In 2002, Dylan Reiff and Joe Korsmo began tracking the internet activities of Kolin, aka V. Gnome, an 18-year old computer gamer. They monitored and recorded Kolin’s AOL instant messages and gathered information about his friends and family from other sources on the net. Blending this data with scenarios from videogames and sci-fi films, they developed a mythology in which Kolin is “singled out as the savior of the human race.” The story is told in Gem Missile: A Tribute to V. Gnome, a 40-page book that incorporates photographs of Kolin and excerpts from his personal correspondence. In August 2003, Reiff and Korsmo showed up on Kolin’s parent’s doorstep in Chicago. Reiff introduced himself as “Z. Figiam,” Kolin’s “mentor from the future,” presented him with the book, and left without further explanation.
The plot thickened several days later with Kolin posted a detailed description of the encounter to an on-line gaming forum, along with digital photos of every page in the book. Members of the forum quickly added their own theories and responses, which ranged from close readings of the text and speculations about the gender of its authors, to admissions of jealousy and accusations that Kolin had invented the story in order to get a high rating for his thread (which in a few weeks had received over 40,000 hits).
A year passed after this initial contact. In August 2004, Reiff and Korsmo mailed Kolin a package containing a photograph of their meeting a year earlier, along with a note, a certificate, and a plane ticket to Minneapolis. Kolin was met at the airport by a man in a beat up Lincoln Town Car who identified himself as “The Gatekeeper.” For two days, Kolin was lead around the city in search of robots, buried treasure and information needed to save the future. Reiff and Korsmo involved numerous actors and another on-line gamer who, equally baffled, was driven with Kolin to a forest and abandoned there. At some point, Kolin noticed that his new friend had mysteriously disappeared. “I stood there alone in the woods, in Minnesota, with a shovel and a large black locked box, more confused then I have ever been in my life.” Kolin survived the trip and posted a detailed account of his adventure, concluding, “it was a great experience, and I would not hesitate to save the future again, if the chance ever arose.”