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The Transtemporal Detective Agency

Experimental Interactive Transmedia

The Transtemporal Detective Agency (TDA) is an experimental transmedia adventure set throughout downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Started in August, 2011 by a small group of local artists, it is still operatational and open to the general public. This document serves as a synopsis for potential collaborators and those otherwise unable to visit us physically. This is not meant to substitute the actual interactions as they are intended to be experienced in person and without prior context.

Potential players primarily discover the TDA through posters placed around the city. There are multiple versions, each describing something different, from literal to abstract. Most contain a “temporal” aspect or directly invite would be ‘detectives’ to investigate a case involving a local robot ‘Berty’ gone missing. Posters and stickers were placed at the initial launch, but only a handful remain in their original locations. Currently, a majority of players learn of the game through word of mouth or stumbling upon it the initial installation.

The TDA website may also be found on each of the flyers and provides general information on the agency as well as a login page for members. Others may find the TDA listed on Google Maps as well.
Calling the number (701-347-1984) on the fliers or website connects players to the TDA main line. A pre-recorded message features a woman inviting callers to visit the TDA office and assist with their investigation. She mentions a ‘transtemporal containment cube’ and provides a four-digit code they will require to gain access.

Visiting the Agency

Players who visit the TDA office, armed with the four-digit code, may begin the adventure. At the address players will find the Red Raven Espresso Parlor. Once a fire station, the Raven is a large brick building and local nexus of artists, hackers, and musicians. An espresso parlor operates on the main floor with a stage for live music and events, while a tech-based co-op lives upstairs, and an art co-op lives in the basement. Both have distinct, but overlapping communities and events.
Players will find a low hanging, beige lockbox marked with a TDA symbol and surrounded by a collage of flyers in the entryway. Using the four-digit code to open the box, players find a book, flashlight, telephone receiver, and an image of Berty with an empty speech bubble. Inside Berty is a photo-sensitive sound element, which chimes once the lockbox is opened and serves to punctuate the interaction.
Inside the book, players find another TDA symbol displayed on a screen mounted within the pages. An accompanying picture instructs them to touch it. Once pressed, a video begins to play and invites players to take the receiver to listen to the video. The video is a direct introduction to the agency and investigation:

Times to Remember

Donatien invites them to start the investigation proper by looking for Times to Remember. Left intentionally ambiguous, players are expected to leave the entryway and search the coffee house for the next clue. If they get stuck they can still text the most recent number for an immediate clue as well. Players will find a box, amidst a stack of board games, titled Times to Remember. The box appears to come from an actual board game about pop-culture trivia, but the original contents have been removed. Instead they find a set of TDA Guide Cards, pencils, and application forms. A message is written on the inside of the box, and an audio message plays as soon as the box is opened.
Players are first asked to fill out an application form and turn it in to the barista. The application form serves to document the time of their investigation, contact information, and various references. The forms can be picked up later at any time and the information is added to a member list.

The guide cards come both flat and pre-folded. Players may choose the pre-folded or use the tape inside and fold along the lines to complete their own. Both are viable, and the folded triangles serve to give a more palpable structure to the cards and their function, which provide a map of the rest of the investigation.

Following the first step on their guide card, players are led back to a specific page in the TDA Case Notes to complete a new equation. Players will find a page with an erratic repetition of a series of numbers. These are easily deciphered and used to call a new phone number:

Hitting the Streets

Donatien’s new message sends the players out downtown. They’re told to visit an antique shop just three blocks away on Broadway.Antiques on Broadway is a large, unique shop with a huge array of items. If players explore the basement level, they will notice a familiar Missing poster above a small Berty doll, resting peacefully against a pole.
Following the first step on their guide card, players are led back to a specific page in the TDA Case Notes to complete a new equation. Players will find a page with an erratic repetition of a series of numbers. These are easily deciphered and used to call a new phone number:

The Hidden Cupboard

Players are told to head to the lounge at 101 Broadway and “crawl the walls” for a certain symbol. They can walk two blocks north and find the Hotel Donaldson Bar and Restaurant. Strange, spanning artwork is thrown along its interior brick walls. The largest piece is a floor-to-ceiling wall along the entrance, and combines many mediums into a unique texture.
Towards the bottom of the wall, players will find the symbol marking the door of a miniature cupboard. This cupboard has remained empty since its existence, although stickers and random detritus make an occasional appearance. On the inside of the door is the same symbol hovering above a creature in the lotus position containing the next clue.

