Mind Candy, in conjunction with the Perplex City Academy, ran their first Games in London on Saturday. The widely anticipated urban scavenger hunt unleashed impromptu choirs and conga lines across the capital, earning a wave of acclaim from over 200 participants.
The games – within the ‘reality’ of Perplex City, but unrelated to the mystery of the missing cube – were first announced in early January, and the Mind Candy team were deluged with applications from over eight hundred would-be players. The numbers were eventually whittled down, and 40 lucky six-member teams finally converged upon City Temple from as far afield as Barcelona, Texas and Hong Kong – some sporting uniforms, others neatly equipped with Rollerblades, and all buzzing with nervy excitement. Also in attendance were a gaggle of reporters and a volunteer crew of Game Rangers, who patrolled the streets and ran events throughout the day.
Once players had registered and received their instruction sheets, Adrian Hon (Mind Candy’s Director Of Play) explained the rules. Players were told they would be embarking upon a series of challenges within a Central London play zone, solving puzzles and performing stunts for points, but the traditional “scavenger hunt” format was brought up to date with a high-tech twist.
Using their mobile phones, players had to feed their answers and photographic evidence of their antics back to Base Camp via SMS and MMS messages, while the organisers sent out leaderboard updates, trivia questions and surprise tasks throughout the day. With that, the players set off for the game zone, aiming to solve mind bending questions that took them from Chinatown to Centre Point. One of the most intricate challenges sent teams on a cryptic, Da-Vinci-Code-style hunt through the National Gallery, while others were being sent to the Trocadero’s arcade to compete in head-to-head Dance Dance Revolution against their competitors.
Inspired by the flash mob phenomenon, the game seized upon the opportunity to create a spectacle. On each half-hour, six teams at a time were sent to Leicester Square, where they formed spontaneous choirs and performed a song of their choice. One group managed to find passers-by celebrating their birthdays, and promptly delivered a stirring serenade. Another set of teams created a giant Hokey Cokey and attempted to encourage bemused bystanders to join in – their reluctance giving way to unbridled enthusiasm when offered the chance of appearing on television.
Events didn’t exactly slide from the sublime to the ridiculous, but rather raced towards the ridiculous with reckless and jubilant speed. When all the teams were directed to Trafalgar Square, they formed a 127-person strong conga line, but were quickly forced to weave around a sizeable anti-Islamophobia demonstration that had simultaneously arrived at the same spot. In your reporter’s humble opinion, however, nothing says peace and tolerance like a good old-fashioned conga, and the stunt passed off successfully.
Having spelt out words with their bodies, raced to consume fruit, called mysterious telephone numbers and (somewhat creatively) purchased one another for £1 GBP, the exhausted teams returned to Base Camp for the awards ceremony. Adrian took to the stage with rapturous applause from the participants, and started by recapping some of the vital statistics of the day: thousands of text messages sent, hundreds of tasks completed, and all with “0 people arrested!” – announced with an understandable degree of relief, all things considered.
The winners were then revealed, and cube-shaped trophies awarded to the first placed Puzzle Monkeys. They didn’t hog all the glory, however, as the top eight teams were rewarded with a surprise trip to the London Eye, courtesy of an ‘anonymous donor’. Eyebrows amongst the ARGers were unanimously raised at the prospect, and their paranoid instincts paid off when the players (eventually!) noticed lights flashing a Morse signal from the banks of the Thames. At the time of writing, however, players are still attempting to decode the contents of the message.
Underneath the slick technology and the competitive trash-talk, the organisers had developed a great excuse to have a lot of fun, and the players wholeheartedly embraced this philosophy, creating a fantastic atmosphere. It was an ambitious event, but the execution was undeniably spot-on – you can read more about the day, and view hundreds of player photos, over at the Perplex City Wiki. Mind Candy intend to run many more events around the world, and with demand for Saturday’s event so high, future Games should be even bigger and better… so watch this space (and the Perplex City site) for future announcements!