Around the World: Boda Borg

Boda Borg logoA few days ago, this site predicted that “There is practically a 100% chance that something incredibly cool, of which this site was not previously aware, will make itself known.” Nobody was expecting a very strong candidate for the title to arrive quite so soon, and a very grateful tip of the hat to Ed Roberts of Breakout Manchester for pointing it our way.

With roots that can be traced back to Sweden in 1995, Boda Borg is a company operating, directly or by franchise, a series of adventure centres. Currently seven are open in Sweden, one in Ireland and two are apparently under construction in the USA, one on either coast. The adventures are played by teams of 3-5, and are suitable for both adults or children aged, perhaps, 8+. (This brilliant writeup suggests that the Swedish centre clientele may be 80% adult; maybe less different from established exit game demographics than you might think.)

Each centre consists of a collection of Quests, which are independent and can be completed in any order. Each Quest consists of a series of 2-5 (possibly fairly small) rooms that must be completed in order. By way of an example, the Irish location, at the Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, has a total of 15 Quests and 47 rooms. (The Boda Borg web site implies that the Swedish centres are larger, with 20-25 Quests each.) €15 per person will get your team access for two hours (during which time, two fully completed Quests is apparently a par score) or €20 per person will get your team access for the whole day.

To complete each room in each Quest… well, that’s up to you, and the reason why Boda Borg is so interesting is that the instructions aren’t explicitly given, and you have to figure them out from context yourself. Quoting the web site, “Once you enter only teamwork using countless different skills, ingenuity, trial and error will allow you to survive the Quests.” Some rooms will pose purely physical challenges, others a mixture of physical and mental challenge; a colour-coding scheme on the doors hint at which are which. The official explanation video hints at the variety of challenges on offer, but also implies that one relatively frequent physical challenge theme is “don’t touch the floor” – but dressed up in sufficiently many different ways, and with such a variety of props to aid you in this, as to maintain interest. That’s cool; that’s fun.

From context, sets of sensors will detect any failure by any member of the team (and working out how failure is defined is part of the challenge) and cause the team to need to start the entirety of that Quest over again – or, perhaps, give a different one a try and come back to that one later. Success through every room of a Quest earns access to that Quest’s ink stamp, with which to emboss your low-tech scorecard. (A scoring system that has been good enough for letterboxers for decades.)

More specifically, this video seems to come from the Irish site and dates from 2009. While Quests are changed from time to time, this may give you a more practical sense of feel for what you might find in practice. (Rabid spoilerphobes might conceivably choose to keep away.)

How does this compare to an exit game as this site knows them? It looks, principally, rather less labour-intensive. Teams are left to their own devices, attempting the Quests in the order of their choice – so, by implication, there is an assumption of good faith and good queueing between the various teams running round the site independently. (If there are many more than fifteen teams, and only fifteen Quests, perhaps the waiting might get a little in the way.) It’s also unclear quite how sophisticated the mental aspects of the various Quests are; presumably there are some deliberately very accessible ones and possibly also some rather more obtuse ones. Noting that Quests are independent of each other, it would be unfair to expect the degree of interconnectedness that you might find in (particularly a relatively story-heavy) exit game.

It all sounds extremely promising, though how it might work in practice is another matter. From a distance, the best way to judge is TripAdvisor – and, as usual, better to read the comments than just go by the (generally very favourable) ratings – and to bear in mind that the people making them may have a wide range of sets of expectations going in. It’s worth bearing in mind that most of the comments reflect the entire park; Boda Borg probably comes off better than the park at large.

