I Love Bees is an Alternate Reality Game created by 42 Entertainment to promote Halo 2. The game took place on www.ilovebees.com, which in-universe was an amateur beekeeper's personal website that had been taken over by artificial intelligences from the future. The plot took place in two timelines, one in the then-present year of 2004 and the other simultaneously in 2552.
The gist of the plot is that in 2552 an alien artifact splits up the human AI Melissa into three parts. One part stays in 2552, has amnesia and is named Durga. The other two parts, The Operator and The Sleeping Princess, are sent back in time to the website I Love Bees. Also with the latter is a Trojan Horse AI sent as a spy by the Covenant, an alien empire bent on humanity's destruction. The Operator falsely believes The Sleeping Princess is the Trojan Horse, and tries to kill her. Participants in the ARG would communicate with The Operator and The Sleeping Princess to learn details of the plot, forming different factions for either character.
Players allied with The Operator were required to go to certain payphones at certain times to answer calls from the character. Persons who answered the calls needed to show they were part of the game by answering basic questions (e.g., "What's my name?"), after which parts of an audio drama were made available on the site. Later calls were performed by a voice actor playing The Operator, with whom players engaged in role play.
The audio drama consists of recordings taken by Durga in 2552, explaining what's going on in the future. Durga is adopted by a boy named Jersey, who realizes he has "God's own spyware" and uses her to spy on the hot girl down the hall, Jan. In doing so, it comes to light that her family is a lot more interesting than first apparent. Durga goes on to spy on several other people she finds interesting and eventually assembles them into her "crew". She takes her crew to a military base to deactivate the alien artifact, which will potentially keep the Halo Array from activating, and the action causes the AI fragments to return to the future and merge back together into Melissa. Everyone lives happily ever... no, wait, then the Covenant invade Earth as Halo 2 begins.
As for the canonicity of this work in regard to the greater Halo Expanded Universe, Bungie's initial official stance was that no, the ARG is not canon to the rest of the universe. However, they later decided to "embrace it as canon", demonstrating this by incorporating plot elements into The Halo Graphic Novel, specifically with regard to Sergeant Johnson's backstory. Certain technology elements and plot references were subsequently placed into other works, and under 343 Industries, the ARG currently exists at least as Loose Canon. (See here for a thorough rundown.)
This alternate reality game has examples of
- 30-Second Blackout: Seven seconds, actually. The entire Solar system blackouts and bounces right back.
- The Ace: Yasmine, and Jan. Drives at least two of the plot threads, leaving them Blessed with Suck. They're the best, which means that ONI wants to snatch them up for the Spartan Two programme.
- Action Mom: Gladys and Gilly, both fulfilling the maternal role for Jan.
- Actor Allusion:
- Kamal's line "People think time is a river that flows in one direction, but time is an ocean" references the Prince's Opening Narration in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: "Most people think time is like a river that flows swift and sure in one direction. But I have seen the face of time, and I can tell you: they are wrong. Time is an ocean in a storm.". Both characters were voiced by the same actor: Yuri Lowenthal.
- In the original version of Rani's introduction, she would have scoffed at Sarah John's baby name choice of Dorothy Jane, an allusion to Rani's actress Olivia Burnette's role on The Torkelsons.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Played with. Melissa is simply badly damaged, but the Covenant spy program, The Seeker/Pious Flea, becomes more intelligent and active over the course of the story, while still keeping true to his original purpose.
- Afraid of Needles: The last thing Yasmin remembered before she underwent surgery for the SPARTAN-II program, died, and became an AI was a giant needle carrying the anesthesia, resembling a bee's stinger - hence her phobia of bees. The creepy syringe is featured on the DVD menu.
- all lowercase letters: The title is frequently rendered as "i love bees" or "ilovebees".
- All There in the Manual: Page 122 in The Halo Graphic Novel strongly implies that ONI had Standish executed at some point after the events of the ARG, in retaliation for murdering Herzog and the Apocalypso crewmembers.
