For a long time, I've awaited the chance to play in a bona fide overnight Game. I finally got that opportunity the first weekend in August, as I played with Team Do Not Bounce in the WarTron game in Portland, Oregon. I entered with some trepidation; I wasn't sure I could hold myself together over 36 straight hours of traveling and solving. Nonetheless, I looked forward to trying!
Because this was a long game, my recap will come in two parts; here's the first. And here's your BIG OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING. I hear that WarTron will be rerun in the Boston area in 2013; if you think there's a chance you'll play in that, you should stop reading right now! Otherwise, continue after the jump.
Though we'd have the opportunity to sleep on Friday night, we actually got things going that evening with pizza, music from The Doubleclicks, and, oh yeah, some solving. Upon checking in, we received an odd-looking electronic device called BITE; we were able to interact with it using a serial connection to our laptops. Exploration of the hall also yielded a set of six coasters, each depicting a four-letter item and a certain number of dots and dashes. When converted to Morse code, the pictures had exactly four more dots/dashes than the coaster gave, but that was as far as we got. Since we were one of the last teams to arrive, it wasn't long before the character of Lisa Goto commanded the room's attention. Goto was very brusque, clearly considering the feeble minds of the puzzlers to be beneath her. She mentioned that we'd already solved one puzzle this evening; our team wasn't sure if this was more bitchiness or an indication that we were actually behind already. There wasn't much time to worry about it, as during The Doubleclicks' intermission, teams were sent a message instructing us to use a function of our BITEs to connect with the devices of other teams. Each successful connection (and each of eight tweets Game Control sent out when there were technical difficulties) yielded a strange phrase, such as "Prolong Devout Pecan Stein" and a sort of equation, like "2.3 = 7". We tried in vain to figure out what to do with these phrases until The Doubleclicks finished their set, when they remarked that they printed out a bunch of extra setlists for some reason. I apparently wasn't in Solving Mode yet; it wasn't until the room was abuzz that I thought, "Oh, right; that's probably a puzzle." Indeed, each song on the setlist was a rhyme (or near-rhyme) for a phrase in our list. Taking the appropriate letter and putting it in the right position (for A.B = C, the Bth letter of the Ath word was Cth in the message) gave the starting location for tomorrow morning! Hooray! Time for sleep!
Well, sort of. I couldn't drift off for quite a while, my mind racing with the possibilities of the marathon ahead. I knew I had to get my sleep if I had any hope of lasting, and mercifully it finally came.
On our way to the starting location, BIGMAC, the same entity that gave us our instructions last night, messaged us to thank us for helping him take over Gotovision's servers, enabling him to launch globothermonuclear war. Uh, whoops. When we arrived, another member of GC, acting as Lisa Goto's assistant, introduced us to the Weekend With WarTron that lay ahead. We suspected the planned events weren't actually going to happen, suspicions that were confirmed when uniformed military officers showed up to arrest the assistant. Guess they found out about the whole global annihilation threat. Oh well.
We were given a command to give to BITE, and we executed it back in the van. The text window spat out a crude global map and a list of six-letter words. After some noodling, we thought to link these to the countries, specifically that every word consisted of three two-letter Internet country codes, thoughtfully provided in BITE's Resources section. Connecting each set of three with lines on the map, in order, yielded a semaphore letter. These were AWJMSONG. We made some tenuous Mary Tyler Moore-related conjectures before converting AWJM to Aruba/Jamaica and getting the answer KOKOMO. I wonder how many teams got as far as the weird-looking AWJM and gave up, thinking they had the wrong approach.
We proceeded to beautiful Multnomah Falls in search of Lisa Goto's help. We found not her, but a woman in uniform, who had our next step... in a puzzle. These were cryptic-looking clues that actually hinted at homophones for popular games; e.g. a fake revolution would be a "pseudo-coup", or sudoku. Fitting the game names into the given Battleship grid gave a homophone for our next location.
Said location was an Army Corps of Engineers building. Using the information placards to write words in the proper places on our puzzle sheet, we were able to connect pairs of words linked by nationality (e.g. PIE and BEAUTY connected by "American"). We indexed into the nationality according to the number of other lines its line crossed to find our answer. GC sent us into the basement of the building, where we found Goto's assistant being interrogated by an Army officer. We interrupted them to offer our puzzle solution, and while the officer "graded our work", the assistant gave us an email address for Goto. An auto-reply told us that if we wanted to find her and interrupt her vital work, we'd have to prove ourselves worthy by solving puzzles. Naturally.
