Back in October, during the most recent New York Comic Con, I walked past what looked to be a corporate bank signup table–the kind you’d see in any general audience outdoor festival or farmers market slinging checking accounts and credit cards. You know, like Wells Fargo or Chase was in town for NYCC. The booth had a nice solid corporate blue color scheme with business attired people manning the table. The sign read “Ecoin” and the attendants beckoned for me to come sign up for the hot new digital currency Ecoin.
Before I go further, I knew beforehand that this was a promo campaign for the new Mr. Robot season. But anyone walking by without prior knowledge would never have realized that–it really did look like some lame signup table for a bank account. The Ecoin signup table was just the start; they even had a whole Ecoin launch party (mentioned in our NYCC party guide) with an in-character keynote address from series antagonist Philip Price, CEO of E-corp.
Back to the signup table, I walked in line and when it was my turn, signed up for an Ecoin account (if you wanna join, sign up is here) with one of the E-corp representatives. They handed me some nice swag (a bottle opener, a phone accessory, some branded sunglasses) and sent me on my merry way.
Bend On Over for the Ecoin Promo Marketing Campaign
The whole spectacle is a smart marketing campaign then invites you to think about the concept of corporate marketing. Did I just get bought off? Did I just hand over my personal information for a few trinkets and a nebulous digital account in some currency I’ve never heard of? Yes, I did. And the same thing happens everyday with scores of corporations around the world. We hand power over ourselves willingly, trusting companies to have our best interests in mind.
I just wanted to point out how ironic it is for the monolithic E-corp to be offering a Bitcoin-like cryptocurrency.
The whole point of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology is their decentralization–no one person can control the whole thing. The technology is supposed to enable anyone to store value or trade without the threat of a singular entity being able to control you. In more infamous terms, Bitcoin’s capacity for allowing anonymous or illegal transactions to happen has painted it with connotations of rebellion and a shadow exchange system. Though there’s plenty of legitimate uses for cryptocurrencies, the illicit part of the market has caught some government scrutiny, for example, we have the recent shutdown of a large Bitcoin exchange in China. You also have increasing enterprise interest in the technology in how it can be utilized for business objectives.
There’s a tension there between the ideals of decentralized cryptocurrency–the freedom from control–and the need to “sell out” in order to increase the reach of the technology. Ecoin seems to be pointing towards that tension, while doing a full on perversion of the technology into an E-corp tool of sinister corporate governance.
Perks of Going Corporate
So what cool materialistic stuff do you get by whoring yourself out to the benevolent corporate overlords?
I was actually surprised by how good some of the stuff they’ve given out is.
In particular, that Amazon Echo Dot is a surprisingly high value giveaway. However, the power bank and the Funko Pop figures are pretty decent giveaways for the high, high price of free. During the initial launch at NYCC, the first perk was a free barbecue plate at a food truck–not bad for a free lunch.
The giveaways have limited items so you have to be quick to claim when you get the notification email of a new available perk. For example, you can see here I was too slow on the uptake to claim some sweet bbq sauce:
Oh, if you’re wondering why the focus on this one random barbecue truck, it’s because it’s actually part of the alternate reality game, besides just offering some smoked meat plates. There’s a long firsthand account replete with mysterious strangers, dark rooms, and manila envelopes if you’re interested.
The perks seem to be released at random times–reddit user Psycho_Type collected time and date information for each giveaway in a post (minus the most recent one) looking for patterns in the releases:
(Besides being once a week) All times are in EST
Sneak Peak: 10/9/17 1:15pm (mon)
Power Bank: 10/12/17 3:59pm (thurs)
Echo Dot: 10/19/17 3:02pm (thurs)
Script Sneak Peak: 10/23/17 2:04pm (mon)
Funko Pop: 11/1/17 1:39pm (wed)
Hoodie: 11/7/17 9:00am (tues)
If you have any ideas about the pattern, you may want to hop over and join that reddit discussion.
Gaming in an Alternate Reality
Speaking of outside discussion, the Ecoin perks site is actually just one facet of a much larger game afoot.
There’s a whole big alternate reality game going on set in the Mr. Robot universe. You find clues, solve puzzles, navigating to different websites and the like. It’s actually fairly deep–there’s a whole wiki of what’s involved in the detective game. I’m impressed by all the time the Mr. Robot team has put into this kind of extra content.
If you want to join the hunt for clues and help the community get further in the game, the /r/ARGsociety subreddit is the place to do it.
Command Prompt Fun, Desktop Simulations, Games, and More
Want to start nosing around the Mr. Robot universe? Here’s a quick tasting menu of some of the fun stuff in the Mr. Robot alternate reality game:
An 8 minute video of a massacre that doesn’t work on my chrome browser for some reason.
A fully interactive desktop that includes a *nix style command prompt to access different info, media, clues, and games. You can also double click on folders and files on the desktop to browse things in a convincing OS facsimile.
This fun little multilevel minigame complete with pixel art that hints about some kind of endgame.
There’s a lot more on there, but you’ll probably want to play around with it yourself.
A Promo Code Easter Egg
There’s a little hidden section in the Ecoin menu after you login that lets you enter promo codes.
No you don’t get free stuff–that’s what the regular Ecoin perks are.
But you do get cool little Easter eggs. For example, if you enter the promo code ENLIGHTENMENT, you’ll get a cool little animation and this screen with an excerpt from the poem Protest by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:
For now, that’s all the promo codes I’ve found to work. You could try brute force guessing for another working code, but you might be there a long time. Maybe another working code will be found.
Fun stuff, yes?
If you want to get in on the Ecoin perks promo and the weekly giveaways, you can signup at https://my.e-coin.com/join
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