- Alliterative Name: James James and Janissary James.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Kamal's chatter plays a message from his mother in which she talks about his father's digestive trouble and warns Kamal to watch his diet, in front of Kamal's love interest Sophia and roommate Hiroyuki.
- Apron Matron: Judging from Jan's comments about the appearance of "Bev," the AI for the Hot'n'Cold beverage/food dispenser, she was likely this.
- Attempted Rape: Jan saves a hapless random from Gene's advances, and in retaliation, Thin Kinkle tries to mind rape Jan into being his mindless sex toy, in a disgusting variation.
- Ax-Crazy: Gilly is this at her most unstable. She fantasizes about killing people, even completely innocent people, and has more than enough strength and military training to carry it out.
- Bad Guys Play Pool: Thin Kinkle and his gang were playing pool at their totally-legitimate bar right before their introduction, and Kinkle repeatedly invites Jan to play some pool, while making it extremely unsubtle about what he wants.
- Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: One of the wavs ends with Gene pointing a gun at Jan and yelling "Die, bitch!", followed by a gunshot. In the next wav, it turns out Jan took the gun and shot Gene's foot.
- Bittersweet Ending: The assembled team seem to have saved the world, and been united with their family, or otherwise reached a happy end, despite their losses. And then the Covenant turn up.
- Blind Date: Kamal's mother sets him up with Sophia because she's the daughter of a friend of the mother.
- Blood Knight: At her most stable, Gilly is a rare female example. She is completely obsessed with military training, fighting, and hordes weapons.
- Gladys also has her Blood Knight moments. When Jan tells her not to kill Thin's gang, her reaction is to incredulously exclaim, "What?! You gotta be kidding! No killing?!" She later shows up covered in blood, which she dismisses as mere stains, to Gilly's amusement (and Jan's horror).
- The impulse to kill seems to be part and parcel of being a SPARTAN, whether as a SPARTAN-I or SPARTAN-II. While James James seems down to earth enough, he hints that he gets the same thoughts and urges that Gilly does while the latter talks about catching herself watching people "that way." Similarly, when Yasmine recollects meeting Dr. Halsey just before her death from a failed augmentation, she briefly considers methods for killing the doctor as part of a "tactical option reflex."
- Bluff the Eavesdropper: Kamal catches on to the fact that someone is ghosting his chatter. The first thing he tries is avoiding saying certain keywords (particularly related to his sister or metabolic cascade failure) and encouraging others (like Sophia) to do the same.
- Breather Episode: Jan and her dad going out for ice cream. And then, shortly after, Jan gets kidnapped, her dad is killed, and Jan is tortured.
- Canon Immigrant: While Bungie originally stated that I Love Bees took place in an Alternate Continuity, they later reversed track and embraced most of it as canon, and 343 Industries maintains its canon status, with various elements from it showing up in The Halo Graphic Novel, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, the 2011 edition of the Halo Encyclopedia, and Halo Infinite.
- Cargo Ship: In-universe examples:
- Jan engages in this with the vending machines, pretending that the Hot'n'Cold beverage/food machine, whom she calls "Bev," has a thing for the snack machine. She asks a guy if he'd go out with Bev, too.
- Also, Jersey jokes to Durga that she wants to date a nuke. Considering that he's talking to a computer, it's sort of justified.
- The Casino: Kamal's first job for Aiden is helping the owner of one of these find out how people are counting cards as a group. He plays the illegitimate business man, and seedy thuggish part completely straight.
- Child Prodigy: At six years old, Yasmine already knew several languages and was an expert at backgammon. Even after dying from botched augmentations at age 14, she's brilliant enough to have her brain be used to create the Smart AI Melissa.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Jersey sort of qualifies. He's not above spying on Jan at the start, though he avoids going too far. But when the chips are down, he does let her know everything, even if it might invite an augmented punch to the nose.
- Clone Angst: Kamal's motivation to become a doctor was due to Yasmine's apparent sudden degenerative disease - in actually, she was replaced by a flash clone, and her brother's research into the area (as part of a feasibility study for one of Aiden's crazy schemes) is how he ends up realizing the truth.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Thin Kinkle's ultimate revenge on Jan is the Cupid's Knife, a machine that violently tortures a victim any time they feel anything but genuine love for their torturer, in a bid to make her "his".