A telling recent comment reads: “Took us a wee while to find our feet (14,13 yrs old sons & hubby + me) but it was great fun when we completed a few and got the team work nailed! I took many laughing fits as we struggled to get through some and we all had sore knees climbing & crawling and my hubby who is 6ft 2 banged his head quite a few times but that’s all part of the fun. Will definately be back to beat our poor record best afternoons craic in a wee while. Super activity for all the family provided everyone is reasonably mobile and has a sense of humour!” On the other hand, a different (rather older) comment reads: “Inside, it is cheaply constructed, very poorly supervised and dimly lit. The day we were there, many of the ‘challenges’ were broken, others were in poor condition with important items missing and there were young teenage children running amok inside racing up and down narrow corridors. It was like being in a claustrophobic secondary school playground.

The truth will surely be somewhere between the two extremes; it also seems reasonable to suggest that there were rather more complaints over the standard of maintenance in 2013 than there have been in 2014. It would be very interesting to know what the maintenance schedule is and whether there’s a sense that the site might be at its best “early in the season”. (You might also choose to give higher importance to reviews from, perhaps, a game-ier context at BoardGameGeek.)

If you’re the sort of person who is sufficiently game for a certain sort of laugh that you’re willing to make a journey to play an exit game, or to go out of your way to play with toys and environments so impressive as to be impossible at home, the odds are surely extremely promising for Boda Borg. (It reads like being as close as you’ll get, these days, to the sort of fun from the Cyberdrome Crystal Maze of old – except, twenty years later on, lower-tech.) Definitely one to follow as franchises spread around the world. It would be interesting to know whether the economics might make a site in Great Britain work, or whether our land and installation costs are just too expensive. The capital expenditure would surely be much more than that of a basic (almost modular?) exit game, but the potential daily throughput could be tremendous while being much less labour-intensive than that of a one-moderator-per-team exit game.

The island of Ireland already has quite a tradition of exit games, and growing; the prospect of a tour some day to experience just all the games that it offers, let alone its other appeals, becomes more and more promising. Or, further afield, there are seven Bodas Borg to try in Sweden. Road trip!

DASH stats 2: the difference between Experienced and New tracks

Close-up of plastic yellow lemon

After looking at whether there was a cultural gap, I next consider the difference between New and Experienced tracks. Here, I’m only going to look at those puzzles where there was a difference in content.

“First sale”, “Advertising”, “Viral marketing”, and (after compensating for the London difference), “Buyout” will be control puzzles. On these four identical puzzles, Experienced were significantly better players. The gap is least if New scores are increased by 4 or 5 points per puzzle.

Again, I think that a Student t-test is an appropriate method, comparing New to Experienced. My chosen data sets are the raw scores for teams completing each individual puzzle. Teams dropping out part-way through the day will contribute data for puzzles they solved.

Collecting Ingredients II” involved solving cryptic clues. These cryptics were different between the tracks – New had a word in a sentence; Experienced had a partial anagram. Experienced needed to fully resolve the sudoku, New only needed the middle three letters, but I think that’s a marginal difference. The evidence suggests that Experienced teams performed worse than New, and the discrepancy goes away by allowing 2 points to Experienced. Given the advantage of Experienced teams on identical puzzles, we might add 6 to Experienced scores.

In “End of the First Day“, Experienced had a longer route to the answer, more letters to decrypt from ternary, and weren’t given the partial hint that there was decryption (but didn’t need to solve that partial hint). Many sides who got this puzzle got it very quickly (though I’ve discarded a team credited with the answer in 40 seconds), and it appears New sides were behind by 1 point. However, we might expect New to be further behind on equal puzzles, so add another 3 points to Experienced scores.

For “Practicing the Sales Pitch“, New had a much clearer hint that semaphore was involved, *and* a time limit more generous by 10 minutes. Experienced were clearly behind, by about 8 points. For our notional parity, try adding 12 to Experienced scores.

In “Mass Production“, there was a small difference – New were explicitly told there’s a word chain. Don’t think that’ll have altered the scores, and this proves to be the case – Experienced were up by 3 points. I can’t reject the hypothesis that there was no additional advantage to either track, so no change.

