I’m keeping a list

I’m keeping a list.

One day I’m going to put together a big, real-life adventure mystery and put its clues all over the city and see if people chase it. My list consists of all the mega dorky clue mechanisms I’ve collected: QR codes, fake email accounts, invisible ink, any sort of augmented reality via smartphones, etc.

It’ll be like a city-wide “escape the room” game but with fewer non-equity actors.

Probably no one will participate as I won’t really be able to offer much of a prize. Also I’ll likely get over excited and make the chain of clues too long and people will burn out after they’re led to yet another step. That’s assuming I can even get people to be curious enough to pursue the initial clue.

I recently spent far too much time researching online services that might offer an auto-reply option for fax machines. That went as well as you might expect– if I knew anything about networks I’d just buy a fax and set it up myself.

I’m probably better off just using my list to put out a series of puzzle geocaches but that comes with its own batch of complications. Just finding good locations for geocaches is no small feat.

My list means that I’m always looking out for tech that interacts with the physical world in interesting ways. I’ve been dying to explore the use of beacons and NFC tags but since iOS devices are so locked down in that regard it doesn’t make sense to set up a puzzle using NFC where only part of the user base, people with Android phones, could participate. It would awesome to set up a multistage puzzle where clues are revealed by swiping your phone over strategically placed chips.

My search drew my attention to an iOS game called Blackbox which was described as a puzzle that uses all of your phone’s many sensors.

Blackbox puzzle gameBlackbox is quite brilliant in that it really does turn every little thing your iPhone can do into a puzzle. The puzzles in Blackbox range from the simple, like experimenting with your phone’s physical buttons to the more obscure, like needing to keep an eye on the time of day to unlock answers. Also it largely avoids the obvious such as using your phone’s accelerometer and touch controls. At least thus far, I’ve not encountered a puzzle that had me shaking my phone around like a crazy person. I had considered myself fairly aware of what my phone could do but Blackbox revealed a few features I hadn’t considered and it was super neat to discover them via a puzzle.

Blackbox puzzle gameMy chief complaint about Blackbox is that I’ve occasionally solved a puzzle without knowing why or how. I wish the game gave a quick acknowledgment of what you did in case you accidentally found a solution. Not that solutions are necessarily easy to discover. Blackbox does have a hint system if you get stuck but hints require spending some money. I wouldn’t mind paying for hints since the app is free but I’ve found them to be too vague. There are a few puzzles that I’ve been entirely stuck on but the hints only confirm what I already suspect without bumping me a step further. Blackbox‘s developer seems to very active, regularly pushing out new puzzles, so I’m sure that kind of stuff will be ironed out.

Blackbox puzzle gameI’m supremely jealous of Blackbox, its developer has achieved something that’s in the spirit of what I’ve been planning. Except in a much more smart, focused way than a meandering city-wide scavenger hunt without an exciting conclusion. You should give Blackbox a try, although, perhaps you try the puzzle where you shout into your phone in a different room than your spouse.

Blackbox official website