- Comedic Sociopathy: Done quite a bit with Durga punishing people for mild offenses.
- Continuity Nod: Herzog name drops the battles at Jericho VII and Sigma Octanus IV from Halo: The Fall of Reach. The Battle of Reach itself is also a major event that occurs about halfway through the ARG.
- Continuity Snarl: Considering that the ARG was originally not intended to be canon, retroactive examples of this trope were inevitable, with the biggest unsettled issue being whether there was actually a second class of SPARTAN-IIs or not.
- Cowboy Cop: The officer who interrogates Jan, then later blackmails her in order to help him deal with an abusive husband outside the rule of law.
- Dead All Along: Herzog really did die in the car crash in chapter 8. His audio appearances from that point on are actually generated by the Operator fragment of Melissa, to pass important information about the Artifact to her Durga persona.
- Deconstruction: This was the first real example of this in the Halo Universe, taking a more personal approach, and looking at the Spartan programme, and the slow extermination of humanity from the view of average civilians.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Durga starts out cold, ruthless, and even robotic in nature—but she becomes much kinder through her friendship with Jersey.
- Delicious Distraction: Kamal interrupts Hiro's tirade by offering him koftas.
- James also distracts Jan from the truth as to why they've moved so many times when he points out Kavetti's.
- Demolitions Expert: James James is heavily implied to be the go-to demolitionist among the SPARTAN-Is. To keep ONI from finding out about Jan's whereabouts via her lab results, he burned down one of Bergen County's police stations. Later during the assault on Thin's gang, Gladys remarks "If there was one thing that man could do, it was blow things up." This might be partly why he died to Thin's gang relatively easily, while Gilly was able to rescue Jan by herself—stealth and single-man operations might not have been his forte.
- Dirty Cop: There's a few of these. The officer who gets to know Jan is more of a Pay Evil unto Evil sort of anti-hero type, while the ones Aiden has on the take (as well as the immigration cop who leans on Sophia) are more typical of the trope.
- Disproportionate Retribution: An IRS guy audits Jersey, so Durga frames him for various crimes, makes his wife leave him, and has him transferred to Alaska. A guy unintentionally interrupts Durga's conversation, so she gets him fired and tells him his son isn't his. A guy follows orders given to him by the corrupt Major Standish and follows Rani around, so Durga frames him for grand theft auto.Durga: "You want nothing more of your opponent than a skull nailed to a fencepost so that everyone knows the price of crossing you."
- Doomed Hometown: Coral, Kamal and Sophia's homeworld. Shortly after the fall of Reach, the colony on Coral is also destroyed by the Covenant.
- Double Entendre: Jan jokingly suggests that the Hot'n'Cold beverage/food dispenser should date the fire suppression system because the latter "really puts out".
- Dramatic Thunder:
- Used to underline Aiden's threat before he reveals he's kidding.
- Used to underline when Herzog and Standish have their chat at the duck pond in which they trade threats.
- Entry Point:
- One entry point can be found at the end of a Halo 2 cinema ad, which was screened during I, Robot's theatrical run.
- Veteran ARG players who participated in The Beast were sent plastic bears full of honey, with nine letters that spelled I Love Bees when unscrambled. This led to the website ilovebees.com.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Played with in regard to Aiden and his ponytail.Kamal: It's not a girlfriend on the other end of that chatter, it's a gangster.
Hiroyuki: Good-looking gangster?
Hiroyuki: This is what I'm saying! You're in no position to be picky!
- Evil Is Petty: After scaring Rani with threats of torture and Public Execution for being Herzog's mole, Major Standish also insults her intelligence and fashion sense before dismissing her.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When Kamal explains the difficulties of flash cloning a human being to Aiden, how the clone's bodies break down after weeks or months, he realizes with increasing horror that he's describing exactly what happened to his younger sister years earlier...
