Puzzlehunts: #terngame 2014

Other #terngame2013 sites:

On Thursday, July 31st I helped run Terngame 2014. This was an afternoon-length Hayes-Valley neighborhood-scale puzzlehunt for work. It was named "Terngame" in honor of our excellent summer interns, but was open to full-timers, too.

This write-up is pretty disjoint and scattered. It's the things I want to remember for next year. Since this year was pretty similar to last year, the things I want to remember are a piece here: things that were different, things still worth remembering.

Game Control

This was the second Terngame; and it had a lot in common, prepration-wise with the first Terngame. Once again, we had day-of help from Twitter's University Recruiting team. It went a little smoother this year because some of those folks remembered how things had gone the year before.

Who were GC's puzzly people this year? Jan Chong returned as GC lead. Once again, she kept things super-organized, somehow doing this while writing our answer-checker Android app and similarly organizing the second San Francisco leisurely mini-game. (I'm still not used to things being so well organized. I kept my pre-game weekend unscheduled, anticipating lots of last-minute fixing to do. But there wasn't really any last-minute fixing to do; We'd finished all our risky-might-need-big-fixes changes weeks beforehand.) Diyang Tang and Mark Chu were first-time puzzlehunt writers. They'd played in some puzzly events, but this might have been their first walking-around game; I hope they learned some things. Diyang took on not only writing a regular puzzle but also designed the game's metapuzzle.

And there was me. What did I do?

What I Did

I wrote a couple of puzzles. Actually, I wrote more than a couple—I wrote a few up to the rough-draft stage and then let my GC colleagues figure out which of these were worth turning into something real. These puzzles wouldn't win any originality prizes with experienced puzzlehunters… But that's OK; there are venues better-suited to those.

I wanted to use this opportunity to work on things that were more activity-ish than puzzle-ish. One, a "puzzle" which involved reconstructing a series of flights on a globe, turned out to not be so fun when GC tried it out. (My hands are bigger than most; just as most folks can't palm a basketball, probably most folks don't like globe-handling as much as I do. Or something.)

I did get to do some activity-ish work: revising Selfie, our photo scavenger hunt. This wasn't starting over from scratch; rather it was applying some lessons learned from the previous year's photo scavenger hunt. Ironically, my help here was to make the activity more "puzzly": instead of challenging teams to take eight specific photos, teams "earned" letters of an answer by taking photos. If they could "fill in the blanks" of their 11-letter answer after earning eight letters, then that worked out about the same.

Game Day

For me, this was mostly sitting in the backyard patio seating area of Arlequin Cafe. There, Greg Harezlak of TwitterU and I sat and conversed. Occasionally, we paused to hand an excited team a copy of the #hashflags puzzle. We talked about other puzzlehunts. We talked about Greg's progress in learning computer programming.

Once teams stopped showing up, Greg headed back to the office. I stuck around until the game ended. This was unnecessary—no team showed up at the last minute. At game's end, I packed up and headed back to the office end party.

There I found out that some teams had finished (whew!), though darned few teams had finished by the official cut-off time. If we do this next year, I guess we need fewer puzzles, easier puzzles, more hours, or to accept that few teams will finish.


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