Pearson (persona) wrote,

The Famine Games

I'm going to lose most of these memories if I don't relate them soon, so I will write the recap that I always want to read from the Games. Please spread far and wide my experiences, so that you too will know how wonderful an opportunity these long games present. Other people have cooed over the manipulatives, the themeing, the absolutely slick and complete and fun nature of the puzzles, and those are all true. Here's a puzzle-free description of a first-time Game team, and what you can do to be the best of what we were, as opposed to the worst, next time.

Our minivan carried five people very well. Back row seat folded down to give us constant access to a cooler, and most of our gear fit in the back. However, we did need to make a lot of shuffling for finding the right clothes (formal, running, cold weather, etc.), so I think we needed a bit more intelligence in how they were stacked for each person. I didn't want a six person team, because I didn't want to deal with full-size-van navigation and parking. I expected a fairly urban hunt, with a lot of monument visiting, and I didn't want to worry about parking in awkward spaces. I was basically right! Plus, with a nasty rash of van thefts at the final stop, having garage parking may have saved us a lot of heartache.

We were skipped twice. Once, we had just spent almost an hour on a puzzle that was having some technical difficulties, and required the ever dangerous cooperation between groups to solve effectively. It used a data extraction mechanism that several of our group couldn't help with, so we were slow to get the data we needed. We were able to confirm what we did have. But it was an energy sapper. We didn't realize at the time that everyone except the first group was skipped over the same puzzle.

It's good for morale to have a hot meal. Unusually for me, the 2 was the only rule I followed of the canonical 3-2-1 (3 hours sleep, 2 hot meals and 1 bath or shower in every sliding 24-hour window). The frustrating thing was not -knowing- how far we were from the automated skipping. I doubt they were updated during the event (game makers, prove me wrong!). Having that schedule in hand at the beginning could be interesting, to allow us to plan for meal breaks or earlier hinting to keep -ourselves- up to speed to see the puzzles we wanted. Finding we skipped  one location with two puzzles was a shock, let alone that we skipped a cool temporarily-location-specific puzzle that 2/3 of the group was skipped over. Maybe that's an argument against multi-puzzle locations in general?

This game had my favorite kinds of thematic puzzles, the ones I like best to write and to solve. You begin with a theme (like Lumber district) or a location (the Air Force memorial), then work backwards to build a puzzle around it. It truly felt like a masterclass in elegance, editing and general unity of experience. The puzzles worked on the same level of expectations in terms of the number of steps, the tightness of the cluing and the kinds of manipulates required. I built a team that had a lot of construction experience, and I can only remember one time where that bit us. We expected something that didn't happen, and so talked ourselves into a couple wrong answers that broke the extraction.

I knew that acting was a part of putting on Games, but the level of improv and characterization was amazing. Snow, Hamish, Coin, Ellie and Caesar were all in full effect, and all brilliant at portraying the shifting moods and accelerating urgency in the plot. Text is all right, but video and in-person interaction is required to really drive home the 'this is not a Game' feeling that makes this experience more than a collection of puzzles. And of course, the builds that a budget allows, cornucopia and coal and xbox in particular.

I won't get to do this every year, for scheduling and budgeting reasons. But I am really hoping to be able to take what I've seen here and participate in, and yes eventually help to organize, more of these in the future. Like I said to Todd afterward: not only did he make running one of these look possible, he made it look fun.
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