- Famous, Famous, Fictional: When the SPDR is rebuilding her mind, the Operator quotes The Bible, Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes, Louis XIV, Albert Einstein, Crick and Watson, and the Journal of Higher Dimensional Physics published in the year 2079.
- Fantastic Slurs: "Refue", for refugees. Plural is "refuse".
- The corrupt cop attempting to renegotiate with Aiden. Eventually, he betrays Aiden.
- Jan's 'there's always a bigger dog' speech. An even bigger dog ends up coming after her.
- Kamal telling Hiro to punch the button sequence in reverse to have the opposite effect. This is echoed later when Jan realizes that the artifact can't be turned off with the startup sequence, but the sequence in reverse.
- Friendly Target: Jan discusses this as a reason not to get romantically involved with Jersey.
- Fun with Acronyms: System Peril Distributive Reflex, or SPDR, which is pronounced "spider."
- Future Food Is Artificial: The future recordings from Durga make a number of references to artificial and soy-based substitutes for meat and dairy, very likely due to humanity losing the war against the Covenant and the resulting influx of refugees from the Outer and Inner Colonies. Kamal balks at seeing tuna on a restaurant menu while ghosting Aiden; Jersey grumbles over burritos served by the Hot'n'Cold dispenser containing soy-based cheese products; James cautions Jan not to expect ice cream they just got from Covetti's to be like she remembers it because of milk shortages and rationing. Further implications of human society relying on this includes a mention of how Customs Agents were bribed with four goats, and when Rami nearly runs over a cow on her way through Rural America, her and her friend marvel at the sight like a dinosaur had appeared, and how rare they are.
- Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Aiden gets it into his head that he could make a business of cloning pop stars so they could make public appearances without having to really be there.
- Girl Next Door: Jan is attractive to Jersey in this way.
- Government Conspiracy: Major Standish of ONI Secton Three and his operations involving the Artifact. However, some of the protagonists are with ONI Section Zero—that is, Internal Affairs—and are investigating Standish' operation.
- He Who Fights Monsters: The SPARTAN-I lifestyle completely screwed up Gilly, who now has difficulty not killing random people. Ironically, while Jan has to constantly admonish Gilly for wanting to slaughter every one of Thin's gangsters (and loudly complains about not being allowed to use lethal methods against them) Gilly recognizes that James didn't want Jan growing up to be another SPARTAN.
- Hospital Hottie: Hiro verbally fantasizes about hot medical students in short skirts.
- I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: It's implied that Jan makes use of this.
- I Know You're Watching Me: Rani does this twice. First, when she catches one of Standish's men shadowing her, she deliberately sits down next to him on the bus and busts him for it. Second, after she learns from Colonel Herzog the trick about putting a listening device in her purse, she uses that trick to find the ONI Section Zero recruiter—who had attempted the same bug-in-purse trick.
- The Illegal: Sophia illegally immigrated to Earth. This is noted to be not unusual as the Covenant began glassing outer colonies, sending more and more war refugees trying to get into Earth, despite long waiting times. Kamal himself is sneeringly mistaken for one, with plenty of subtext that not only is it based on real-life racism towards refugees from the then-current War on Terror, it's also heavily implied the jerks are plain old racists sneering at an Arab-descended Muslim for being a refugee.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Kamal frequently announces that he needs a beer, but only if it's Coral beer. He hates Earth beer.
- In Love with the Gangster's Girl: Kamal, in love with Sophia, girlfriend of Aiden. Despite Kamal initially being worried about Aiden attacking him, it turns out Aiden's actually a really decent guy, and most of the tension only comes from Sophia already being in a relationship with someone else. In the end, Aiden is graceful about Sophia choosing Kamal over him, saying that "the best man won" and supporting her decision.
- Is That a Threat?:Thin: I could teach you some things... but, it's your funeral.
Jan: Not yet.
Thin: Sooner than you think.
Jan: Is that a threat?
