I recently put a blog post on Hackster about treasure hunts, since it was VOLTRON HOLIDAY: Easter and Passover at once! Some fun stuff there. Also, I just finished reading Ready Player One, which is an excellent quest book saturated with ’80s pop culture and a frenetic worldwide competition for fabulous riches, inside of a shared immersive virtual world. Nerd candy.
In that spirit, I thought you might enjoy the techy riddle hunts I created years ago for Matt’s birthdays. In between, here’s the wonderfully layered packaging for a shipment of ESP8266 chips I just received.
Quest #1: Ann Arbor, the Text Adventure
In December of 2011, Matt woke up with instructions to join a particular IRC channel. I’d written a Python-based IRC bot (the palindromic Tobybot), which sat in this channel. Tobybot emulated the style of an old-school text adventure game, set in a burned-out, monster-riddled version of our hometown, Ann Arbor.
The game’s text described him waking up and retrieving a “green key” and a “red key” from hiding places in our house. In reality, these were a silver key on a green ribbon – concealed in the medicine cabinet – and a copper plate with a key sketched on it, stuck to the fridge. He was then guided downtown, past our usual hangout spots (now beset with monstrous dangers), and to our hackerspace and favorite coffee shop, where he was to prompt certain people for a red box and a green box.
Each key had a magnet attached to it, such that when the keys were pressed against the boxes, they would undo makeshift magnetic latches that I’d (hastily and shoddily) constructed. There was no other way to open the boxes without destroying them. Wish I’d had more time to develop the latch-boxes; they were my favorite part of the riddle. Anyway, the boxes contained his gifts.
Quest #2: Welcome to Startup City
The next year (2012), we had recently moved to San Francisco. I hid a birthday cupcake in a kitchen cupboard, along with my iPod, which drew him in by playing the Turret Wife Serenade from Portal 2 on loop – given Portal’s strong connection with cake. :)
Stuck to the iPod was a QR code, linking to an image of a gift I’d ordered, which hadn’t yet arrived. In order to turn off the music, he had to flip over the player and awaken it. This revealed a written note directing him to go to the mailroom of our office building. At the time, we both worked at a startup in 1 Market.
The mailroom held a package with his name on it, inside which was a “med kit” gift with a barcode on it, which had the date (12/6) written on, the “6″ circled dramatically. The barcode was our company’s phone number, whose phone tree I managed, and pressing 6 (a hidden option) played the Doctor Who theme. This hint pointed to his TARDIS-shaped mug, which should have contained the final present – except it didn’t fit… So instead, I left a note there indicating the box the mug came in, which contained the gift (a video game).
There are a few others I’ve planned since, but never really executed; and in San Francisco, there are more than a few societies doing similar things all the time. Feels like I moved to the right place… Some are secret, and others have public faces, though they are somewhat or completely gone these days: SFZero, the Jejune Institute – which ended before I came to SF, although it lives on in a few current organizations, including the currently-active Elsewhere Philatelic Society…
Ann Arbor itself used to host an annual pirate-themed photo scavenger hunt for Halloween. Good times! :)
…By the way, the ESP8266 is essentially a teeny-tiny, wireless server. I heard about it from this guy at the Phoenix stop on our “Hack to the Future” hackathon tour. It was hosted at Local Motors, where I got to ride in a Rally Fighter and go off a ramp in Nick’s mutant pickup truck!! Rad!