Friday, June 6, 2008

Possible free trip to the Olympics! Are you in?

Have I got your attention yet?

Alright, before I go any further and explain what I mean, I have to make a statement that most of you can just ignore:

This blog post / Facebook note should be understood as being completely OOG--out-of-game--and treated as such by any in-game characters and elements. (If you don't know what that means, trust me, it doesn't affect you...carry on reading the rest of this.)

Now that that's over with...I have a question for you.

Would you be willing to do something a little strange if it could get you a free trip to this year's Olympics in Beijing? (Huge disclaimer: this might not necessarily work out, but more on that shortly.)

Rest assured, the "something a little strange" is not unethical, harmful, or illegal.

What do you have to do? Simple to say, not so easy to do well: you have to run a labyrinth, blindfolded, or help a blindfolded runner to complete a labyrinth by acting as part of its (humming) walls. For example, check out the labyrinth that a Tokyo team put together on June 1: . Similar labyrinths have been run by teams in Guelph, Madrid, New Zealand, two separate locations in Brazil, Switzerland, Jerusalem, Dallas, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and New York. The current record is just over 15 seconds (15:44) and is held by a team in San Francisco, although it is a pseudo-record because the method they used in that run breaks the rules in a way. Still, you can see their run here for inspiration: . I believe the current record for a run done completely by-the-book is still 16 seconds, held by the New Zealand team for a run they did May 4. You can see that run here:
Edit: breaking news: New Zealand now has a new record...14.03 seconds!!!

How does doing this get you to the Olympics, rather than getting you branded as a cult member or thrown in an institution? Bear with me. You may recall that I have been participating for the past few months in a game sponsored by McDonald's* and the International Olympics Committee--a game called "The Lost Ring." For reasons that I won't bother to explain here, these labyrinth runs are tied into that game, and are sometimes referred to as "the lost sport." Very recently, the game's designer, Jane McGonigal, did a presentation/interview about gaming at the 2008 New Yorker Conference (a presentation/interview which you can see here if you're really interested--it does provide some interesting social and psychological commentary and helps explain why some people get really hooked on online games, for example). Anyway, the important thing is that when she very briefly talked about the Lost Ring game (in the very last minute of the video), she said that they will be bringing people to the Olympic lawn in Beijing to play "the lost sport." While we have known for a long time that the International Olympics Committee is a sponsor, and that the closing date of the game is the same as the date of the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, this statement by McGonigal is the first time any of us have had confirmation (not merely suspicions) that a "lost sport" run in Beijing will be an important part of the game.

The question now is simply: which people will be taken to Beijing? While it is still possible that the "people" Jane referred to are just the actors hired to play the characters in the game, there have been other indications that point to the idea that the people taken will be the players who manage to put together the best labyrinth team in the world--the team that can run the labyrinth the fastest without breaking any of the rules. See, in the game, "the lost sport" is treated as a game that used to be part of the Olympics, but was "lost"...and now that it has been "found," we need to make it part of this year's Games (for reasons that have to do with a huge amount of backstory I am leaving out). Besides, if only the actors representing characters we already know about were involved, there wouldn't be enough people to run a proper labyrinth, so I have a feeling at least some of us players are going to be needed.

Here's the deal: I want to put together a Toronto team for "the lost sport." I have at least a couple of people from the Guelph team interested, in addition to myself. I need more (or at least I probably do, depending on how many people Team Guelph manages to bring along). If you are interested in participating, I don't care who you are or whether we have exchanged two words in the past 20 years, I want you on my team. You don't need to be an athlete--I'm certainly not! You just have to be willing to try something a little different and have fun with it. If you are interested, let me know. I have not yet set a firm date for a training run, but I am considering any of the following:
Sunday, June 29 (once church is done and I can get to and set up the area)
Monday, June 30
Tuesday, July 1 (Canada Day!)
Saturday, July 5
Sunday, July 6 (same concern as June 29)

I have to tell you that I am intentionally leaving out ALL the backstory and twists and turns and intrigues that have been part of this game for now. I want here to communicate solely what you need to know to judge if you're interested in doing this strange thing in order to possibly qualify for a trip to Beijing in August. If you want more details about what the premise of the game is and what-all else has been happening besides the labyrinth runs (and what the metaphysical, quantum-mechanical reasons are behind our need for these labyrinths), let me know and I will fill you in...but you don't need to know those details to participate in the training runs themselves.

*Here in North America McDonald's doesn't seem to be advertising their involvement too much, but you can see they are involved by noting references to The Lost Ring on the McDonald's Australia site and the McDonald's Spain site (you have to cycle through some of the floating images on the center of that site to see it, but it's there), for example, or by going to the official site for the game and noting the McDonald's symbol above "official partner" in the lower right-hand corner (once you get past the trailer) and the references to it in the Terms of Use on that site. Oh, by the way, part of those Terms of Use states, "You understand that the Game is for entertainment purposes only and no prizes or awards will be given in connection with Game"...but like I said, we have reason to believe that some of us will be needed in Beijing...I guess we just can't consider that a "prize" ;). Anyway, come to have fun...and if a trip to the Olympics ends up being part of the mix, all the better :).