Around this time last year, I was just getting my feet wet in the puzzling world. The Black Letter Game was about to start, I think I had just discovered that Ravenchase existed, and at some point I had stumbled onto Puzzle Hunt Calendar and the Wikipedia page for The Game (probably from listening to SnoutCasts). It was a whole new world for me! I had a great time at DASH a few months later, which I considered to be my first “real” puzzle event, but I didn’t really expect to attend anything besides DASHes and Post Hunts until I was much more experienced.
One year later, I’ve got about ten Ravenchase events under my belt, I know a lot more about the community, I know Todd, I joined a team, I went to the MIT Mystery Hunt, and I’m part of an amazing GC for a great event. Suddenly, I’ve been through one of the toughest puzzle events out there. Suddenly, I know a bunch of awesome people in the community who might have me on their team again. Suddenly, no event seems so out of my league that I wouldn’t at least want to apply. The fear and intimidation that was holding me back before has been replaced with a voracious eagerness to try anything and everything, gain more experience, and meet more people as quickly as possible.
So now that the puzzling world is my oyster, I’ve got the (good) problem of having too many events to choose from over the rest of the year. Moving to Seattle puts a lot of the West coast events much more within reach (especially combined with my new Left Out network), but the East coast still has a lot going on this year as well, with the added appeal of getting to see the friends we’ll be moving away from.
Here is the list so far of events (outside of Seattle) I would love to go to this year:
- Shinteki Decathlon - San Francisco, CA - Saturday, June 1st or 8th
- WarTron Boston – Boston, MA - Saturday – Sunday, June 29-30
- NPL Convention – Austin, TX - Thursday, July 11-14
- The Famine Game – Washington, D.C. - Friday-Sunday, September 27-29
- MAGFest – Washington, D.C. – Sometime early January (not puzzles, still counts)
- MIT Mystery Hunt – Boston, MA or Los Altos, CA – Friday-Sunday, January 17-19
Plus any other smaller events that pop up over the year in Portland and the Bay Area. Plus Thanksgiving and Christmas with family. Plus two weddings. Yikes!
If I keep freelancing, vacation time won’t really be a limiting factor in my jet-setting, and it seems like a waste not to take advantage of this time in my life where I don’t have a 9-to-5 or kids to schedule around. But although we will be doing much better financially this year than we have been for the past few years, between flights, hotels, food, and registration fees, it would be a lot more than I feel comfortable spending on leisure to make it to every event.
So I’ll probably be trying to make some decisions and pare things down. Here are some basic criteria that I might use to get started:
- Cost – Includes flight, hotel, registration fees, and other event-specific costs (like rental vans?). West coast events get the advantage here, because damn that’s a cheap flight down to the Bay Area. However, I do have a lot of friends in major cities on the East coast, so free places to crash before and after the event are plentiful.
- Interest in the Event – This is a tough one because at this point, they all sound equally interesting. The Decathlon seems great, WarTron could be my first Game and I’ve been avoiding spoilers all year, NPL sounds like the MAGFest of puzzle events, and of course the rest are very appealing.
- Friends - This could end up being a huge factor. If all my new puzzle community friends are going, especially East coasters that I might not have seen in a while, that’s a big draw. If I’ll have to join a team of strangers just to get in, maybe not so much.
- Opportunity / Uniqueness – This could be another big factor. Some events will only happen once ever (Famine Game). Other events I’ve been to several times already (MAGFest). There might be a better opportunity to experience some events later down the road (the original West coast run of a Snout Game, rather than an East coast re-run that I’d have to fly out for).
- Location – I like Austin a lot and really want to go to the NPL convention there! (Though it’s too bad I just missed the Portland and Seattle years).
Since so much is still new to me, I just want to try and make it to everything as quickly as possible! So I’m expecting it to be difficult to make choices and think long-term.
In the meantime, I think I’ll start learning some money-saving travel techniques. It’s nice that these events are scheduled so far in advance that I can keep an eye out for good deals on flights and such. I remember Tyler tweeting about half-price flights to Boston before I knew I’d be going to the Mystery Hunt, so maybe things like that happen often enough throughout the year that I might be able to get some good deals and go to more events than I’m expecting. Nick and I just signed up for frequent flier programs for the first time, so we’re trying to figure that out. I’d love to hear any tips veterans might have for saving money on puzzle event travel!
Lots to look forward to =)