Saturday, 13 April 2013

Treasure Hunt Review: Us versus professionals

A couple of weeks ago myself and a friend participated in a treasure hunt that was specifically designed for adults, as part of the Glasgow Film Festival.

The advert stated: "Cinema City Treasure Hunt lasts about an hour and asks you to perform tasks and answer questions as you explore 100 years of cinema history in the city centre." Just about enough incentive for me to drag myself onto the train across to Scotland's other city.

Readers of this blog, and Edinburgh based acquaintances of ours will know that last year we went on a couple of treasure hunts we organised ourselves. One organised by Lilliputian (read about it here) and another excellent one by our friend G (which has unfortunately still not got its deserved blogpost). G's treasure hunt was genius in design involving clever drawings of landmarks, a specially positioned postcard, locating specific books in bookshops and a trail of cutouts of a famous figure whose identity I have forgotten.

How then did this more professional treasure hunt rate against our own treasure hunts? Well I would argue that ours were better.

The problems with the Cinema City Treasure Hunt were as follows:

Reliance on technology

To participate in the treasure hunt you needed to download an audiotape onto a smartphone to listen to it. This was our first stumbling block as for some reason it wouldn't work for ages when we tried, although the staff did their best to help.

Having to listen to an audiotape the whole way through

The treasure hunt was a combined with a walking tour giving the details of Glasgow's cinema history, which you occasionally needed to pause to complete tasks. Glasgow's cinema history is very interesting but this was problematic in that:

  1. We only had one smart phone which meant that only one of us could listen to the tape. This means I learnt very little about Glasgow's cinema history.
  2. The tape was over an hour long. To do the treasure hunt we had to listen to every single bit of it. The organisers also appeared to think that because the tape lasted an hour most people would only take an hour to complete the hunt. Apparently it did not occur to them that trying to carry out the required tasks also takes time... especially for the tricky ones and bits where we got confused.
Unfair scoring system

At the start of the quiz we were given a quiz sheet. This contained a combination of questions we had to answer and also some tasks which involved taking photos of specific items. The sheet specified that different parts were worth different points, for example some of the photos were worth 5 points.

My team were somewhat miffed that (outrage of outrage) the scoring system we were given was not followed. Only the questions with written down answers were counted in the scores, the photographs were ignored, apart from to identify one as the winner in the "best photograph" category.

I imagine this was a decision taken for practical reasons at the last minute when they realised that it was complicated to mark when half the photographs were on smartphones, and it was getting late as they hadn't actually specified a time for teams to be back by.

Unfortunately as we are adults we are constrained from the freedom to throw temper tantrums saying not fair. Instead we left disappointed and muttering to ourselves about it. We wouldn't have won anyway - it is just the principle...

What makes a good treasure hunt

The main way in which the Cinema City Treasure Hunt fell down was that they did not treat us like children. By that I mean I think they needed to approach it more like a school teacher organising a bunch of rowdy school children by thinking through every detail. It was too shambolic and I think the people organising it had the attitude that they were arranging something for a small bunch of friends, not a large number of paying people (some participants clearly were friends of the organisers).

We have organised treasure hunts for a bunch of friends too, which is obviously a lot easier. I think they were better too, for not relying on technology and audio tapes.

(NOTE: I forgot to post this when I first wrote this, and I can't actually remember when this treasure hunt was now (its August), apart from that it was in spring some time, so I have assigned the post to April)


  1. Replies
    1. sort of, I wrote this in spring and forgot to publish it (and I was thinking it was maybe a bit negative and mostly a moan).

      I'll have to do something more up to date (and positive)