Midnight Madness comes to London

Here’s a guest blog post on something that’s not strictly escape-room related but will likely have a significant crossover.

A puzzle hunt will take place overnight in London starting at 8pm on Saturday 19th May and it may well be the most spectacular one London has ever seen. It has a name, and a pedigree, that will thrill the hearts and tweak the bowstrings of every puzzle hunt history fan: Midnight Madness.

The history of puzzle hunts sees fact inspire fiction then fiction inspire fact in turn. Undoubtedly one of the highest-profile works of fiction was a 1980 Disney film, Midnight Madness, which depicted teams of college students on an outrageous, big-scale rally where the directions and instructions for successive legs of the rally could only be found by solving clues and performing physical tasks. Several people saw the movie and decided to bring the activity to life, often adopting the Midnight Madness title directly. The Wikipedia page for the film mentions several of these real-life events as the film’s legacy; some of these events have stood the test of time, some have not.

The most celebrated series of factual events to bear the Midnight Madness name is a series of charity fundraising events that have taken place in New York from time to time. As the site says, “Midnight Madness raises funds for the New York City children’s charity Good Shepherd Services to help at-risk youth achieve their potential. Midnight Madness is open to everyone who can form a team and raise the targeted funds for GSS. Midnight Madness 2015 raised $3.1 million to support the construction of a new community center in East New York, featuring a counseling room named after the muse of this year’s game, Audrey Munson. This year’s teams came from financial institutions in the tri-state area and Europe, and one west-coast tech startup.

This version of Midnight Madness is associated with (sometimes by name) Goldman Sachs, with many of the teams being made up of its employees. The most distinguishing features of it are that the teams of ten players are each expected to make a charity donation of US$50,000 or more in order to play, and that such massive donations earn you a place within a game where hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on incredibly high-concept, large-scale, big-budget toys to play with. The 2012 event was discussed in an article at Quartz, with a couple of example puzzles, the 2013 event made the New York Times and Bloomberg has a video about the 2015 event. If you have any interest in the genre at all, these pieces are musts to demonstrate just what might be possible if you throw sufficient money around.

Hopefully you can see why it’s exciting that an event with a similar name and pedigree is coming to London. It’s on a slightly smaller scale, but this line from the web page may set your expectations: “The average charitable donation to date is £10,000.” If the event is set to raise several hundreds of thousands of pounds for charity, one might expect a lot of money to be spent on making it a spectacular game to play. You would expect most of the teams to be sponsored by extremely successful institutions, but well-heeled privateer entries would be just as welcome – and many extremely strong puzzle solvers have found similar success by turning their attention to areas of the world of work that the job market rewards highly.

For the rest of us, the event is calling for volunteers, and the associated charity has a page with a little more information about how these volunteers might be used over the course of the event. Fingers crossed that this is the start of something very, very, very big!

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