i love bees is an Alternate Reality Game made by 4orty2wo Entertainment. During the summer of 2004, the website ilovebees.com was used as a publicity site for Halo 2, with the site being pointed to by adverts for the game during movie trailers. Ostensibly a beekeeper's personal site, the server appeared to have been taken over by an unstable A.I. whose thoughts are scattered on the site.
On July 23, 2004, fans discovered a hidden URL in the Halo 2 Theatrical Trailer that led them to a website that appeared at first glance to be hacked. A message on the frontpage directed viewers to the blog of a girl named Dana. Dana claimed that she built the ilovebees site for her Aunt Margaret and recently her site got in this bizarre state, and asks if anyone could help her. Dana acted essentially as a narrator in the game, describing events for people who missed the action.
The frontpage had a counter counting down to July 27, 2004 (when it says "network throttling will erode"), August 10, 2004 (when "this medium will metastasize"), and August 24, 2004 (at 8:06 A.M., when it will be "wide-awake and physical") – many thought something big would happen related to Halo 2. On these dates, however, it was only related to the ILB game. Currently, there is a counter counting down to the day the Covenant will attack Earth, 543 years in the future.
On 8/10/04, a list of GPS coordinates with times were added to the site's Links page, along with a countdown to "Axons go hot." With the exception of one leading to the Pacific Ocean, all of the coordinates lead to payphones. On 8/24/04, the countdown ended as it reached the first set time. People who answered the payphones (the "axons") at the scheduled times spoke to a recording of the A.I. and were asked basic questions about the character. If answered correctly, an audio clip would be released and a number would be added to a counter on the Website. The audio clips, when threaded together, formed an audio drama about characters in the Halo universe. As the number reached 777, the AI, as played by a voice actor instead of a recording, began interacting with players through the payphones.
The AI would ask for their name, rank, and proof that they were human. Players would provide their usernames, choose ranks, and improvise proof (eg. joking, singing). Their names were added to the site, crediting them for activating the axons.
After the game was over, players were invited to go on a "training mission," which was actually a chance to play Halo 2 multiplayer before its release. Various sites around America were used to host the event, including movie theaters and malls. Players were told to say the phrase "The Operator left a message for me." to gain access to the event. Unfortunately, several of the hosts were unaware of ILB and thought it was just a Halo 2 event, disappointing many fans. At each event, players were given DVDs (seen right) containing all of the ILB audio files, as well as deleted material.
The issue of whether or not I Love Bees should be considered Halo canon is somewhat unclear. In the Apocalypso Chat, the minds behind I Love Bees say that Bungie basically let them write their own thing, but offered certain suggestions regarding storytelling devices and corrected facets such as the original idea that ONI would hang traitors, which was changed to them being rendered permanently comatose. In October 2004, this was expanded on by Joseph Staten in an interview with Halo.Bungie.Org, who, when asked if I Love Bees should be considered canon, said plainly "The Bees would not make the cut. Those guys basically did their own thing with very little Bungie input (save for massaging and approving the initial plot-treatment). While we helped define the boundaries of their fiction, we let them do what they thought best. And I think the game turned out great."
However, in the July 28, 2006 episode of the 1up show, Frank O'Connor mentioned the revised state of canon as applied to I Love Bees. In answering a question about how the Halo Graphic Novel expanded the Halo universe beyond the games and Bungie's overall plans for the universe, he said, "We're going to have this huge collection of canon and things that we embrace as canon, like I Love Bees and stuff like that." This was shown in the graphic novel as two characters from I Love Bees, Herzog and Standish, are referenced in a canon image, as well as events in the I Love Bees storyline in which they took place. Additionally, I Love Bees items including Optican, Chatters, and Communications Kiosks were later featured in Halo 3: ODST. Finally, several key elements of I Love Bees, including Melissa, the UNSC Apocalypso and the Deep-Space Artifact are included in the officially canon Halo Encyclopedia.
Still, I Love Bees cannot be considered entirely Halo canon. There are elements of I Love Bees that directly contradict more recent Halo material of definite status of canon, such as the time in which characters Shaw and Fujikawa were supposed to have been alive. Perhaps I Love Bees should be considered at a similar canonical level as the expanded universe of the Star Wars series, in which I Love Bees should only be considered canon until contradicted elsewhere. In any case, the ARG's status of canon remains unclear.
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Those wishing to read more about the I Love Bees ARG should visit the I Love Bees Wiki, especially:
Major changes in the game and summaries are documented at the BeeLog.
Communities discussing the game