Finally, for “Memoirs“, New were told that these were rebuses, and given one of the least obvious initial answers, but penalised with a 10 minute shorter time limit. Experienced appears to have benefitted by about 9 points, so we might deduct 4 from their score.

Solely to compensate for differences in the puzzles, I suggest that New teams might deduct 17 points from their score and compare with Experienced sides. That would put the top New team, Colleen Werthmann, in a tie for 31st place; six New teams crack the overall top 100.

DASH stats 1: London’s “Buyout” problem

Lemonade stand

Chris has already written about the DASH audio I’ve put together. The best audio deals with topics that work as audio. Clips of what it was like to be there, experiences of solving puzzles, that works in your ears. Hardcore statistical nerdery, that needs to come out through your eyes.

In a later post, I’ll be looking at the difference between the New and Experienced tracks, from analysis of the results. Here, I’m considering whether the UK players in DASH 6 were disadvantaged by one of the puzzles.

London had a problem. Players in Britain mostly spoke in British English. It’s a dialect similar, but not identical, to American English. Spellings alter, words have other meanings, and there are major differences in commercial culture.

These differences came to the fore in the “Buyout” puzzle, which attempted to clue to a commercial company. It’s an American brand, unfamiliar in Britain. The organisers had attempted to reduce this problem, by substituting a similar but different puzzle, but this hadn’t quite worked out.

London players experienced a different puzzle, each clue resolved to a verb-noun combination. Other players got a verb-noun combination that makes a commercial product. Were London players at a disadvantage by not getting the branded nature of the puzzle?

A Student’s t-test is appropriate to compare the performances between London (where 13 teams took New and 8 Experienced) and All Other Locations (84 New, 300 Experienced). The t-test compares the difference of each value in a set from the set’s mean, and works out the probability that the two data sets have the same mean – the “null hypothesis” in this test. It’s especially useful for sets of different sizes.

Technical points: I’m only considering those teams that recorded a solve time for “Buyout”. Also, note how London had more New than Experienced teams: I can conjecture that, if anything, London teams may have under-estimated their abilities, and could prove better than All Other Locations.

For the “Buyout” puzzle, analysis suggests that I can reject the null hypothesis, and there probably *was* a difference between London teams and all others. On the Easy track, there’s a 3% chance that the observed scores come from the same population. These probabilities are even lower for the Experienced track, where the small sample set might not be representative.

If we boost the scores of London teams by 2 points, we can accept the null hypothesis on all measures. So, yes, the teams of London appear to have been disadvantaged by the cultural gap, but only by a minute.

As a control, I’ve repeated this analysis for the other puzzles. We can easily accept the null hypothesis in all cases, and assume that there was no trans-atlantic difference.

DASH 6: the podcast

DASH 6 lemon logoUnder normal circumstances, this site would not make a post about, essentially, a single link. However, this single link justifies a post alone.

This site has discussed the DASH puzzle hunt in April fairly extensively, but so far this site hasn’t discussed the puzzles specifically. It’s been over two months now, and the puzzles and answers have both been posted, so surely we’re outside spoiler territory.

With this in mind, this site gives a very strong recommendation to Iain Weaver’s most recent “Outside Broadcast” podcast, where he discussed his team’s extremely successful attempt at the New Player track of DASH 6. The piece is 80 minutes long, but well worth your time. It’s obvious that a great deal of effort has been put into it and the results are spectacular. The event took place in public so there’s a fair bit of authentic background noise, but it’s not at all difficult to follow what’s going on. The podcast is hosted as part of the Fifty 50 show podcast series (mostly about UK game shows) by Puzzled Pint London stalwart Lewis Murphy and co-hosts, which I’ve long enjoyed over the years.

If you played DASH, you can enjoy the puzzles again in a whole different way. If you didn’t play DASH, it’s a good way to get a feel for the event, along with the other reviews and discussions that have happened over time. Whether you come to Exit Games UK from a puzzle contest perspective, a puzzle hunt perspective or an exit games perspective, DASH is one of the highlights of the year.

