Puzzlehunts: Shinteki Decathlon 8

On Saturday June 8 2013, Team Mystic Fish had a great time playing in Shinteki Decathlon 8. In this game, we fish were...

The Night Before

Wait, let me back up. Things really got started the night before. Months before, Clavis Cryptica tweeted that she and the Boneless Chicken Cabaret folks would get into town early so that they could play Scrap's Escape from the Mysterious Room Game. Then I suggested dinner. Then Deb arranged dinner, and thus we gathered: four visiting out-of-towners who had, minutes before, almost escaped the mysterious room plus some local SF gamers. Conversation was altered: the folks who had just attempted the Escape were coming off the adrenaline rush of an hour-long puzzle sprint. (Plus, earlier in the day, they'd playtested some San Francisco location puzzles from the Octothorpean Game.) And some (all) of them were getting ready to accept applications to the mysterious Famine Game, so they had plenty to keep mum about.

Mostly we talked about the recent DASH game. I may have let slip how Mystic Fish's team captain, Alexandra, had looked over the DASH results. She noticed that Boneless Chicken Cabaret had beaten Mystic Fish by just two points. So for tomorrow's Shinteki Decathlon, she was determined that we had to kick some Boneless Chicken ass. (On game day, The Boneless Chickens would foil this plan by means of the reprehensible come-in-first-place maneuver.)

Boneless Chicken Cabaret, Scott, Debbie,

The Ride Down

Although Paul Rundle would meet the team at the game start, three of us drove down together (also ferrying some NPL dude named Jeremy down south and Deanna Rubin up north). Dwight drove us down in his car. He stayed the night at Doctor When's childhood home, which you recall is just around the corner from San Francisco's Haight Street. For the logistics to work, Alexandra thus parked her car near Haight Street. She was worried that someone would mess with her car because it had a conservative bumper sticker. Fortunately, Dwight had a more Haight-friendly sticker that we temporarily applied on top.

Applying a temporary bumper sticker


The game itself was, unsurprisingly, a lot of fun. We were kind of slowpokes in this one.

I didn't help: the first clue was in The Computer Museum, and I stopped to gape at a Casio Zoomer and a Nokia 9000 Communicator—little bits of nostalgia from the 1990s, back when I was working at Geoworks and documenting how to program such devices. (1990s nostalgia was inappropriate, since the game's theme was the 1980s, so I wasn't even staying true to the theme.)

Then came a puzzle that used some brightly colored legwarmers. That one mostly left our colorblind player, but we got through it pretty quick nonetheless. Then came a set of mini-puzzles at a mall food court. This included my favorite puzzle of the day: Redungeon Master, a set of four dice, some of whose dots were plain, some contained lines, some contained circles. If you looked at the ones-faces on the dice, they made a message in semaphore; if you looked at the threes-faces, they used ternary; the sixes-faces used Braille; each face a different encoding.

Then we went to the San Jose Rose Garden, where I learned to play Loopin' Louie. I never got as good as Wei-Hwa, of course, but fortunately GC was giving out points for participation on that one. At Techshop's conference room, I wolfed down some cake while my more logically-minded did some pouring-jug puzzles using little electronic cubes that had a display on one face and wirelessly communicated with a controller.

Paul, Alexandra, and Dwight pour virtual Brave GC volunteers Trisha and Wei-Hwa a


Probably my next-favorite puzzle was Ministry of Love, which had charades and newspeak and released a free hint which was much appreciated since we had no idea what we were doing as we had fun gathering data. The next puzzle was my least favorite: we had to identify 80s music videos. We were sitting in a comfortable lounge with terrible mobile phone reception. So I'd hold my phone next to our laptop which was playing horrible music, trying to figure out how long Shazam needed to get a decent sample. Then I'd carry my phone over to the door, where there was reception. This took roughly forever. Or at least that music made it seem like forever.

Eight E's was an amazing puzzle, though we had a rough time; whenever we had a guess about how to go, it seemed we guessed wrong. The next puzzle however, Old School, had us guess at the chronology of events from 1080, 1180, 1280... and there we guessed right early on.

The last puzzle, Electric Avenue, showed the potential of Cluekeeper, the answer-checking system. The old Shinteki Palms with their LEON program were retired. For this game, we toted around some borrowed Nexus sevens running Cluekeeper. It checked our answers but could also use GPS to figure out where we were standing and only "unlock" the next step of a puzzle if it knew we were in the right place. I'm hoping to use Cluekeeper to set up some location-based puzzle, uhm, after my current phone breaks so I have an excuse to buy a new phone that can actually run the Cluekeeper client so I can test things out.

Paul, Dwight, and Alexandra assembling e Team photo at Stanford University's hist


Oh man, I was tired. It had been a hot day, and I felt like a wrung-out towel. But it was still good to get a chance to find out what Deanna Rubin was up to. And Todd Etter told me how the Octothorpean playtesting went, and that was good, too. And soon enough, I was back in San Francisco, where there was bed.


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