History of Puzzle Hunts

The History of Puzzle Hunting involves many iterations and improvements over the years. This page attempts to summarise Hunts as they have evolved through the decades.

Early Mystery Hunts (1981 - 2002)[edit | edit source]

See also : MIT Mystery Hunt (Wikipedia article):

MIT Mystery Hunt was started in 1981 by then-graduate student Brad Schaefer. The first Hunt consisted of 12 subclues on a single sheet of paper including a Vigenere cipher, a short runaround, and an integral. The answers to the subclues detailed the location of an Indian Head penny hidden on campus. The hunt was organized for the next two years by Brad Schaefer and after he graduated, the winners were given the honor of writing the hunt the next year.

Over the next few years, the hunt grew and added elements to it that'd be considered familiar to modern puzzlehunting, including a theme (from 1992ish onwards), metapuzzles, and a round structure as well as unlocking (1998).

The Game (1985-2000s)[edit | edit source]

The Game is a class of puzzle hunts, which generally focuses on weekend-long trips where teams drive from location to location solving puzzles. Historically, The Game has been played in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as the Seattle area, but has also appeared in other locations such as Boston and Washington DC. Precursors of The Game have been seen as early as 1970s, with the Game running in Florida from 1985-1986, Bay Area from 1987-1994, San Francisco from 1991 to 2010, and Seattle from 1995 - 2005.

Growth of Mystery Hunts (2002-2017)[edit | edit source]

MH 2002 or MH 2003 are often considered to be the first "Modern Hunts" with significantly tighter integration of round and mechanics, and a structure being influenced by theme. [1]

Over the next few years saw the Hunt have significant variation of structure between rounds (2009 onwards), puzzles and hunt grow in size (both number of teams and puzzles) and other similar structure of "modern hunts". The famous MIT Mystery Hunt 2013, notable for having the longest solve time of all Mystery Hunts, also falls in this era.

Australian Style Hunts (2004-2016)[edit | edit source]

The 2010s saw the growing prevalence of "Australian Style Hunts". These hunts were characterised by puzzles and pre-written hints releasing at fixed times each day over several days.

P&A Magazine (2006-)[edit | edit source]

The P&A magazine was started in 2006 by Foggy Brume and is the first major publication that includes a puzzle hunt every issue. Issues typically are released every two months as a PDF file, and contain about 8-10 standalone warmup puzzles as well as a full puzzle hunt round with about 12 puzzles and a metapuzzle. There have been 93 issues of the magazine till date.

Modern Puzzle Hunts (2017-)[edit | edit source]

Since the Galactic Puzzle Hunt 2017, there has been a consistent rise of yearly online puzzle hunts, often but not always organised by Mystery Hunt Teams. These involve teammate Hunt, Huntinality, QoDE Puzzle Hunt, Silph Puzzle Hunt and more. The COVID-19 Pandemic also forced MIT Mystery Hunt 2021 and MIT Mystery Hunt 2022 to be hosted completely online, leading to even more online teams participating. With gphsite and similar hunt websites being made public, more hunts started being propagated.

References[edit | edit source]