The Game

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.

History[edit | edit source]

Precursors[edit | edit source]

In the 1970's Don Luskin ran a series of games in Los Angeles, possibly inspired by the movie The Last of Sheila (which in turn may have been inspired by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins' puzzle parties).[1] Many of the early puzzles were based off cryptic clues, but later games featured more variety. These games required signing up and had a fee to participate. These games ultimately inspired the movie Midnight Madness, which was the main inspiration for the next group of games, started by Joe Belfiore and his classmates.

The Game in Florida[edit | edit source]

Five games were run near Belfiore's high school in the community of Clearwater, Florida.[2] The first game, held in 1985, had four teams participating, all named after colors (Black Team, Blue Team, Brown Team, Red Team). Later games would be run by the previous winners.

Hunt Date Hosts Winners Notes
Midnight Madness 1985 December 30-31, 1985 Don Myhill, Marie Martin, Tegwyn Stockdale and Joe Belfiore Black Team 150 mile course lasting over 10 hours
Black Knights Invitational 1986 Black Team Brown Team
Blue/Brown Game 1986 Brown Team White Team (original hosts)
Midnight Madness 1986 1986 White Team Black Team
Farewell Game 1986 Black Team ??

Bay Area Race Fantastique[edit | edit source]

When Joe Belfiore graduated from high school, he brought The Game tradition to his college, Stanford. The games were called the Bay Area Race Fantastique, or BARF for short. As with previously, teams were named after colors.

Hunt Date Game Control Winners Notes
Bay Area Race Fantastique May 17, 1987 Joe Belfiore, Eli Ben-Shoshan, Andrew Reisner Yellow Team
BARF II: The Players Revenge July 22, 1988 Joe Belfiore, Eli Ben-Shoshan, Andrew Reisner Yellow Team Unlike in other games, each team designed one leg of the race and Game Control incorporated all of these legs together.
BARF III: Who Killed Game Control? March 12, 1989 Tom Harding, Steve Nagy, Nancy Tillapaugh Pink Team
BARF IV: The Reunion ? Helen Huang, Laura Lee, David Rubenstein, Farouc Jaffer Red Team
BARF V: Mission Impossible January 21, 1990 Ric Simmons, Ron Kesing, James Porter Pink Team
BARF VI: The Final Objective May 28, 1990 Joe Belfiore, Eli Ben-Shoshan, Tom Harding, Steve Nagy, David Rubenstein, Rob Elhardt Yellow Team
BARF VII: Committee to Re-Elect the President August 14, 1993 Andrew Burke, Ira Lit Red Team
BARF VIII: On the Trail of the Assassin August 6, 1994 Tom Carey, George Monteverdi Red Team

San Francisco Bay Area Games[edit | edit source]

At least 14 Games were played at Stanford and the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area between 1991 and 1997, known as the Stanford Games, perhaps as a continuation of BARF VI.[3] Team counts increased to about 15-20 per game; applying to these games were more open.[4][5]

Hunt Date Game Control
Mission Improbable Spring 1991
Circle K Winter/Spring 1992
Western Posse Spring 1992
RATRACE Spring 1993 Red Byer, Michael Witt, Prajnan Das
Alice in Wonderland Spring 1993
HELL Spring 1994 Red Byer, Michael Witt, Prajnan Das
The Most Dangerous Game Spring 1994 Andy Collins
King Arthur Spring 1994 Brent Holman, et al.
Operation: The Plague Spring 1995 Nick Eve, Amal Trivedi, Mike Knaack
Magic: The Gathering Spring 1995 Brent Holman, et al.
SETI Winter 1996
The Godfather Spring 1996 Greg Collins
Indiana Jones Spring 1996 Brent Holman, et al.
Star Wars Spring 1997 Brent Holman, et al.

Games would continue to be hosted regularly in the Bay Area until around 2008. A shorter form of The Game, to be played over a single day (and often without needing vehicular transport), was also created, as the Bay Area Night Game in 2002 by David Alyea. Other traditions inspired by the Bay Area Games include Shinteki, Bay Area Treasure Hunt, and Iron Puzzler.

