Monday, September 19, 2011

DC: The Game

It is no secret that J and I like scavenger hunts (see exhibit A, B, and C). Combine competition, problem solving, hidden neighborhood gems, and historical facts, and we are all in. Thankfully, DC is also all about scavenger hunts.

Recently, we were offered an opportunity to test drive DC: The Game by Stray Boots Scavenger Hunts. This text message-based neighborhood adventure is "an interactive scavenger hunt that shows people the best of their city using their phones." Currently, versions of the game are available in several major cities around the U.S.

DC has three versions of the game to choose from: Georgetown, the Smithsonian, and the one we played, Penn Quarter. Normally, the game costs $20 per person (currently on sale for $12), but we were able to play for free.

Starting at Ford's Theatre, we spent the next hour and a half (for people less familiar with the area, 2-3 hours is recommended) wandering into shops and museums hunting for the clues that continued to attack our cell phone as if they were coming from a 13 year old girl.

So first and foremost, did you have fun?
Yes. Without qualification, it was a nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

But did you learn anything?
Yes. While we could answer many of the clues off the top of our heads, several took us to places that we had never been. Who knew there was a full-sized underground museum attached to the Navy Memorial?

Would you do it again?
Probably not. At $20 a person (though it seems like a group can share clues on a single cell phone), this is a pricey adventure. When free smartphone apps like SCVNGR contain more features than any text-based hunt can, it seems to be a curious business model. And at that price point, you are now competing with the various tour bus companies in DC.

Would you recommend it to others?
While DC: The Game is a decent product (ignoring the couple inaccuracies and glitches), it is competing with products that seem to be better values. Also, for DC locals, it might be too elementary while out-of-towners might get lost. The sweet spot is probably the folks who live in the area but don't make it to downtown regularly, but I don't see them driving into the city so they can play a $20 text-messaging game... But what do I know?

J says

I can play this game too! Let me add a few questions and answers...

Do I need an unlimited texting plan?
Yes. We didn't pay enough attention to the fine print on the website and were pretty taken aback when we sent or received 99 texts to play the game. Find a friend who has an unlimited plan before you sign up.

Is there a time limit?
No. One of the unique and fun things about DC: The Game is that you can play it at your own pace. You can make a leisurely day of it and stop for lunch or browse a museum during the game. Definitely a much more relaxed feel than the uber-competitive games we've played in the past.

Did you get all the answers right?
Not on the first try. It took us two guesses to answer "Who was the youngest president to take office?" We assumed "take office" meant "elected" and we were wrong! The game gives you a hint when you're wrong and lets you try again, so you don't run the risk of getting booted out of the game before you've completed the whole thing.

Whether you try DC: The Game or SCVNGR or something else entirely, we wish you happy hunting!

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