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‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 is home to a big ARG that’s still unfolding



SPOILER ALERT If you haven’t watched all of Stranger Things 3 yet, don’t read any further than the ARG spoiler warning below if you want to avoid a major story detail for Season 3.

Stranger Things always made it feel like grand adventures and big mysteries were everywhere and that anyone could solve them, even a rag tag team of misfit kids living in small-town suburbia.

But Season 3 is making that even realer, with an augmented reality game (ARG) that fans are still actively unraveling on July 6, two days after the season premiered, with clues and codes hidden throughout the real world. You can join through July 10 to help crack the daily puzzles part of the larger conspiracy.

Just tap into your inner Robin, because there’s sure to be a journey filled with “the silver cat feeds when blue meets yellow in the west” kind of riddles.

Hopefully you're better at this than either Steve or Dustin

Hopefully you’re better at this than either Steve or Dustin

For the uninitiated, augmented reality games (ARGs) bring fictional narratives and puzzle-solving into the real world by hiding IRL secret codes that you crack to uncover real phone numbers, hidden websites, and sometimes even physical locations that progress the game. Online communities dedicate themselves to figuring them out together, and it’s clear we’ve only just begun scratching the surface of this Stranger Things covert mission.

And we’re willing to bet completing the game will reveal some clues and theory fodder for Season 4.

It all started on July 5 (a day after the Season 3’s launch), when fans discovered morse code hidden in some Baskin Robins items and commercials, which is doing a cross-promotion with the in-universe ice scream shop Scoops Ahoy. The morse code translated to a number (1-888-273-9152) that, when called, prompts you to enter a password. 

: if you want to figure out the rest of the game on your own, don’t read ahead. But do feel free to join the ARG’s Discord server to coordinate with other players and follow developments. This Reddit post by user will also be updating every day with new info uncovered, while putting spoiler blockers over puzzle solutions so you can figure them out for yourself. All phone numbers and messages from the game are being recorded here too.

The password you need to enter on the dial pad turned out to be the name of the communication system Dustin made at camp, CEREBRO. Entering it makes the operator enlist you in “Operation Scoop Snoops,” a covert mission to shut down portals causing anomalies around the world. You must complete five missions over the next five days (today, July 6, is day two).

Would be great to have a secret weapon like El for Operation Scoop Snoop

Would be great to have a secret weapon like El for Operation Scoop Snoop

The first mission requires you to connect to a “secure server” through early access to “technology way beyond 1985” (aka the internet). Entering the IP address and port given on the call gets you access to a communication system, which provides more details on Operation Scoop Snoop.

Your contact gives you Day One’s clue about a nuclear testing site in France. Some basic wiki research reveals the location of that IRL nuke site to be “THE MORUROA ATOLL.” The contact confirms you found the first potential gate into the Upside Down, and congratulates you for completing the first mission.

The second clue was revealed at 12:00 p.m. ET on July 6, with some info about a Soviet nuclear site. More googling reveals the next potential gate to be “Semipalatinsk.” But your contact says no portal was found there, so you’re once again told to come back tomorrow at 12:00 p.m. ET for the next mission. There’s also an ominous final hint about how, “Radiation data is normal for nuclear testing.”

Time to embody Hopper and Joyce's relentless detective work

Time to embody Hopper and Joyce’s relentless detective work

While players and fans are enjoying the opportunity for an interactive augmented reality Stranger Things experience, the puzzles so far have been critiqued by the community for being way too easy. ARG super fans are known for being dogged sleuths, with almost no limit to the amount of time and effort they’re willing to invest to solve a game’s mysteries.

But the design of ARGs generally starts slow like this, making the barrier to entry very low so as many people as possible get involved initially. As the difficulty ramps up, the expectation is that  fewer and fewer people will actually participate in solving the puzzle, but the larger group will get the experience of sleuthing by proxy and following the community as it unravels those harder puzzles.

Our prediction is that the next test site on July 7 will be positive for a gate opening, which is when the real work begins.

There’s also already hints that clues for the ARG were embedded into Season 3 itself. One fan found that if you call the phone number in Episode 6 for journalist/conspiracy theorist/hero Murray, you get his answering machine. While initially believed to be just a cool Easter egg, his message could also be read as a potential lead for larger puzzles to come later on in the game.

“Mom, if this is you, please hang up and call me between the hours of 5 and 6 p.m., as previously discussed, OK?” he says, which sounds a lot like coded instructions for ARG players. Then Murray continues that, “If this is Joyce, thank you for calling, I’ve been trying to reach you. I have an update. It’s probably best if we speak in person. It’s not good or bad, but it’s something.” 

Fans are already speculating that this “update” Murray has for Joyce could be about Hopper, which many theorize isn’t really dead. Could it be that the ARG is building up to reveal another clue about the Russian facility revealed in the credits scene, which mentions an “American” prisoner that could be our beloved Hawkins Sheriff?

If we want answers, we’ll have to get on our own walkie talkies and bikes to uncover Hawkins’ many mysteries. Just be careful the game doesn’t turn your world upside down.

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