Discoveries, Puzzle Hunts, and Community

Ever since I started down this path of life design and pursuing my passions, I’ve been constantly amazed by the things I have discovered along the way.  I started this blog a year ago, and what did I know then?  I knew that there were some games I liked, like Myst, Riven, The Stone and Professor Layton.  I knew about The Mole.  I knew that there was a thing called Post Hunt in Washington D.C..  I knew that here and there were a few companies who did sightseeing scavenger hunts and adventure races in big cities.  That was pretty much it.

Since then, it seems like I just keep discovering and uncovering more awesome puzzle and mystery-related things and asking myself “How did I not know this existed??”  I keep expecting this phenomenon to die down as I become more active in the community, but a year into blogging I still find myself amazed and surprised by new discoveries on a very regular basis.  On the one hand, it’s frustrating to wonder what else I don’t know about and I’m missing out on, but on the other hand it’s very fun and exciting to feel like there will always be more to find.

So far, 2012 has been the year of me discovering puzzle hunts and their surrounding community.  Although I had done Post Hunt and a Diamond Dash in 2011, I assumed these were pretty much isolated events, or just the beginning of a new trend of puzzle hunts and adventure races.  A few months ago, I discovered Ravenchase Adventures, a local company that does public and private/corporate puzzle hunts and adventure races.  Just another cool thing to add to the list.  Something new and exciting.  Nobody else was really doing this sort of thing, right?

It wasn’t until I was first reading about the Black Letter Game that I finally discovered, of course, The Game.  The Game is an epic 24-48 puzzle hunt that takes place over the weekend, essentially the ultimate puzzle hunt and “the ultimate test for Renaissance men and women.”  Players must drive long distances to different clue sites, often with little sleep, where they have to solve puzzles and often complete wild challenges.  You really have to read about them to understand the incredible scale and scope of these Games.  Some Games have been more extreme than others, one tragically dangerous.  First started in 1973, the Game has grown a community of participants and teams, many of which go on to run their own Games.  “Game Control” is the term for the people who run a Game or puzzle hunt, and there are tons of resources and presentations on all the issues that come up when trying to run something so complex.

There are more of these events being run than I could have imagine.  Hunts and races that take the whole weekend or even an entire week, hunts that just take an afternoon, hunts that run all night long, and even hunts that take place on a cruise ship!  Names keep popping up, like DASH, BANG, BATH, Iron Puzzler, and the MIT Mystery Hunt.  Casual get-togethers like Puzzled Pint and Mastermind Pub Hunts.  The community and subculture are strong and active.

Again, the feeling starts with “I can’t believe all of this exists,” and ends with “How did I not know about it for so long?”

I feel like there is simultaneously an under- and over-abundance of information about these games and the Game Control/puzzle hunt community.  There aren’t really any central information hubs or strong definitions of what constitutes a “Game” and what is just a puzzle hunt.  Instead, there are over 100 SnoutCasts to listen to, lots of rambling personal blogs, archived records of gamecontrol.com, the skeletons of the websites of previous Games.  There is so much to know, and I want to know it all.

One frustrating part of my discoveries is that the West coast seems to have an extremely strong puzzle hunt community, especially in the Bay Area, Seattle, and Portland, but we seem to be lacking over here on the East coast.  We’ve got Post Hunt, Ravenchase, and DASH, but what else?  I feel compelled to make an effort to build the community over here on our side.  For a start, I’m going to experiment with this Facebook group I just made — East Coast Puzzlers.  I want it to be a way for local puzzle hunters and mystery lovers to connect and be made aware of upcoming events, and maybe even organize a few of our own!

Then again, maybe a strong East coast community exists already and I just haven’t found it yet.  It certainly wouldn’t be the first time!

(Many thanks to Team Snout for their informative website and entertaining podcast.  Much of what I’ve learned about Games and puzzle hunts (and the exciting world of Game Control) has come from listening to SnoutCast!  I want to be a part of your world!)

4 comments on Discoveries, Puzzle Hunts, and Community

  • Alex Pearson

    I’ll also leave this here. Boston Area Puzzle Hunt League, started a couple years ago to try and get a community going in Boston, hosting twice-yearly hunts.

    • clavicarius (author)

      So that’s what BAPHL stands for! I saw there was a BAPHL 5 coming up and put it on the Facebook group’s event doc, but I didn’t really know much else about it. Thanks so much for the link =)

  • Chris M. Dickson

    “How did I not know this existed??”

    I’ve been asking the same question about your blog! And the answer is, inveigably, because nobody told me about it… until one of the people who you linked to in your most recent post did.

    I’ve read your blog, having gone back to the start. I love it; it’s full of good stuff. I don’t actually have that much to add; I was going to tell you all about the World Puzzle Championships (in culture-free logic puzzles: sudoku, minesweeper and their much more interesting cousins) but you’ve had an introduction to it already.

    I’m based in the UK and very much hoping to get the chance to play in DASH next year!

    • clavicarius (author)

      Thanks so much! =) I’m glad my blog has become a thing worth knowing about!

      I’ll try to keep an ear out for more UK puzzle events and such. You’re going to love DASH!

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