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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spam is the New Role Playing Game

Spammers must be getting out of work romance novelists to create spam. A lot of spam weaves wonderful little stories that invite you to play the lead role in an exciting other world. Often there is a comely damsel in distress and you are cast as the hero, if only you would open up your wallet and help. Not only will you get the willing damsel, but great riches await when you finally overcome your fear, climb the tower, kiss the princess, and collect your just reward.

You see, the princess lives in a place not like where you live at all. You live in a safe boring world where one day is much like any other. She lives on the frontier where risk takers can still earn great fortunes battling nature and striking smart deals. But the frontier is dangerous. And an evil doer is out to steal her families' fortune, a fortune carved out of nothing from years of back breaking work. You can save them! You can make a difference! You are a hero with untapped super powers. Now is your time! You can get the girl, the money, and live happily ever after.

This is wonderful stuff. It's like an email based Role Playing Game. The side of good is clear. Evil abounds, yet can be stopped by your heroic actions. You simply must roll the dice and play the game. My favorite example of the genre is Cynthia Benson's game:

Good morning! I decided to use this opportunity to communicate with you on who I am and what I am looking for. Please I hope you don't mind the way I contacted you. How are you, your business and family? I hope all is well.

I am Cynthia Benson daughter of the late ENGR. FERICOH BENSON of Free town, Sierra Leone with my brother. I am a young girl from the family of two because my beloved mother died on the day my younger brother was delivered and my father refused to re-marry immediately because he is the only child of his parents and don't want anybody that will maltreat us due to the love he has for us. My late father Engr. Fericoh Benson was the Managing Director (MD) of BETAX PLC a Gold and Diamond Mining corporation company. During the time of his service he was a very devoted and God fearing person; this cause his fellow staff to hate him because he always refuse to collaborate with them in doing evil.
So one sunny Tuesday evening when I was coming back with my Dad from shopping in his own private car we ran into bandits who were totally armed, they traced us till we reach home; there they attack us. My father pleaded with them to take everything he has and spare his life, but they took everything and also shot him three times on his chest they also shot me but to the glory of God I survived the gun shots but my father died in cold blood. How I was admitted to the hospital I don't know but I found myself on the hospital bed after two weeks of the incident when I re-gain conciouse.

This happened eight months ago, as I am trying to gather my deserted life and that of my brother in place. Our father has being buried that was four months ago, the present problem we are facing is that my father's uncle that is the brothers of my grand father has took everything that our father left behind both money, landed properties and all his durable asset. They ejected me and my bother leaving only the sum of US$12,5M which my father deposited in a Financial Institution which they don't know about. They treated us badly also accusing us for the calamity that befall our family, now we are left alone in this world.

But why I contacted you is because we want to start a new life outside our country and also when I went to where my father deposited the money in west side of Africa they told me that my father deposited that money on behalf of a partner, so that the money should be claimed by my father or his partner, but for the fact that my father is nolonger alive that the partner should come for it.

As things is now I don't want to go and get any of my kinsmen as that will also give them the access to claim the money as I can see that it is now the only thing we have to start life again. If I have found favour in your eye I will like you stand as my father's partner as I don't have anybody so that they can transfer the money to you. While we will prepare to come over to your country and meet you there to start a new life again.

If you can help us please let me know.
Thanks and Remain bless,
Cynthia Benson

As you read the email it creates in your mind a truly dramatic action packed tale of woe. Can't you just see poor Cynthia's troubled life? Don't you just want to rescue you her and find the treasure? That's the genius of the email. It taps into all the usual story telling tactics used in myth, fairy tails, role playing games, romance novels, and fantasy novels. You know this story form and you immediately want to jump in and play.

Look at at all the colorful words just dripping with echoes of a game world: dearest, daughter of, Free town, Sierra Leone, brother, engineer, gold, devoted, father, God fearing, pleading, attack, shot him, survival, left alone, start a new life, rescue, Africa, kinsmen, found favor, transfer money, start a new life. And the spelling is off just enough that it suggests an educated person who may speak a different language and live in an exotic locale.

The fact that spam works on enough people that spammers keep spamming speaks to the power of greed and ego when backed by an internally consistent story that taps in to our years of well honed fairy tail inspired instincts.
Simply beautifully done. A sure winner for the Pulitzer Prize of Spam, if they gave out such a thing. They don't now, but they may in the future.

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