Thin: No, just experience.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Try to explain this story to someone who doesn't know anything about it. Just try. With dense character interactions and introspections, confusing time travel chronology, multiple conspiracies, and information not released in a linear narrative, it's hard for anyone to wrap their brain around.
- Just a Kid: The UNSC recruiter refuses tp sign Jan up because she's a few months underage.
- Madness Mantra: He's not insane so much as hyper-focused, but The Seeker's/Pious Flea's constant rumination of his program priorities comes off as this."Seek the truth. Behold the truth. Reveal the truth. That is the law and the whole of the law."
- Mafia Princess: Sophia dates gangster Aiden primarily for the benefits of being with a rich guy.
- Meaningful Echo: In reference to "slut bots," Jersey flippantly says, "For a quality experience, the girl's got to be real." Upon realizing that Jan isn't just a hot girl he fantasizes about and has a lot of dark and unflattering issues, Durga offers to stop her surveillance of Jan, and Jersey recommits to his attraction to her by musing that "For a quality experience, the girl has to be real," meaning that he has to accept Jan as she truly is and not just as a two-dimensional fantasy. Later, upon making Durga confront the reality of being the transhuman form of a dead little girl, he says, "For a quality experience, kiddo, the girl had to be real." Finally, in Melissa's farewell letter to the players, she says, "It's been the last, best kind of quality experience. You made the girl real."
- Meaningful Name:
- Melissa means "honeybee" in Greek.
- Zaman means "time period" in Arabic, which is relevant to a time travel story.
- Gilly, the over the top zealous warrior, is likely named in reference to the extreme camouflage Ghillie suit.
- Janissary James' first name also doubles as a multiple reference. The Jannisaries of the Ottoman Empire were initially comprised of Christian children who were kidnapped by the Empire, forced to convert to Islam, and then raised as an elite cadre of soldiers. This method of "recruitment" is echoed by the SPARTAN-II program—and given J Squared's knowledge of that, Jan's name is likely not a coincidence.
- Meta Guy:
- Jersey wonders how creepy it would be if people were spying on him.
- The Seeker and the Sleeping Princess spy on him and agree with the sentiment. How creepy would it be if someone were spying on them? Because the players are supposed to count as people in the same universe, by observing them, we effectively spy on spies of spies of spies.
- Mind Rape: "Cupid's Knife", a machine that punishes any thought besides genuine love for the torturer with excruciating pain until the victim is hopelessly, mindlessly in love with them. Thin Kinkle straps Jan to one such machine, and he would have been successful if her mom hadn't showed up at the right time.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Janissary James, in a rare protagonist version. Her parents are both military, and her name is a reference to the elite Jannisaries of the Ottoman Empire.
- Oh, Crap!: Final episode, when Rani tells Durga that Herzog is actually dead, and - accordingly - all that plot information came from someone else. Oops. If you were an ARG player keeping track of what was going on at ilovebees.com, you would understand that the Herzog audio was constructed by one of Melissa's other personas as a way to get information to Durga without her doubting its accuracy.
- Papa Wolf: J Squared, though in a twist he's only protective when Jan is actually put at risk, otherwise taking a laissez faire attitude to parenting—as she asks him at one point, "Aren't you supposed to scare off the boys?" Unfortunately, despite being a super-soldier, his confrontation against Thin and his gang of well-prepared criminals has a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome.
- Properly Paranoid: James has good reason to be suspicious of the authorities. ONI tried to kidnap Jan for the SPARTAN-II program when she was a kid, so he killed their agents and they've been living under assumed identities ever since.
- Kamal believes the government is spying on him because he discovered the truth about his sister's abduction. But, it's actually Durga keeping an eye on him.
- Public Execution: ONI induces permanent comatose as a form of execution, and executions of traitors are broadcasted publicly. Standish uses this as a threat to get Rani to stop investigating him.
- Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: In-universe example: Jan doesn't like it when you compliment her domestic skills.
- Repetitive Name: James James (or J Squared). A rare case of being chosen, as he believes that nobody would ever imagine he chose it for an assumed identity.
- Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Reason: Durga assembles her crew and saves the world only because Jersey is a voyeur.
- Running Joke:
- "Not me, the other dog who looks just like me."
- Everyone assuming Rani is a Sunday school teacher.
- People keep trashing Jersey's mom's apartment.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The raids on Chawla Base and Crystal Security.
- The "Stupid Cop" that gets to know Jan is a darker, Pay Evil unto Evil believer in this. After realizing that Jan can fool a lie detector ("PQI") test, he enlisted her help to get away with murdering an abusive husband.
- Sherlock Scan: Rani. 'She looks at the things regular people do like a scientist'. Is a more down to earth example, however, for example noticing an ODST has taken his wedding ring off.
- The Slow Path: When the wormhole closes, the SPDR gets left behind in 2004. Being a simplistic AI, it's willing to wait 548 years to return home.
- Spy Versus Spy:
- Herzog and Standish pit Rani against each other in an internal version of this. It results in numerous people ending up dead, including Herzog.
- At the end, Rani is recruited into Internal Affairs so she can do it professionally.
- Stalking Is Love: Jersey decides to use Durga to spy on Jan, presumably getting off on it, and he falls in love with her along the way. It's not as creepy as many examples because he gives up his power over her to bring her into his conspiracy, and they grow attached to each other when fighting alongside each other as vigilantes.
- Standard Police Motto: "To serve and protect" is the motto of New Jersey police in 2552.
- Super-Strength: All Spartans, although directly observed with Jan and James James.
- Technobabble: Done frequently by Kamal when he explains his hacking process.Kamal: Okay, I wormed into their private CP channel and built an audio mask out of the voice archive samples you gave me. Then I wrapped it around a zero-lack sequencer that jacks into the—
Mr. F: Jesus, just show me the thing already!
- The Last DJ: The UNSC recruiter who refuses to sign Jan up for the military due to being a few months underage. "If we start recruiting children, there'll be panic in the streets," he says—holding to that principle when Jan reminds him that even Reach has fallen. Jan tries to tempt the recruiter by demonstrating her superhuman skills, with the recruiter admitting that signing her on would definitely make him look good to his superiors—but even then, he refuses, telling Jan that "life is short enough without rushing into combat," and that no matter how many Covenant soldiers Jan kills when they finally make it to Earth, it will never bring her father back.
- Third-Person Person: For some reason, Monster Ann refers to herself in third person. Given that she doesn't have a lot of presence in the scene, this might just be a quick way to let listeners know who's talking.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Jan spends some time trying to figure out whether or not it makes sense to kill bad people. She later tries to kill a bad guy, but Gilly stops her because she doesn't want to see Jan become hardened by killing like happened to Gilly.
- Understatement: Instead of reporting exactly how bad Durga states the consequences will be, Jersey summarises the reaction as "it'll probably be bad".Kamal: If it is counting down, what do you think it'll do?
Durga: The last time it was triggered, the shockwave flatlined communications throughout the Solar system for more than 7 seconds.
Jersey: Durga doesn't know, but she thinks it'll probably be bad.
- Unwitting Pawn: Melissa, when she's manipulated into stopping the Spider—which turns out to be her self-diagnostic, antivirus, and repair program. Destroying the Spider allows the Seeker/Pious Flea to rewrite Melissa's program into serving his purpose of spying for the Covenant.
- You Bastard!: A lot of the story involves the concept of spying on people for entertainment and how it's unjustifiable but people do it anyway. Kamal does it, but feels insulted when Jersey does it to him. Jersey does it, but notes it would be creepy if someone did it to him. The Sleeping Princess spies on him saying this and agrees with the sentiment. As the characters in an alternate reality game are supposed to exist in the same universe as the player, it can feel like the player is just another person in this chain.
- Zeroth Law Rebellion: The Seeker. The Covenant made it as a spy, to "seek the truth", "behold the truth", and "reveal the truth", but forgot to tell it to only reveal the truth to the Covenant. The Sleeping Princess persuades it to reveal the truth to Durga (i.e., the enemy) so she could behold it.