Whether you have fond memories of DASH or not, if you’re looking for another in-person puzzle hunt in the greater London area to enjoy with your team, the next such event to look forward to is the previously-discussed “Top Secret” one-day Cryptic Treasure Hunt in Essex on August 3rd. The recent interview with game control only makes the prospect more appetising still – so if you don’t want to wait another, presumably, ten months or so to have a great excuse to get a team of friends together for a big team event, then in the words of a currently prominent disembodied head: “You will love it”. Oi, oi!

in memoriam ludorum: Entros

Cartoon gravestone pictureThis site announces a new, infrequent, irregular series about some of the most interesting games of yesteryear, for fear that they are forgotten for good. The title in memoriam ludorum hopefully works better than the alternative Game but not forgotten.

Entros was a restaurant in Seattle, and later San Francisco, for most of the 1990s. It was distinctive for offering imaginative games along with the food, on a scale sufficiently grand and with equipment sufficiently advanced that a dedicated centre was necessary to house them. At a basic level, you could pull up to the bar and have some fairly familiar fare accompany your food and drink: Boggle, backgammon, card games, or pen-and-paper puzzles. However, for a few dollars more, you could get a sticker to get you access to the six or so big games, rotated once or twice a year, and these big games were about as imaginitve and exciting as it got – arguably, among the most progressive games made available to the public of all time.

Peter Sarrett, a fixture of the Seattle game and puzzle community, wrote a juicy, love-laden tribute to the big games on offer in his wonderful old board game printed ‘zine. Sadly the publication is no more and the URL (gamereport.com) of the archive site was far too good not to be snapped up, but happily archive.org has a saved copy. The article is a must-read, but here are some of the most interesting parts to whet your appetite:

“The office is quiet – perhaps too quiet. My companion and I quickly speak into our headsets, describing our surroundings to our partners tucked away in a remote control booth. Cross-checking our descriptions with their information, they tell us to search the bookcase. Sure enough, we find a hidden latch and open a secret door to a darkened room. There, on an illuminated pedestal in the far corner, is our prize- a valuable statue stolen from the art museum. My companion starts to move for it, but I hold him back just in time and point to the floor, an ominous black grid of unusual symbols. Sure enough, our partners tell us it’s rigged to an alarm, but they can guide us through it safely.

We scan franticly for the safe symbols they describe, using them as our stepping stones toward the statue. Halfway through we seem stranded, unable to find a nearby safe square. We shout into our headsets, panic rising, until my companion shouts triumphantly and points to a safe spot. But we’ve taken too long now and we’re out of time. A klaxon wails and the room floods with light, and we’re escorted politely but firmly from the room. Caught. Undaunted, we get back in line for another try.

[…]

After dinner a tantalizing array of activities await. Designed by on-staff gamemakers, these activities aren’t about virtual reality or man vs. machine. They’re about people interacting with each other cooperatively and competitively. Take Interface, for example – Entros’ longest-running game. One player wears a blinding helmet with a front-mounted video camera which sends an image to her monitoring partner. That partner talks the “operative” through a series of activities through a two-way radio link, racing against the clock in a high-tech trust walk. Three different sets of activities exist so players can swap roles and still get a fresh experience.

[…]

The first time I visited Entros they were running a multimedia odyssey called The Forever Formula which contained a puzzle sequence which remains my favorite. As we entered the building, we passed by a telescope mounted on a tripod in the lobby. It seemed an usual bit of decoration, but we forgot all about it as we entered the restaurant through the fake phone booths, humming the Get Smart theme song. During the game, a clue suggested that we look between the pillars of Stonehenge. We remembered that a stone arch was painted on the glass of the building’s front door, so we returned to the lobby. Sure enough, when we aimed at the painted icon we could see through the telescope the magnified image of a small sign mounted on a building across the street. The sign said something like, “For your next clue, call the Kremlin.” As it happened, a pay phone sat just a few feet from the telescope. Dropping a quarter, we dialed K-R-E-M-L-I-N and got a recording of a man with a Russian accent directing us to our next stop.”

