(Yes, I know that photo is blurry. Stay with me.)
When Double Fine Productions fan Matthew Bell posted a thread talking about how Double Fine had trademarked “The Cave” to the company’s message boards and almost no one replied, he didn’t think much of it.
All Bell had done was post a news item he found on Destructoid, and move on with his life.
That changed when an email from Double Fine community manager Chris Remo showed up months later.
In a short, direct email, Remo asked Bell if he’d like to visit Double Fine’s office, and check out its next game. Bell has never been to San Francisco. Hell, he’d never even been on a plane before.
Bell had not applied to work at Double Fine, and had no idea why Double Fine would be contacting him, let alone offering to pay for a visit. Remo refused to disclose the reasons why he was being offered this opportunity, or what he’d actually be doing when he arrived. This lead Bell to embrace conspiracy theories.
“I’m looking at it and I’m like ‘No, that’s not real. There’s no way,’” he told me over the phone recently.
Why did Double Fine do this? Because it could, the studio told me. Because why not blow this guy's mind?
At first, he sent an email back to Remo and asked for more information. No dice, said Remo. Then, Bell examined the email address from Remo. Having bought Double Fine merchandise in the past, he was familiar with the doublefine.com domain, and concluded that would be a pretty elaborate trick to spoof that for some random guy.
He’d actually called the company at one point regarding a merchandise order for Valentine’s Day, so he phoned them up and, again, verified this was all happening. The answer was yes.
“It was a really short conversation!” he said.
That wasn’t enough, though. Remember, Double Fine is being cagey, and Bell has no idea why he’s been picked.
“I had a really hard time dropping the conspiracy theory,” he laughed. “I just couldn’t possibly believe that this was actually real.”
The next step was establishing a Twitter account. Prior to this, Bell had never used Twitter before.
In a very “aww” moment, here’s the message Bell sent to Double Fine’s own Twitter account:
With this, Bell calmed, and accepted his fate, despite that fate being chock full of mysteries.
He had a much harder time trying to explain what was happening to his work buddies. For a while, most of them assumed he was being flown out by a game show to have the chance to win a bunch of money.
“They [would] just look at me with this blank expression on their face,” he said. ‘Why is that interesting, and why do they care if they bring you down?’ Which I didn’t have an answer to at the time, either.”
Bell went over the possibilities, and while posting about The Cave in Double Fine’s forums had crossed his mind, it was pretty far down on his personal list of reasons for why this was happening.
After a few days, Bell shrugged it off, and hopped on a plane to San Francisco, where he encountered another life first: a car was waiting to pick him up. When he arrived at Double Fine’s office, the facade was finally up.
Since he had posted about The Cave in Double Fine's forums, he was here to see the first press demonstration, too.
“Being at the Double Fine office was amazing, getting to meet everybody,” he said. “They were so gracious while I was there. They really, really went out of their way to make me feel like I was welcome.”
That included spending an impromptu 45 minutes chatting with designer Tim Schafer, a moment that Bell had only intended to include taking a photo before he left the office. It was, clichés and all, a dream come true.
Bell is not the only one who’s an unapologetically huge fan of Double Fine, either. His daughter is, too. As a thank you, Bell brought with some Brutal Legend artwork his daughter had created.
“She has my genetic ability to draw things,” he said. “If I draw a stick figure, they’re not recognizable as stick figures. [...] It’s hard to convince someone that an 8-year-old child is in love with Brutal Legend, but she loved it from the moment it came out.”
If you squint real hard, you can tell it’s from Brutal Legend, too!
After leaving Double Fine, Bell ended up making a weekend out of his trip to San Francisco, and left with a sense of satisfaction after spending a day with his personal heroes. It's one thing to read about them, another to meet them.
“I don’t know anything about making video games, other than what any layman that who actually pays attention a little bit knows,” he said, “but I’m a writer, I’m trying to write a novel, and it’s inspiring me to see someone who works so hard at just making something that they love. “
As a parting shot, here's a gallery of pictures Bell shot from his trip to Double Fine. Can you spot the Brad Muir?