Larry Hosken: New: Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, like Lindy Hop

Yesterday, Debbie Goldstein was at a playtest and so was I. And thus I got to hear a little about her trip to New York City. Debbie is, as near as I can tell, the force of cajolery behind the DASH hunts, somehow convincing puzzle freaks in multiple locations to coordinate on puzzle design and puzzle hunt operations. As a side effect, she traveled to New York for the recent DASH game.

Well, hey, except that maybe it wasn't just a side effect.

When she's not herding puzzle hunters, Debbie swing dances. She talked a bit about swing dancers. I knew there was a local swing dancing community—but now I find out it's not just local. It's wider-scale than that, stuff all over the country. (Country? World? I forget which.) One nice aspect of this (and maybe something that helps keep the wide-scale community going) is that swing dancers travel from place to place. They stay in each other's homes, show each other around their hometowns, dance with each other.

So... Maybe the puzzle-huntish community could do this, too?

Of course, that already happens. Half the travelers between SEA-SFO must be puzzle hunters by now. If you want to see the Microsoft puzzle hunt, you go to Redmond. (Well, the previous one was simulcasted in Stanford, but who knows if that'll keep happening...) I'd gone to Redmond for the Microsoft Puzzlehunt, and had a good time. After the fact, I found out that some east-coast folks had shown up for a bay area hunt—and they'd heard about the bay area hunts from the bay area folks who played in the Great American hunt a few years back.

There are tricky bits, though. I guess a swing dancer can show up at some event and ask folks to dance. That ain't easy, but... Wow, if a puzzler shows up at some event and asks a team "Hey, you don't know anything about me but can I join your team so we'll all be in close proximity in this van for the next 12 hours?" that might be a stretch. Then again, if those people got to know each other, perhaps by occasionally hanging out on some community site or something, that might help people to get to know each other.

What? Oh, right. What did Debbie talk about? I had a point. I remembered that.

New York was, by modern standards, understaffed. We're grown accustomed to "someone from GC watching each clue site", not so much with the "Open up the newspaper box and look for the next clue; hope that no 'civilian' has compromise the clue site." This approach is good: there's someone right there to confirm answers, give hints. This approach is bad: you need somebody to watch each clue site. Have you read about the relay that Curtis and DeeAnn did so that two GC folks could watch several clue sites for the Portland DASH? Madness. Well, that's kinda like the situation that the NYC organizers were facing: not many people running the game; a lot of people playing.

So Debbie went to New York City. And it was a relay. And it was kind of tough. And it was a 5km course, so she had to rush to get from one clue site to the next. But it was fun. New York is fun. Oh, and there was celebrity gossip.

There was a celebrity sighting: a puzzler let Debbie know: OMG we saw Neil Patrick Harris!!?! (I had to ask: he's the Doctor Horrible guy.) Of course, spotting famous people in New York City is no big deal. In the first hour I spent in NYC, I saw Sam Shepard and Ethan Hawke; it's normal there. But but but Neil Patrick Harris isn't just another actor. He's into pervasive games. No word on his feelings about puzzle hunts, but he liked this ARG called Accomplice in New York to (if I understand correctly) come on as a producer to help it keep going and expand out to a Los Angeles version. One of us, one of us.

Tags: puzzle hunts entertainment industry travel teams
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