An Experiment in Immersive Storytelling
Behind the Scenes:
Who Doesn't Love Loot?

I blame cereal boxes.

They used to come with all kinds of fun toys. You had to dig around or dump the sugar-coated cardboard to find them, and then you had a new toy to burn off some of that excess energy from the pounds of sugar you just consumed. Terrariums in Alpha Bits, Jackson 5 records in Super Sugar Crisps, Star Trek badges in Kellogg's Sugar Smacks, U.S. Navy Frogmen in Corn Flakes...glow in the dark pens, Storyscope (like a tiny Viewmaster!) buried in Crunch Berries, digital watches in Honeycombs, Flintmobile in Fruity Pebbles, 5-in-1 Spy Kit in Pink Panther Flakes—some of those were before my time. Still, I remember one of my uncles had some of these left over from when he was young.

Two kids throwing sticky spider toys on a wall where the spiders slowly flop and fall down leg by leg.
Wacky Walkers! 

I remember getting bouncy balls, collector cards, Bazooka gum inside of Ghostbusters cereal, whistling pops, Wacky Wafers, gumballs, Mr. T stickers, glow-in-the-dark stickers, rubber dome poppers, pencil toppers, 3D glasses, water transfers, bike reflectorsWacky Walkers. Every kind of entertaining choking hazard marketing teams could imagine would entice children to harass their parents.

Ghostbusters cerel box cover
Ghostbusters! Duh Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh—Duh Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh Nuh—If there's something strange, In the neighborhood...
Rubber dome poppers toy
"Rubber dome poppers" was not a euphemism.

It wasn't just cereal boxes, though. Fast food was also a big culprit. McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, and even Taco Bell have given out little pieces of loot to sweeten the bribe of convenience for parents to give in and take a break from home-cooked meals.

Thanks to the 80s and 90s, my brain is now hard-wired with a dopamine hit every time I collect a little trinket. But it didn't stop there; this kind of thing is everywhere. Video games have a reward system that works the same way—the more you play, the more you get: high score, level-up, next stage, magic sword, epic sets. Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, EverQuest, Diablo, World of Warcraft, and Animal Crossing. All games have it. They all reinforce this reward system, keeping you hooked, keeping you interested, and wanting to keep going.

Obviously, I took this same evil mastermind strategy and used it for Absolution. Throughout the story, I sprinkled little pieces of loot to make the experience feel more real and provide those wonderful dopamine hits to Zarina.

A golden colored Slovenian coin with a bull on it.
Slovenian coin. Taurus coin a red herring? Er...red bull?

A Slovenian Taurus coin stuck to a piece of paper with hot pink duct tape.
I tried to find a coin exchange in my area, but it was surprisingly difficult.
A golden colored Slovenian coin with a bird on it.
So, I got these from eBay.
Golden colored Slovenian coin with a fish on it.
I was half-convinced that it was a scam until they showed up.

I attached Slovenian coins to many of the packages she received and tangible puzzles to solve, then later delivered actual loot for her to keep. 

Zarina's hand holding the clay wolf effigy up. It's been stuck inside of a glass cloche jar with a wooden base.
Zarina holding the wolf effigy, sometime after she smashed it in half with a rock.

I'm sure Zarina would have liked to read the story as a piece of fiction, but all of those little extras certainly helped push it over into an incredibly memorable experience for her.

Some things from the story Zarina received are for her eyes only, and I won't be putting them on the Internet because secret loot makes for special loot. Maybe one of the special pieces of loot was getting an actual werewolf to bite her, turning her into a real werewolf. 🤷

There is one big piece of loot, though, that you haven't seen much about yet.

Wolf effigy in cloche jar sitting beside a silver bullet with a cross on it, and a silver chain. All of the items are on top of a vintage-style map of the world, which is a photo album.
That's a photo album underneath the wolf effigy.