“Jesus, life really imitates art,” Aran messaged the group over WhatsApp. Napoleon replied with a ‘mind-blown’ emoji.

The Pandora Papers scandal had just exploded in the news. The massive leak revealed a far-reaching shadow financial world, built to protect vast sums of hidden wealth for the rich and powerful.

It was only the previous night that we’d finished unearthing another vast global conspiracy engineered by furtive greed, bad actors and widespread corruption. It had been us that had leaked the data directly to The Guardian, in fact.

True, this conspiracy had (I mean, one assumes) a lot more cultish and cryptological aspects than came under that morning’s headlines. Blood sacrifice, for instance, and plenty of vengeful murder. A mermaid in Eastern Europe. A twisted Arthurian legend, a code hidden in a satanic hymn, and another on a mixtape including a song by Lil’ Wayne.

We had been playing Isklander: an immersive, multi-platform online experience and elaborately constructed puzzle, in which the players’ digital snooping skills are tested along with all our assumptions about where ludological and theatrical borders can be drawn. Swamp Motel is the company behind the game, made up of a band of polymaths who have found their niche in this...