A Secret at the Sideshop

Players are directed to head west on 1st Ave, looking for the side shop. The clue in the cupboard showed a picture of a revolver, and if players walk just two blocks down they will find an eclectic boutique, Revolver, nestled between a skate shop and tattoo parlor. Once inside, they are asked to compliment the clerk and look for a strange symbol. Players may text Donatien for a clue if they get stuck.

If they are diligent, players will notice a small stack of envelopes hidden amongst a shelf of other items with the symbol printed plainly on the front. They are allowed to take one, free of charge, with or without the clerk becoming aware of their mission. Upon opening the envelope, players find a strange, postcard sized image with a hole through it and curious text on the back.

Looking through Berty’s Eyes

The Guide Cards direct players to venture east on 2nd Ave. When the street ends just three blocks down, they find themselves at the spot in which the picture was taken. They are instructed to “see through Berty’s eyes” to find the next symbol, and must stand and look in the direction in which Berty does in the picture. This is the most difficult puzzle, as players will only see a plain, three-story parking garage with a large building behind it across the street.
If players look directly at the top floor of the parking garage where the photo was actually taken from, they will see a grey symbol planted along the outer wall. They must journey up the garage to the ledge to gain a closer look at it. If they peer over, they will see the numbers ‘101’ inside the circles of the triangle. They are also able to hold up their postcard and fill the hole of the picture.
This number allows the players to complete the next equation and call a new number. In the message, Donatien indicates this is the last record of Berty’s whereabouts, and there is a final clue at the library across the street. He also says there is something odd about the tree nearby, shown in the hole of the postcard. Suddenly, an evil laugh breaks in and a portion of the message is lost.

Hiding among the Stacks

Players head across the street to the Fargo Public Library to search for A Goblin in Time. On the second floor, deep in the stacks, they will find it sitting inconspicuously amongst the other books. When opened, it immediately expounds upon the evilness of librarians and how the book must be returned properly to its place, lest they find and remove it. The book has actually been placed there without the library’s knowledge. Although, without it in the system they are hardly aware of its existence.
Players will find A Goblin in Time listed among the table to contents. The story follows a choose-your-own-adventure format and is about a peculiar creature named ‘Gek’ who finds himself jumping through time. Players make various choices, but only some lead to ‘what matters most’. The story is interspersed amongst works on ufology, hermeticism, time, and other unique stories.
Players may also find a blank section of pages for them to add their own notes, incidents of high strangeness, comments, and cave drawings. This is a great section, and allows the text to evolve as more and more detectives pass through the investigation.

‘Kairos’ is what players eventually find mentioned as what matters most at the end of Gek’s story. Kairos is an ancient Greek word referring to the right or opportune moment. Players must use the word as the password for logging into the login section of the TDA website.


After gaining access to the TDA login page, players are greeted with a series of doors to zoom through and a series of messages. They are welcomed into the TDA and told more awaits. Berty is still at large, but if players combine their notes and collaborate with Donatien, they can catch new leads and find what comes next.

Players land in a basic community forum. They can read a welcome message from Detective Donatien, find a collection of TDA reference materials, and a listing of the existing TDA Divisions. The TDA has an active division in Black Rock City, although it was temporary and appears to have discovered no new information.

Black Rock City is the location of Burning Man, an event in the desert of Northern Nevada. A version of the TDA was hosted there during the 2011 and 2012 event, but taken down after the event ended. A handful of agents were recruited, but remain dormant as the core of the agency and investigation exists in Fargo.

The forum marks the end of the adventure. Players are invited to visit and monitor the TDA forum for updates or developments, but no major discoveries have occurred since its inception. Until then, the TDA continues to remain open and well maintained.

Less than a hundred agents have completed the investigation in the eighteen months since it became operational. The low number may be due to its niche and esoteric appearance, or lack of initial investment of interest by the players. Although, the project still attracts new members and has received a large amount of positive feedback. The largest criticism has been its open-ended conclusion, but a second installment is currently in development.


The original TDA investigation was meant to be the first installment in an ongoing series. The technical and artistic tools available to us have also greatly evolved since its creation. With the next iteration, we intend to reach a much wider audience, particularly children, with a much more intuitive and immersive experiment. Development for the Second Act, The Berty Project, began in October, 2012 and is slated for launch in the spring of 2014. The core technology has been established and we are actively seeking contributors and collaborators. If you are interested or have questions, contact us at