Thursday, October 01, 2015

#42Movies, Day 21: Puzzle Hunts

This is not a clue. OR IS IT? No, it's not. Swearsies:

Midnight Madness (1980)
The Game (1997)

Hints and solution after the trailers. j/k! ;)

For the record, that trailer for Midnight Madness is terrible and tells you nothing about the movie. This clip is more revealing, but still not very informative. And I have to imagine it's not because the distributor wanted to be mysterious about the content; I'm sure it's because they weren't sure advertising a movie full of "puzzles" was the best way to attract an audience.

We have this problem all the time with Puzzled Pint, when we try to describe the event to the uninitiated. The second most popular response—after "What do you win?"—is "I'm not smart enough for that." Both of those attitudes (and Midnight Madness, for that matter) assume that all puzzling events are competitions. It's not surprising, since the point of most games and sports is to determine a winner, but PP aims more for education and outreach.

The Game also focuses on a problematic aspect of puzzle events: the double-edged sword of mystery, which can contribute to surprise (good) or paranoia (less good). When I first got into puzzling in the mid-1990s, "The Game" was still very much underground, to the point that Game Control (the people running the event) would go out of their way to conceal their identities. In fact, GCs were outright antagonistic in some of those Games, flat-out refusing to give hints even when teams were stuck and not having fun anymore.

I'm happy to say that kind of hostile behavior is less prevalent in puzzling events these days, but many people still find mystery to be a very compelling element of puzzling—sometimes overwhelmingly so, to the point that they prefer (and actively seek out) experiences whose creators shroud themselves in manufactured obscurity. I personally prefer to know the author of a work before committing to a chancy product. I do value the process of discovering how a puzzle works, but I want some assurance that it will not be a disappointing waste of time and money.

(If, at this point, you feel the need to point out that "past performance is not an indicator of future outcomes:" fuck you. Seriously, FUCK YOU. Our lives are built upon the principle of inductive reasoning; we know the Sun will rise tomorrow before we understand anything about astronomy or science. That disclaimer is valid when applied to a known-volatile situation like legalized gambling the stock market, but when it comes to people, we make laws based on the idea that personal change, if it happens, is slow and difficult. So yeah, I want to know who's behind something before I believe in it, whether it's a puzzle hunt or a Kickstarter.)

Anyway. I'm not sure how I became known as "that puzzle guy," but here I am. It's been a big part of my life for almost two decades, and though it's changed a lot over those years—fewer weekend-long driving hunts, more escape rooms everywhere—it's still an interesting and exciting hobby. I plan to keep using my brain for fun until the day I die.


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