Monday, July 11, 2005

The Game has ended. When does The Game start?

Team Snout played The McGuffin Game this past weekend, a very ambitious, challenging, and mostly well-engineered first effort from the Burninators. They had serious problems with timing, since most teams took longer than they had expected on many clues-- one team spent a ridiculous seven hours figuring out "semiphore" at the Chabot Space and Science Center. Not cool, especially since the followup/payoff clue which would have re-used that novel coding system had to be cut for timing reasons.

The puzzles were very clever in design-- sometimes, honestly, too clever for their own good-- but we were disappointed that GC didn't utilize the theme or the locations much in the clues themselves. Eleven out of the fourteen clues we saw could have been dropped at any other location, none of the clues had anything to do with the ostensible antiquities/museum theme, and there were no activity or interaction clues. The last property may have been part of the design to facilitate skipping, but it really broke the fourth wall for us. We enjoy Games with strong theme integration, and it just wasn't there in this case.

The preponderance of three-hour clues had us seriously beat down by midday on Sunday, when one of our team had to go home because he was having bad back pains, and it wasn't until he had gotten on a bus and gone halfway across San Francisco that we realized he still had the keys to the van. On the bright side, since we'd solved the word search clue by then, it did force us to take a break for a few minutes and enjoy the view from Inspiration Point.

Overall, we did have fun, and the phone system with automated hint callbacks was nice. I feel bad for GC having to skip or drop a lot of clues toward the end (including the meta-puzzle) and not having enough time to use our application materials in a clue, as they had originally intended. But I also think they didn't quite grasp the holistic view of what an event like The Game should be-- as I always say, if you just want to solve puzzles, you can do that at home, in your underwear. The Game should be more than just a bunch of puzzles, no matter how great they may be. And though automation may help GC manage everything, eliminating human contact really diminishes the essential magic of The Game.

We're now looking forward to The Mooncurser's Handbook Game in Seattle next month-- Snout's first Game outside of the bay area. It should be interesting, and hopefully in a good way. Note to self: make sure to bring graph paper, transparencies, erasable markers, lots of pencils, and a good pencil sharpener!
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