Why So Serious? Redux website

Website

For Warner Bros and 42 Entertainment

What I did:

I designed and developed WhySoSeriousRedux.com from concept to launch.

It is an online archive of Why So Serious?, the viral marketing campaign for the film The Dark Knight. It is the only website of its kind, encompassing 450+ pieces of information, documenting the largest alternate reality game ever produced. It provided a way for dedicated players to emotionally engage with the experience once more.

Why So Serious Redux home page as shown on laptop screen

Introduction

Why So Serious? was an alternate reality game produced by 42 Entertainment to promote the 2008 Warner Bros. film The Dark Knight.

Players uncovered separate story points from online puzzles and real-life scavenger hunts that as a whole, served as the prologue to the film. It is arguably the largest alternate reality game ever produced, spanning 1.5 years, 4 concurrent plots, 10 offline mass exercises, and 40 websites.

As one of the most involved players, I noted the lack of information about the entire campaign. I aimed to relive my experience with the game and provide other players a way to relive their experiences too.

User research

Being a regular on the online forums where the game was most frequently discussed, I witnessed several types of players. I combined characteristics of those players into individual personas.

Why So Serious? Personas

Content strategy

To engage the most dedicated players, I designed the archive as if it was an internal investigation by the Gotham Police Department Major Crimes Unit.

This concept was extended by having the archive acquired by the Joker and vandalized with in-game notes to send to his followers, i.e. the game players.

Content inventory

Being faced with what I later calculated to be 450 pieces of information, organizing all of it was one of my priorities.

Site map

Once the inventory was done, I categorized all pages and internal links into an Excel spreadsheet. This came out to be almost 975 rows. The first screen is shown here.

Screenshot of WSSR sitemap in Excel

I also used the spreadsheet to track what pages I needed to write content for. Whether it was for this project or for the original game wiki (for which I was the top contributor), I had a hand in writing everything that wasn’t directly part of the game itself.

User experience

Acknowledging the differing content types across the site, I designed several high-level page templates.

Visual design

Since I aimed for the experience to be as in-game as possible, I chose to keep the same visual style as 42 Entertainment had used, especially for the Gotham Police Department storyline.

Due to the static nature of the website and the customization needed for almost every page, I hand-coded all 450+ pages myself (seriously, I lost track) using HTML and CSS, with jQuery for select interactions.

Final version

Image of main investigation page

Main investigation page, with the 4 storylines I categorized

Image of sample investigation page

Sample investigation page, with collapsible local navigation for wayfinding

Screenshot of evidence page

Evidence page, with hover actions revealing more information about the item

Results

The site can be found at WhySoSeriousRedux.com. Here are reactions from other game players:

“I squealed. thank you so much!”
—Quinzel

“Wow, cool! It’s VERY well done.”
—Lightning257

“Ho-Lee CRAP! This is epic!”
—boywondernerdDC

Along the way, I made friends with several game designers at 42 Entertainment who had produced the campaign itself. Here are their reactions:

“Holy cow that’s awesome! Amazing amount of work there.”
—Steve Peters, Experience Design Director, 42 Entertainment

“My mind is blown. This is amazing. You are a genius, Anita! Wow…You have an amazing eye for detail and accuracy – you are able to put the puzzle pieces of a real-time narrative back together again with elegance. You are able to consolidate and incorporate other peoples’ work into a cohesive whole with seemingly little effort.”
—Krystyn Wells, Experience Designer, 42 Entertainment