Most alternate-reality games (ARGs) are focused on producing hype for a new game or movie. They take ages to play, and often only the smartest, most dedicated, or best-networked players get to the end. A recent ARG set in Japantown, San Fransisco, showed that ARGs can be hour-long events that people will pay money to participate in. The game, Real Escape Game x Evangelion, was set up like a treasure hunt, with one clue leading to the location of the next clue. With the exception of the final clue, Nick Robinson at Unwinnable found the experience delightful.
The riddles are vague enough to be puzzling but usually made sense after a little bit of serious consideration. There was generally a consistent internal logic to the riddles we were tasked with decoding, and the whole thing was tied together in a way that kept you uncovering clues but minimized backtracking. With rare exception, it was fair, which is crucial for something like this to be enjoyable. As you’d expect from a 60-minute game, there was a palpable uptick in difficulty after each solution, but the difficulty curve was still steady enough that we never felt ripped off.
At the end. the organizers explained all the clues to everyone. Hopefully the sucess of ARGs like this will encourage other communities to do hold their own treasure hunts… because it sounds incredibly fun.