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2012-366 Day 142 – Bachelorette Quest (or Secret Project IV)

So it can finally be fully revealed. The origins of the secret project actually go back almost two years ago when Jess decided that she wanted to do a scavenger hunt for her birthday, since we hadn’t had any organized craziness like that since we were in the college ministry at church. Since it was her birthday and she was the one who wanted to do it, I told her that I would write her one that she could participate in along with everyone else that came to her birthday party. I put together a hunt that covered most of the Valley and featured several different components (photo hunt, photo prompts, item collection, etc.) which would be impossible to complete in the time allotted (turns out that part becomes a theme). Four teams went out and reportedly had a great time (having written the hunt, I couldn’t participate and instead coordinated the second half of the party).

So with that on my resume, an email was sent to Jess a couple months ago with a request: would I write a scavenger hunt for Cathy’s bachelorette party? I agreed, but back-burnered it at the time as we were (and are) pretty busy at the time. Then about three weeks ago Jess reminded me that I had agreed to do it, so I placed it into the spare cycles section of my brain so I could chew on how I would do it and start structuring a plan.

One of the first things I realized was that I could not replicate my original scavenger hunt directly, particularly the part that divided everyone up into teams. With only one bachelorette, it was unfair to force the group to choose which one got the pleasure of her company. This meant that the competition couldn’t be with each other, but had to be with the game itself. This lead me to the idea of a breadcrumb-based quest, where each location had a puzzle which would direct them to the next location. I started researching places that might have lockers I could use for the day or where I could hide things that would be unlikely to be found and moved by strangers. I also started to think of puzzles that I could apply to various locations which would lead them to the next spot.

This was still at the design level, however, and we were coming upon a week to go until the bachelorette party. I thought about it some more and decided I just couldn’t risk hiding clues around, there was just too much risk that one piece of the chain would be broken and ruin the whole game. I wouldn’t be there to mitigate the problems that arose, so I had to make sure the game was self-sustaining and, most importantly, self healing should something go wrong. I had the advantage of Jess attending the bachelorette party, so I could use her as a sort of virtual MC for some key points while keeping her in the dark for the majority of it (so as not to ruin the surprises for her). I started constructing the skeleton for the game while obtaining the final details: eight to ten people and aiming for 4 hours.

This was always going to be a travelling game, but finding out that they were scheduling 4 hours led me to expand my initial boundaries (it was going to be Desoto – Saticoy – 405 – Ventura but wound up being Topanga – Rinaldi – 405 – 101). The starting location was in the south Valley and I decided to take them on a tour of some of the places I was familiar with within the boundaries. I did the math and decided with a 4 hour window I would have them visit 16 locations, calculating a minimum of 15 minutes per location (this wound up being WAY too many locations for them to complete, but I was afraid that, not knowing how long the actual activities would take them, the worst case scenario was them taking 5 minutes to blow through the activities at each location and 10 minutes of drive time between them). I wanted to keep the breadcrumb core idea and decided rather than leaving clues at each location, I would supply the clues inside a sealed envelope for each spot that they would open and then decode to determine where they were going.

Initially I was going to do a series of questions for each spot that they then had to guess, getting fewer points the more questions it took them to figure out the correct place. I showed my first set of questions to Jess who determined that, even knowing more about the valley than the target audience, the questions were too difficult. I went back to the drawing board and decided to do a pictogram for that location, and then determine the appropriate style of puzzle for each location as I started writing it. I ended up with several locations using the original question style, some using the pictograms, and even a multiple choice question for a particularly obscure location. Now that I had the 16 locations picked out and a puzzle created to lead them to the right spot, I needed something for them to do.

I realized that, at its core, this was a game and a game needs winners. There were, however, two sides that needed to be satisfied: we had a bachelorette who was the center of the evening, but also group of women who were playing along too and deserved their own competitions. I settled on a two pronged system of scoring; first, the bachelorette would be scoring points and playing against the game itself, working her way up a scale determining how well she did. Second the group would be competing to collect stars, with the woman collecting the most star points winning the group portion. This lead me to create three items for each location: a group photo for everyone to participate in themed to the location, a group challenge that Cathy would judge pitting the group against each other (the winner received a gold star – 5 points, second place a silver star – 4 points, third a blue star – 3 points, and everyone else received a green star – 2 points – for participating), and a bachelorette challenge which Cathy had to perform to earn her points.

So after three days of feverishly writing everything up, developing challenges and assigning point values, I put it all together in a nice little notebook with the sealed envelopes in the back. I provided any extra items they would need and also gave them a piggy bank with some money for those challenges I created that would have an attendant cost. I dropped the game off with Jess and then headed to Senor Sol for a well-deserved reward burrito. I instructed Jess to let me know how it was going and waited for the feedback.

I got more than a bit worried when the feedback never came. I did see a couple posts by Cathy on her Facebook page that indicated things were okay, but I hadn’t heard directly from Jess. In the few remaining hours between finishing everything and delivering the game, I had developed a bit of a worry that I had missed something and the game would fail, and the silence wasn’t helping that fear go away.

It turns out that Jess was just having too much fun and forgot to update me. I guess there are worse problems to have. I have heard several stories of what went on during the game since then, but it is not my place to recount them and you can ask those directly involved if you want to hear them. The upshot is that it was a massive success, although my time fears appear to have been unfounded as they only completed 9 or 10 locations worth of material (as I was finishing development Jess told me she felt that I had put too much for them to complete into the game, so I wrote suggestions of what to skip into the game based on time cues, i.e. “If you have been out for more than two hours, skip the next location and open the envelope for location x”).

I understand there is a plan to complete the remaining locations one at a time in the future, so that will be cool. It is extremely gratifying that the game was such a big success, but it will be a while before I undertake something like that again. There have been some suggestions that I generalize and commercialize it, which I will consider, but only after a bit of a break.

Oh, and as part of the reward for completing the Quest I supplied Cathy with certificates to hand out with various achievements on them (“Most Athletic of the Day”, “Smartie of the Day”, etc.) as well as a re-purposed trophy for the group winner. One of the certificates was actually presented to me by Cathy the next day. The award? “Most Creative of the Day.”

Weight: 229 Loss: 11 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 162 miles
Fitocracy Level: 20 (48734 points, 2626 to next level) – ID: disciplev1

Posted in Matt 2012-366, Matt General. Tagged with , , , , .

2 Responses

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  1. m said

    This project was clearly a passion for you! Mystery, puzzles, organizing, engineering, creating is all there! It was really an impressive job. Too bad you can’t get paid for it as employment!

Continuing the Discussion

  1. What I have been up to – Only Two People Blog linked to this post on July 23, 2012

    […] Sorry, that is the only photo I am allowed to show you. We signed a contract I will say that you can read about Matt’s awesome Bachelorette Scavenger Hunt here. […]

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