anecdotes, audio recordings, and videos—to augment what became “a really immersive world, and it was vast”.
“Ong’s Hat was more of an experiment in transmedia storytelling than what we would now consider to be an ARG but its DNA – the concept of telling a story across various platforms and new media- is evident in every alternate reality game that came after.” – Games Magazine 2013
Though Ong’s Hat may not have set out to be an ARG, the methods by which the author interacted with participants and used different platforms to build and spread its legend has been reflected in later games. –Know Your Meme
The Incunabula Papers are arguably the first immersive online legend complex that introduced readers to a host of content, including what religious historian Robert Ellwood has called the “alternative reality tradition. – Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat
As a companion piece to understanding some of the history of the transmedia work that centered around Ong’s Hat you may also want to read Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat, reviewed here.
The Incunabula Papers CDROM was recently included in the BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) digital art collection.