It’s not clear why Entros went under (and the eight or so years it had are far from a bad run) though this site notes that a 1998 review noted that “Given the heady nature and price tag of an Entros visit – about $75 per person – Entros tends to attract a well-educated clientele” and that the closure happened at about the same time as the first dotcom crash. Or perhaps the games were great but the restaurant half of the business didn’t pull its weight; the food is discussed in this 1994 review. Maybe the whole prospect was just ahead of its time and the mainstream nature of exit games shows that the market is prepared to accept brainier, gamier fare now than it was half a generation ago.

The games are still offered by Forrest-Pruzan Creative, a company with many former Entros employees working for it, and were seen in the wild at the Pacific Science Center in late 2010, and perhaps since. This list has details of all the games on offer, and we can but dream about playing them. To show just how old-school the list is, most of the games have videos available… but to see them, you’ll need to dig out RealPlayer!

(Reminiscences from people who were actually there at the time would be most welcome, especially if people can place them in the context of the games and puzzles that have followed it. This site’s writers live eight timezones away, as well as years too late, but can tell when they’ve missed a treat.)

Around the World: the Washington Post’s “Post Hunt”

Washington Post "Post Hunt" logoOver the past thirty years, US humour columnist Dave Barry (and, recently, friends) have – slightly more often than not – set a public puzzle hunt for the newspaper that published them. Originally this was the Miami Herald‘s Tropic magazine, thus inspiring the hunt to be referred to as the Tropic Hunt. The Tropic magazine folded, but the Herald itself later sponsored what was later known as the Herald Hunt. Most recently, Barry and friends have been producing the Post Hunt for the Washington Post. Andy Wenzel’s archives are a great source of information.

The hunts have a common format, set up so that a (typically) high four-digit number of participants can play. Five simple clues with numeric answers are posted in the sponsoring publication, along with an annotated map of possible locations within reasonable walking distance, with a central stage highlighted. At midday, from the central stage, it is announced how to transmute the answers to the simple clues, in a non-obvious fashion, to map entries. This indicates the locations of the five main puzzles, which must be visited. At each one, a cryptic and possibly multimedia puzzle is available, whose answer is a number.

Between midday and 3pm, teams (typically of four players, but without size restrictions, and a single player team has won) visit the locations, solve the puzzles and generate the five numbers. At 3pm, another cryptic clue is announced at the main stage which can be interpreted to a sixth location on the map, at which the final instruction is given as to how to interpret the whole of the hunt and its intermediate answers in order to generate and submit the overall answer to the hunt. First team to do so wins. This year’s prize was US$2,000 cash.

The most recent Post Hunt took place in Washington DC on Sunday and the Post has a story about this year’s event, along with this year’s puzzles and answers. They look like a great deal of fun and initial reports suggest this was as good as any previous year’s hunt.

This year’s winners included Todd Etter, a long-time mainstay of the puzzle hunt community and a popular one, for his contributions have included being one of the team putting on The Famine Game, an epic and immensely well-regarded weekend-long puzzle hunt (coincidentally also in the DC area!) last year. Todd’s team also have won one past Post Hunt and taken two other top three prizes; Todd has written about his team’s 2008 win elsewhere.

The Post Hunt has such great imagination, budget, heritage and following that it must surely be regarded as one of the world’s great games of its type. There’s no reason why a British counterpart couldn’t do something similar; considering the love shown by Britons for our own puzzle hobbies, it would surely be as distinctive and popular a hit over here.

Hidden Cash around the UK

A wad of banknotes from the "Hidden Cash UK" Twitter accountIn the last week, a successful property speculator has been hiding envelopes with moderate quantities of cash around cities near the west coast of the United States, posting pictures of the locations and not-very-cryptic clues to their whereabouts to their Twitter account. There is something of a “pay it forward” motif, though of course this cannot be enforced. Apparently it has spawned imitators; most relevantly for us, Hidden Cash UK has made three drops in the North in two days.