Hunt Date Game Control
The Green Game November 8, 1997 Brent Holman
Dragonhunt April 18, 1998 Red Byers
Amnesia April 10, 1999
Espionage May 22, 1999
Wonka September 25, 1999
MegaHard September 30, 2000
The 420 Game April 20-23, 2001 Scooby Doobies
Homicide: Life on the Farm May 5, 2001
The Legend of Zelda: A Hidden Link October 27-28, 2001 Warrior Monks
Jackpot! April 19-21, 2002 Just Passing Through
Eight Ball: The Blue Goo Adventure May 18, 2002 The Wizards of Guzinor's Coven
FoBiK October 19-20, 2002 Snout
The Goonies Game April 26-27, 2003 Orange Crush
Overnightmare November 1, 2003
The Genome Game July 10-11, 2004 Team Advil
Justice Unlimited July 31-August 1, 2004 Snout
California Rapid Alert Narcotics Enforcement Agency March 4-5, 2005 (first run) Cranea
Griffiths Collection July 9-10, 2005 Burninators
The Apprentice: Zorg April 15-16, 2006 Taft on a Raft
Paparazzi June 3-4, 2006 XX-Rated
Hogwarts and the Draconian Prophecy September 9-10, 2006 Snout
No More Secrets May 19-20, 2007 coed astronomy
Midnight Madness: Back to Basics May 5-6, 2008 Snout/Drunken Spider
Ghost Patrol November 8-9, 2008 lowkey & Desert Taxi
2 Tone Game April 2010 Larry Hosken

Seattle Games[edit | edit source]

Joe Belfiore brought The Game to the Seattle area, where the event was held annually between 1995 and 2002.[6] However, the 2002 event, Shelby Logan's Run, resulted in a serious accident when one of the players entered a mine other than the one indicated, falling down a thirty-foot shaft and becoming a quadriplegic.[7] This led to a lawsuit and the Seattle Games going on a hiatus. The next Seattle-area Game, The Mooncurser's Handbook, would come in 2005, with an emphasis placed on safety.

Several short-form games also were held in Seattle, named Seattle and Nearby Adventures in Puzzling (SNAP). Many of these were simulcasted with the Bay Area Night Games.

Hunt Date Game Control Winners Notes
The EnGenetics Weekend July 17, 1995 Joe Belfiore, John Tippett Purple Team
Hope2Die Summer 1996 Brian Fleming, Jan Miksovsky, Bruce Oberg, Chris Zimmerman Team Eject
Thanatos Society June 28-29, 1997 Kenny Young, Dana Young Purple Team
ISETV May 24, 1998 Steve Bush, Christine Chang, Eric Levine, Ric Simmons, James Porter Pink Team Run in Los Angeles, CA
National Institute of Terrorism (NIT) June 19, 1999 J Allard, James Gwertzman, Chris Jones, Ben Jones, Joe Petersen, David Treadwell Silver Team Run in New York, NY
VQuest August 12, 2000 John Tippett, Mark Malamud, Susan Hautala, Vision Youth volunteers Silver Team
Blau Foundation Symposium August 11, 2001 Rich Brown, Jeff Pettiross, Mark Richardson, Dave Sanderman Pink Team
Shelby Logan's Run October 26, 2002 Kristina Belfiore, Joe Belfiore, Chee Chew, Scott Shell, Kevin Shields, Walter Smith Gold Team Run in Las Vegas, NV
The Mooncurser's Handbook August 19-21, 2005 Galactic Consortium Golden Nugget

Princeton Games[edit | edit source]

Princeton also held their own version of The Game from 1996 to 2014. Records exist of the themes held from 2001.[8] The event was open to teams of Princeton graduate students, with clues leading them around the campus and beyond. The whole course was intended to be in reasonable walking distances.

Year Theme
October 5, 2014 Aliens
2013 Zombies
October 22, 2011 Dreams?
2010 Batman
2009 Transformers
September 20, 2008 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
September 29, 2007 Pirates of the Caribbean
2006 Harry Potter
2005 Back to the Future
2004 The Lord of the Rings
September 13, 2003 Indiana Jones
September 14, 2002 Edward Gorey
September 15, 2001 Pirates

Modern Games[edit | edit source]

Instances of The Game still happen, albeit at a reduced frequency. These include the following games:

Hunt Date Location
World Henchmen Organization June 17-19, 2011
November 4-6, 2011 (recast)
Seattle area
SF Bay Area
Doctor When September 17-18, 2011 San Mateo, CA
Wartron August 3-5, 2012
June 29-30, 2013 (recast)
Portland, OR
Boston, MA
The Famine Game September 27-29, 2013 Washington, DC
Miskatonic University Game August 15-18, 2019 Boston, MA

Other regional shorter-form game traditions have also sprung up, such as the Boston Area Puzzle Hunt League (BAPHL) and DC Puzzle Hunters (DCPHR).

See also[edit | edit source]

  • DASH, a walking hunt in many locations, inspired by the BANG/SNAP cocasts[9]
  • Black Letter Game, a mailed collection of puzzles allegedly created by the creators of The Game in Seattle

References[edit | edit source]