Treasure Hunt

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Treasure Hunt

“Treasure Hunt” is an immersive experience that combines the
teamwork and pressure of an “escape the room” style outing with the excitement
and energy of a scavenger hunt.

To participate, people must first submit an online application
(and include up to one other person you’re going with). The application
contains general demographic questions, but notes that the information from
this section is optional and used only for marketing purposes (which is a white
lie, but more on that in a second). Then come questions (which are discarded,
since we really only care about demographics / predicted beliefs for forming

When they show up at the venue—which, to keep costs down, is
just a thematically decorated space in a basement—people are divided into teams
of 10 (such that there are three teams of 10). They are with their partner (if
they applied with one), 6 other participants, and 2 actors/plants. The 6 other
participants are chosen to ensure a diversity of socioeconomic and political
(again, estimations) backgrounds on the teams, using the demographic info

Then, they are given their first clue, a van + driver (to
avoid wasting time on transportation), and told that they have three hours to
finish in order to a) set a potential time record (for the glory) and b) win
the prize for the first team complete of the three, which is simply twice the
registration cost of each participant. The team gets to decide how to divide
this amongst themselves.

What the participants don’t know, though, is that they are
accompanied by not one but three participants who are actors – the two on the
team and the driver.

Act I

There are a total of five clues, the first two of which are
considered “Act 1.” The clues are spread throughout the city, in both affluent
and poor neighborhoods, to expose people to parts of the city they don’t
normally travel to. Before heading to the first clue, given in an envelope by a
staff member, the team must elect a leader, who gets to direct the driver and
decide how to divide the prize, if the team is successful. It is up to them to
decide how to do this, though the actors/plants on the team will ensure they
themselves are not elected. This is to encourage cooperation and also potential

The first clue is a puzzle that involves speaking to street
vendors/food cart vendors in a downtown part of the city to solve. There are
specific questions to ask specific food carts/stores, with the questions and
answers implied by riddle-like statements in the envelope given to each team at
the start. There are also three locations for the first clue, to give each team
its own space.

After asking the correct questions, the team members will be
pointed towards a different part of the city, with a library, looking for a
specific copy of a specific book. The library simply provides the added
complication that the team must be quiet even though they are in a rush. The
clue here is a brainteaser based on words on various pages of a book, which,
although difficult, the team should be able to decipher. If they are unable to,
the two “plants”/actors are able to help (acting as team members) by providing
further clues.

Act II

As in any Act II, this is where the conflict develops.

The third clue, from the library, takes the team to yet
another part of the city, where they must hike through a park/wilderness area
to locate a shallowly-buried chest. When the chest is found, though, it is
locked with a combination, one of those 4-spot locks with 0-9 and A-Z on it. On
the box, though, is written that one of the team members knows the combination:
along with this note, should be able to instill a sense that this is the truth
(it is not), and the group is likely to debate amongst themselves why someone
isn’t sharing. Ultimately, either of their own conclusion or with the second
plant actor (if the first had to help earlier; to avoid raising suspicion that
one person has all the answers), they should realize the combination is
literally “T-R-U-E.”

The next clue takes them back to the heart of the city, but
in a different area than before, to an attic in a large house (in whatever area
this space was cheapest). Here, an employee/facilitator of the hunt meets the
team, congratulates them on making it to the fourth clue, gives them
encouragement as to it being very likely they’ll win the prize, and then tells
them that this challenge is simple: they must simply stand at spots marked with
an “X” of tape to trigger weight sensors and unlock the next clue. The catch is
that they must also submit a final sheet at this stage saying how much of the
reward each gets. (Assume an admissions price of $15 per person, and a reward
of $300 per team.) In other words, the participants now all have equal
negotiating power, since they must all agree to stand on one of the X’s to


This act is either a happy or sad ending, depending on how
the fourth challenge of act II goes.

Assuming they renegotiate rewards (or agree to split things
equally) then the final challenge returns the participants to the starting
room/warehouse/location, and to finish they must all name the person they think
contributed the most, and the person they contributed the least. They are told
they won’t find out what is listed, but that it’s just for the facilitators’
own info. In reality, they will receive an email that someone who was marked by
the application/observed by the plant actors as different from them had named
them as the most valuable member, and will never receive an email saying they
contributed the least (just a message saying “no one said you contributed the
least”). This will make participants think more positively of others who
complimented them, especially since they thought the compliment was anonymous. They’ll
also be happy the fifth challenge was relatively easy/nonexistent.

If the fourth challenge takes too long or the team is not
the first to finish, the fifth challenge, offered by the facilitator in the
fourth challenge, takes them back to the forest, where they must work together
to construct a structure in which three of them, drawn at random, will spend
the night, as punishment for losing. In reality, two will be the actor/plants,
and the third person (after all others have left) will have the option to
leave. The collaboration of having to build something that might only benefit a
subset of the group will restore a little harmony to the team, and the relief
of not being chosen to spend the night but getting taken back to the city by
the driver will provide a final positive emotion even if the team lost

Dual Desires:
Individual Payout Vs Teamwork

The main dual desires present in this experience are a
desire to be an individual winner (with the largest share of the reward or the
most respect) vs the desire to be seen as a team player and finish the
challenge even if it means taking a lesser role. Of course, there is also the
desire to win that conflicts with the desire some have to not interact with people
vastly different from you in socioeconomic or political background, which is
necessary to winning the challenge.


As given, there are a number of venues: a starting point
(any thematically decorated warehouse/basement), 3 outdoor streets of a part of
the city with street vendors and food carts, a library in a different part of
the city than the first two venues, a forest/park/patch of wilderness, and an
attic in yet another part of the city.


The appearance of having to fill out an application to be
selected for the experience, along with phrases like “not everyone is accepted”
on the application itself, suggest that the experience is much more exclusive
than it actually is.

Business Savvy

The activity is nearly self-sustaining, since three teams of
8 people (since teams are 10 but there are two plants) pay $15 to compete ($360)
for one $300 prize (but the plant actors on each team just return the money).
The wages of the employees and rent for venue can also be offset by selling
ads/premium involvement to the street vendors or neighborhoods involved. If
necessary/possible, one could also charge an application fee of $5, depending
on how it impacted interest.

New Take on Old Story

The classic scavenger hunt/treasure hunt is always fun, and
the uniqueness of the game to each city its set in makes it a way to explore
the city and your own perspectives with potentially new friends.

Dissolving the Fourth

Of course, this dissolves the fourth wall, not only with the
few facilitators and driver but also with the two actor plants.

Img/font Sources:

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