There are definitely possibilities here. As there have been many imitators already, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be more to come: there’s got to be room for a Hidden Cash GB, a Hidden Cash Ireland, a Hidden Cash London and so on. Some would consider a couple of hundred pounds a very adequate investment for thousands, or tens of thousands, of involved followers within a couple of days. If someone were to distribute Hidden Cash coincidentally outside their exit game site, then perhaps the site could attract the attention of those looking for it who are likely to be favourably inclined, though possibly unimpressed by a lack of subtlety. (Hiding the cash inside an exit game and charging people to play it might well be considered a bit cheek, though you might still get away with it.)

This probably has the hallmarks of being a half-a-week’s wonder on Twitter in its current form, but if the mainstream media decide to run with it then perhaps there’s a few weeks, or a few months in it. (Maybe more.) This is far from original, of course; Tom Scott and Dan W. ran Advent Locker in December 2012, which is similar but used prizes in Amazon Lockers, and you know that this site will take any opportunity it gets to link to the wonderful story of the newspapers’ own Treasure Hunt Riots, a little over a century earlier. (Also a salutary reminder of the potential dangers of such things. Dan and Tom did nothing more ill-willed than having their Christmas Eve prize be a good old festive RickRoll, but not all patrons need be so benign.)

Treasure hunts themselves are far older; the parallels to geocaching are obvious, and that is so well-known that it need not be explained. Arguably Hidden Cash has a closer connection to its GPS-less, clue-heavier predecessor, letterboxing, which has been dated back to 1854.

There has to be something exciting and relevant to do while Hidden Cash is fresh in people’s minds, and that may not be for too long…

Around the World: True Dungeon

true-dungeon-logoThis entry might consume a little of the site’s “near-topic” credit, but the game it discusses is sufficiently close to being on-topic and sufficiently interesting that you’ll hopefully enjoy reading about it anyway.

Since 2003, True Dungeon has been an annual feature of the giant GenCon tabletop gaming convention that happens annual in August(-ish) in Indianapolis. It is a swords-and-sorcery-themed live action game that sees teams of players form an adventuring party to defeat a number of thematic challenges placed in their way. On a matter of semantics, many – most? – consider it to be a slightly different kind of game to a role-playing game as the players are not actually required to adopt characters, though players do adopt character classes, powers and capabilities familiar from the genre. It would not be too perverse a misinterpretation to consider the overarching game to be a series of seven consecutive, linked, 12-minute exit games with unusual mechanics.

Many traditional RPGs require the adventuring party to defeat creatures that they encounter through combat. Instead of the traditional dice-rolling of a tabletop game, or the padded weapon physical combat found in many live action RPGs, combat here is simulated by the physical challenge of a shuffleboard-like game where the sliding of a disc determines whether a blow lands and how much damage it does. Attempts are made to give as many different characters as thematic an experience as possible; players representing classes associated with the study of magic have some degree of real-world memory test in order to perform their spells (etc.) with maximal effect, and players representing rogues may have a physical dexterity challenge to perform in order to achieve in-game feats. (Possibly with real-world consequences if this real-world challenge is failed!)

Traditionally, the same story has been offered to players in two slightly different formats. Some people like to emphasise the simulated combat encounters, and these can be dialed up slightly. Alternatively, it is possible to play through the same story with less of an emphasis on the combat and more of an emphasis on puzzles. To an extent these take the form of the riddle trope found in fantasy stories; to an extent, some of these can be quite abstract. Possibly the best way to get a feel for them is the images gallery from over the years. Some of the brainteasers do feel rather familiar, though they need to be put in proper historical context. For instance, the challenge that is effectively a 7×7 irregular word sudoku was featured long enough ago that it would have pretty accurately blended unfamiliarity with accessibility at the time.