At a picnic area, we acquired six strings of colorful beads and a mix CD with songs from Madonna, supposedly a favorite of Goto's. The first track consisted of short snippets of the songs on the rest of the CD; we quickly identified these. Flavortext clues led us to convert the colored beads to their resistor digits, and these gave a series of numbers that corresponded to the frequencies of various notes, in addition to one more number that served as an index. Conveniently, the reference materials in BITE included these frequencies. Sure enough, these notes matched the Madonna songs. Indexing into the song and ordering by the string color gave our answer. This part was quite fiddly; we managed to get only three of the six songs before a teammate mercifully drew ENCORE out from EN_O__ to allow us to move on.
We next moved on to a sort of country club, where we met with other teams experiencing frustration. They couldn't find their puzzle! It turned out that a member of GC was roaming the building to intercept teams to give them the puzzle, and they hadn't run across this person yet. This seemed like a misstep; why not stack the papers at the information desk or something? We checked there and would know a puzzle when we saw it. In any case, another team finally put us out of our misery and furnished us with their copy of the puzzle. It was a short story about a wedding photographer trying to track down the happy couple by roaming all over the territory in which we currently found ourselves. We didn't have to do likewise; tracing the paths of the legs of the journey formed letters of our answer.
The next puzzle was Do Not Bounce's first major failure of the game. Heading up to a castle-like edifice on a hill, we found some artwork ringing the area, each referencing a video game and bearing "vandalism" along the lines of "C.E. WAS HERE!1!" We identified the video games and noted the vandal's initials, as well as the single number that appeared in each message. Unfortunately, we didn't have much else, and we banged our heads against it back in the van. Finally, I noticed that Frogger was paired with G.C.; my online research had mentioned an episode of Seinfeld in which George and Jerry buy an old Frogger machine and try to get it back to George's home while preserving his high score. G.C. was George Costanza! These were all going to be pop-culture or high-score references of some sort! Our subsequent efforts didn't yield much, but since this couldn't be wrong, we shoved off to find a bathroom.
You've probably already figured this out, but we were wrong. My find was completely irrelevant. After requesting some mercy from (the other) GC, we were urged to discard our idea and go back to the clue site. Back up there, we found a plaque bearing many names, all of which started with two initials. Using those single numbers as indices into the last name, then ordering alphabetically by video game title, we got a clue to our answer. Failure to observe one big part of the clue had likely tripled the time this puzzle should have taken us. Dammit, dammit, dammit. A lesson was learned: NEVER leave the clue site until you have your answer.
We had to shake it off, for a genuinely heavy-duty puzzle awaited us at Union/Pine. In this space, QR codes with pictures in the middle were hidden all about. Scanning each of these yielded a single letter, plus a series of 21 characters, all X's and dots. Because we also had a 21x21 grid that was blank except for the three "corner squares" of a QR code, this clearly indicated a row of that code. We also had a sheet with 31 numbered circles connected by lines, each line labeled with a vowel. Yes, 31, not 21. Why? We weren't sure, but there were clearly more than 21 QR codes in the building, so 31 must have been the count there. A little collaboration with other teams gave us the rest of our information, but it took us a while to figure out how to put them on the map. One circle was already labeled with a picture we'd seen in the middle of a QR code, but what to do with the others? Well, simply put, the vowels in the words in connected circles differed only by the line that joined them. So, if a word had the vowels AEO, a line with a U would connect it to a word containing AEOU. This gave us an order for the single letters our scans had yielded, and the resulting message told us to eliminate the ten lines whose words couldn't also be verbs. Aha! The 21 remaining lines in our list produced the QR code to scan for our answer. Very nice one; Excel was extremely helpful.
The next puzzle excited me; it was going to be a text adventure! GC gave us a server to SSH into from one of the many wireless-networked businesses in the area. We chose a Starbucks and set to work on, oh boy, a dungeon exploration with cryptic clues! Or at least we tried to set to work... we kept getting kicked off, forcing us to start over. Very frustrating, since the puzzle type seemed in our wheelhouse. Given previous technical difficulties, we assumed problems at GC. Eventually, though, we decided to move to a Panera, and there we were able to finish the text adventure with no further incident. Screw you, Starbucks. Fortunately, during our flailing, GC provided us in advance with a lot of the information we would've had to search around the dungeon for to finish the puzzle. That helped offset some of the time we'd lost, but in the end we stil probably came out behind.
Our van was then directed to a ferry; while riding it, we could try to interpret the series of touch-tone sounds we'd been sent online. Fortunately, the versatile BITE could listen to these sounds and spit out the numbers. The readings were somewhat inconsistent, but we were able to pin it down enough to trace each sequence on a keypad and form the shapes of numbers, which together made a phone number to call.
Darkness was falling upon us at around this time, so this is a good place to stop. Look for Part 2, when fatigue sets in and I get blindingly pissed off at myself not once, but twice. That's not the rarest of events, admittedly, but you don't want to miss it!