New: Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, But Not Everything is Puzzle Hunts

I was walking with some Gamers around my neighborhood. Specifically, we were right across the street from my apartment. One of my colleagues stopped and looked at a parked vehicle. Specifically, looked at its license plate.

The license plate said "XX R8TED" Oh, no wonder it was observation-worthy.

"Larry, you haven't started dating Rachel Weinstein, have you?"

"Not to the best of my knowledge."

I wasn't dating the captain of puzzle hunt team XX-Rated. I was, however, suddenly vary paranoid. Was someone burgling my apartment? Was Team XX-Rated burgling my apartment?

Maybe they were looking for puzzle hunt materials? That seemed unlikely. People play puzzle hunts for fun. Solving puzzle hunts is fun. Solving puzzle hunts after you've peeked at the answers is probably less fun. My apartment is very boring. OK, that probably wasn't it.

Could it be a prank? I thought about the time I'd stumblingly broken into a team XX-rated computer account after someone else had inadvertently revealed the password. Could a prankish burglary be retaliation for that? I hadn't used that computer account to do anything, but did team XX-Rated know that? Anyone else who knew how to break in to that account could abuse it and blame me. Could that have happened? It seemed wildly improbable. And yet here was this vehicle.

I didn't want to be pranked. I disliked surprises, at least those for which I was the surprisee. 15 years ago, I fell victim to a surprise birthday party. Ever since then, I'd maintained a steady misinformation campaign to keep my friends unsure of when my real birthday occurred. How much would I need to change my lifestyle to keep clear of clever burglars? Maybe I could set up a stronghold in the Gobi desert. That seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Were there any good comic book stores in the Gobi desert?

It was time to think. If I was another gamist, and I was mad at Larry for something, and I wanted revenge, what would I do? Plots for mayhem flitted through my head. During a game, take a puzzle meant for Team Mystic Fish and throw it in a river. Mail a frozen trout to Larry's address. Impersonate Larry while revealing secrets of the Scientologists.

There were many easy ways to seek revenge on me--much simpler than burgling my apartment. Under other circumstances, I might have found this idea disturbing; today it reassured me. No doubt Ms. Weinstein was in the neighborhood for some reason that had nothing to do with me, probably nothing to do with gaming.


We had wandered away and finished our talk. The group went their separate ways. I went back to my street. The vehicle was gone. I went up to my apartment. No obvious burglary had occurred. I braced myself and opened up my mailbox. No frozen trout was within.

There was a line between game and life, and no-one was crossing it today. That was fine with me.

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Posted 2005-10-02