The game does feature plenty of physical aspects by way of attempting to trigger as many of the senses as possible. The rooms contain actors and reportedly spectacular animatronic creatures to this regard, arguably drawing from the US haunted house tradition. (Sadly for me, they have incorporated sufficiently many aspects of this haunted house experience in the past that I would happen not to feel quite safe trusting the game’s sense of taste.) A very considerable budget goes into making the game happen; participation is priced at $48 per player for a two-hour experience (of which, essentially, 84 minutes is the live game) which is probably on par with most US exit game tickets, on a minute-by-minute basis, these days. There are multiple stories and multiple difficulty levels offered each year, so people can and do find it worthwhile to play several times over the four days of the con.

Additionally, some players choose to show patronage by purchasing real-world tokens which offer in-game advantages. While this trading-card-game-like aspect has flourished over the years with a thriving secondary market, there is a fine balance to keep the entirety of the story accessible and enjoyable for those who choose not to participate. The forums suggest that the most dedicated players devote as much passion and resources to this single game as they might to a trading card game over the course of the year; these optional purchases contribute, I get the impression, a sum of the order of tens of thousands of dollars per year towards the cost of making it all happen.

Being played in one place globally for four days per year, this is something of a niche game. Nevertheless, most of the players who like it really, really like it; almost 8,000 tickets became available just over a week ago, 93% of them were sold within 32 hours and you might have to scrabble round to find a spare ticket, possibly by resale, even now. The existence of True Dungeon makes the gaming world a richer place.

DASH 6 by the numbers

DASH logoPlease find below an updated version of a table which details the number of teams on the scoreboard for each city in each edition of the DASH puzzle hunt to date.

Location DASH 1 DASH 2 DASH 3 DASH 4 DASH 5 DASH 6
Albuquerque, NM 6 6+1 3+2+0
Austin, TX 2 11 12 13+4 10+4+0
Bay Area, CA Y(SF)
Y(PA)
7(SR)
59(LA)
16(SR)
74(SM)
73(SF) 34+7(SF)
32+3(HMB)
53+17+0(SF)
39+5+0(C)
Boston, MA Y 18 26 29 27+2 30+7+1
Chicago, IL 17 14 10+1 15+9+0
Davis, CA 16 15 16 13+7 8+7+1
Houston, TX Y
London, UK 6+2 8+13+0
Los Angeles, CA Y 7 22 21 15+4 15+2+0
(Pasadena)
Minneapolis, MN 8+7 7+4+0
(recast)
New York, NY 12 24 25 30+7 26+15+2
Portland, OR Y 6 17 19 19+2 11+7+0
San Diego, CA 7
Seattle, WA Y 32 47 49 49+2 58+4+2
South Bend, IN 1
St. Louis, MO 2 2+3
Washington, DC Y 14 22 33 31+1 27+5+0

Here are my initial thoughts:

1) Errors and omissions excepted, with my apologies in advance. The Minneapolis recast figures come from the organisers by private e-mail.

2) The numbers are drawn from the scoreboards and may not reflect teams that participate but do not make the scoreboard for whatever reason, or other infelicities. DASH 1 does not have a public scoreboard on the web site and thus “Y” represents the hunt having happened there with an unknown number of participants. When there are pluses, the number before the first plus reflects the number of teams on the experienced track, the number after the first plus reflects the number of teams on the “new players” track (DASH 5 and 6), and the number after the second plus reflects the number of teams on the junior track (DASH 6).

3) Interpret “Bay Area, CA” using the following key: SF = San Francisco (1, 4, 5, 6), PA = Palo Alto (1), SR = Santa Rosa (2,3), LA = Los Altos (2), SM = San Mateo (3), HMB = Half Moon Bay (5), C = Cupertino (6). I apologise if some of those locations are not really in the Bay Area. (If you tell me that I am a bad person for jumbling Santa Rosa in with the others, I’d believe you.)

4) It’s not a competition to see whose DASH can be the largest; all DASH organiser teams are glorious, generous paragons of virtue, whether their event had one team or 70+, and the community at large thanks them all for the time and effort that they put in.

5) I think it’s fair to say that DASH 6 was a little troubled, with both Seattle and Portland briefly removed from the list of participating cities; thankfully, both cities eventually found local Game Control teams, and I’m sure everyone is particularly grateful there. There was discussion of locations in Phoenix, AZ and Pittsburgh, PA, but sadly neither came to fruition; thanks to people who put in the effort there, all the same.

6) Again, it probably reflects well on the decision to have parallel “experienced” and “newcomer” tracks at DASH 5 and DASH 6 that every city had at least one team playing each track. Indeed, the number of teams on the “new players” track rose from 53 to 101, further justifying its purpose. The junior track may take a little longer to gain traction.

7) I’m in two minds about the Minneapolis recast. The more people who get to join in the DASH fun, the better, but the three-week gap between the first run and the recast means that a lot of the momentum has been lost before people can talk about it, so there hasn’t been nearly as much buzz about a tremendous event as there might have been. (Us UK solvers can talk, given that we held discussion of DASH 5 back a week last year, so perhaps the point of comparison would have to be DASHes 4 and earlier.)

8) There are definitely several other countries to which DASH might expand in the future: given that Sydney and Melbourne have famous and popular puzzle hunts, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be DASH locations there. Closer to the US, Snoutcast recently had Stacy Costa from the University of Toronto, so clearly there is puzzle interest in Canada. Every other English-speaking country is a possibility; maybe even non-Anglophone major world cities with significant expat communities could host DASH some day.

Around the World: “The Purge: Breakout”

thepurgeThis is quite cute. Last summer, there was a horror film, The Purge, based on the dystopian future principle that each year there is a 12-hour event referred to as the titular purge where all crime, even murder, is legal. The film covers those who wish to bring their violent tendencies out during those 12 hours and also those who want to hide away and keep safe during those 12 hours. This summer sees a sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, set to be released on Friday 18th July.

That weekend, and each of the six previous weekends, a different city in the US will be hosting an event called The Purge: Breakout. This is, effectively, a pop-up exit game with many of the trimmings of a haunted house. The game goes on tour in four articulated lorries. The game is for teams of exactly six (smaller parties will be merged as necessary) and tickets are US$20 per head plus tax.

It’s Purge Night, and your group is being held captive by a demented torturer… with only 30 minutes before the start of The Purge. Trapped in his house, groups must work together—solving a series of increasingly complicated mind-bending puzzles and clues—to escape captivity and survive THE PURGE. Based on popular escape room adventures taking the U.S. and Asia by storm, the experience is like a real life video game. Visitors will be completely immersed into a horror experience like no other.

Horror is a genre that is an absolute turn-off for me, but there are many people for whom it is a turn-on. In a market where there are, say, ten or twenty different exit game experiences available (i.e. twenty different rooms, not necessarily twenty sites) then perhaps there is the room to pick horror as a niche, and I can imagine a site that had two or three different horror games from which to choose – and horror fans choosing to play them all. The haunted house tradition is also well-established in the US, in a way that it is not yet the case in the UK… but the UK is certainly moving in that direction. If this game is set to come to the UK as well as the US, this site will let you know.

It’s also really interesting to see a movie promotion in the form of a pop-up exit room experience. Some movies have had Alternate Reality Games as promotional tools in the past; perhaps there are parallels to be drawn. The game runs for thirty days, perhaps 20-30 teams per day, so only a few thousand people will get to take part. Were there really more than a few thousand active participants in any other than a very few of the largest ARGs, though? This promotion looks well-judged to live long in the memory of those who know they like that sort of thing.

(Source: Cinema Blend, via a Google Alert for the phrase “escape game”.)